PICTURED: Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts Director Kevin Wallace, who records music under the name Virgil, has released his latest album, Waiting Home.

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com

Jam nights return to Music Freqs

Music Freqs in Camarillo is getting back in the action, offering its first jam night in over a year on Thursday, May 27, 7-8 p.m. 

The Camarillo-based institution formerly known as Rock City Studios was founded in 2008 to support the local music industry through recordings, music lessons, instrument sales and live music. One of the few all-ages venues in Ventura County, it hosted bands like the Aquadolls, Nekromantix and Andre Nickatina, as well as SoCal acts like Sitting on Stacy and Together Pangea, while also offering students — mostly children and young adults — the opportunity to learn and grow through collaborative jams and live performance events and workshops.

The record-scratch moment of the coronavirus brought all that to a halt, of course, although Music Freqs continued to offer lessons first online and later in-person, installing a NASA-grade air scrubber and Plexiglass shields, among other safety precautions.

Now that Ventura County has reached the less restrictive orange tier, Music Freqs is reinstating its monthly jam night, to take place the last Thursday of every month. Designed as a group class, participants are expected to learn and practice the song selected for the month, and perform it with other students on the venue stage. The May 2021 Song of the Month is Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.”

Due to COVID restrictions, the May 27 jam night is limited to 10 students and reservations are required. Sign up by calling 805-383-3555 or emailing office@musicfreqs.com. More information at www.musicfreqs.com

 Virgil releases Waiting Home

For more than a decade, Kevin Wallace has been the founding director of the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai, as well as an author, penning books such as Celebrating Nature: Craft Traditions/Contemporary Expressions and The Cutting Edge: Contemporary Wood Art and the Lipton Collection. He is also an accomplished musician, releasing his self-titled debut album under the name Virgil in 2020 — when he was 60 years old. 

His musical talents have been a well-kept secret for years, shared only with a small collection of close friends. But Wallace aka Virgil is coming into the spotlight once again with a new album, Waiting Home, created during the COVID-19 shutdown. Virgil is joined by guitarist Ken Emerson.

Both Virgil and Waiting Home share an Americana retro vibe and musical storytelling, influenced by what Wallace describes as the “hillbilly music” played by his relatives in Southern Ohio.

“Guitars, mandolin, banjo… the forms, materials and sounds seemed magical to me and led to my life’s work in the arts,” Wallace says of his early inspiration. “It’s important for all of us to connect with our creativity, embrace dreams that fell by the wayside, and to inspire others. Just like Beatrice Wood, who didn’t throw her first pot until she was 40, I want folks to know it’s not too late to record that album, write that novel, or begin creating works for exhibition and performance.”

<em>Waiting Home</em> is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon and sales will  help support the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts. For more on Kevin Wallace/Virgil, visit virgilsongs.com or beatricewoodstudio.com/collections/music

Local drum students receive scholarships

Three young percussionists from Ventura County are off to a promising start in their music careers. 

Andre Burton of Adolfo Camarillo High School has been accepted into Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a full scholarship. Jason Speth, also of Adolfo Camarillo High School, has earned a partial scholarship to the University of North Texas in Denton. Angelo Velasquez, currently enrolled at California State University, Northridge, has been accepted into the CalArts Master’s Degree Program, with a scholarship provided by Disney.

All three drummers are students of Al Velasquez of Camarillo, a percussionist who has worked with Luis Villegas, Perla Batalla, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and many others. 

“The music store I taught from closed during the earliest part of the 2020 COVID crisis,” says Velasquez. “We regrouped and I put all my focus into online drum instruction . . .  Our musical  lives were fragmented with attempting to record all their college audition material on time and  around the frequent quarantine closures. We worked with purpose while trying to stay positive.”

Velasquez is currently developing a new video series with DW Drums in Oxnard designed to help aspiring drummers prepare for their high school and college auditions. For more information, visit www.alvelasquezdrums.com.