Last year Cal State Fullerton’s Concert Under the Stars returned with a bang. Performers like alumna Kirsten Vangsness, best known for her role as Garcia on the show Criminal Minds, entertained the thousands in attendance. The show, entitled I Believe in Music, raised an estimated $30,000 for student scholarships and programs.
This year, the program hopes to continue building momentum. The concert will take place this Saturday with the theme “All that Jazz.” The program will follow jazz throughout the ages, from swing to hip hop. Similar to last year, the program will include performances by CSUF faculty, alumni and students.
The headliner for this year’s program is faculty member Bill Cunliffe, a Grammy Award-winning arranger, jazz pianist and composer.
Cunliffe is a five-time Grammy nominee. His most recent nomination came in the Best Instrumental Composition category. In 2009, he won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his piece West Side Story Medley. Concert-goers will get the chance to hear the piece during the performance.
Cunliffe is the director of the CSUF Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Big Band and Latin Ensemble.
The Jazz Orchestra is releasing an album on Oct.1 that features music by both the Jazz Big Band and Latin Ensemble. Concert-goers will have the opportunity to buy a copy of the album at the event before the official release.
R&B singer Freda Payne is also featured on the album. Payne, who has worked with Cunliffe before, performed her hit song Band of Gold on the record, something she hadn’t done in 42 years .
Cunliffe believes the show will be better than last year’s. He has worked with the performers before and believes that everyone, whether they are jazz fans or not, will have a good time.
“Oh it’s going to be better this year. We’ve got pretty much a full orchestra, we’ve got a jazz band, string section, plus a symphony and french horns. And we’ve got a bunch of really great singers and we’ve got dancers,” Cunliffe said.
Cunliffe chose all of the performers himself. Although all of the music that night will be jazz, Cunliffe wanted to make sure to include a variety of jazz music for concert-goers to enjoy.
Joining Cunliffe are faculty members Patricia A. Prunty, Mark J. Goodrich, Kimo Furumoto and fellow Grammy-winning composer, John Proulx.
Other performers include alumni Tom Ranier, Dawn Bishop, Flavio Apro and Joey De Leon.
The CSUF Jazz Singers will also take the stage, as will a team of dancers under the guidance of faculty member Macarena Gandarillas.
Audience members will also get to see a familiar face on stage as President Mildred García joins in on the fun during the performance.
Concert Under the Stars has been CSUF’s signature fall fundraiser for 25 years, despite the three year hiatus between 2009 and 2012.
The goal of the concert is to further extend CSUF’s reach in Orange County and throughout Southern California. Funds from the event go to student scholarships and programs.
“If people don’t like jazz they should come anyways because they’re gonna like it, because it’s really fun,” Cunliffe said. “Jazz is really fun music to listen to and to hear, and the dancing is gonna be awesome. They’re gonna love the dancing. Its like Dancing with the Stars but with better music.”
Gates open at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Reserved seating is currently sold out, but free lawn seating is available for all who wish to attend.