Gratz and jazz go hand-in-hand
Posted April 25, 2008
Leah Heagy
The Reed Gratz Band played a concert in Founders Auditorium on April 17, which included Gratz on piano, Andrew Ford on bass, Steven Biondo on percussion and Mike Bennett on drums. Gratz, who has taught at the University for 31 years, is a professor of music and department chairman.

Jen McElroy
Staff Writer

The sound of rich, vibrant jazz music filled Founders Audi­tor­ium on April 17, courtesy of the Reed Gratz Jazz Band.

The band, made up of Gratz, Steve Biondo, Andrew Ford and Mike Bennett, performed a wide range of music, mostly in the jazz genre.

Gratz is a professor of music at the University of La Verne.

Many of his students were in attendance throughout the audience.

“It was really neat watching him play,” Katie Grogan, senior international public relations major, said.

“I sit in class listening to him teach us about music, but to be able to see him in his element makes it all worth it,” Grogan added.

Gratz teaches his students about different types of music, but it is not every day that he gets to show them hands-on what he loves to do.

Before each song was played, Gratz introduced members of the band, as well as the songs that were about to be performed.

He laughed about how one song was just going to be called “No Name” for the night because the group never thought of a title for it.

He then looked outside, saw the fountain and said, “We might as well name it ‘The Fountain’s Still On.’”

Bass player Ford graduated from La Verne more than 30 years ago, but still continues to keep in touch with his former professor.

In fact, Ford was one of Gratz’s first students when he became a professor at the University.

Ford had played the bass growing up, but was never serious about it until he attended ULV.

“I always have a great time playing with Reed,” Ford said.

“I love his music. I have grown attached to what he plays. Part of me always knows where he’s going when he plays,” Ford said.

Another member of the band was West African Drumming professor Biondo.

Biondo played the pan and percussion instruments during most of the concert but many different instruments were picked up throughout the night.

He went from playing a West African drum to the bongos and even played the triangle.

“It was a blast,” Biondo said.

“It was nice to play with Mike (Bennett). I haven't played with him in a long time,” Biondo added.

Bennett graduated from La Verne four years ago and continues to come back and play with his former teachers despite his busy schedule.

During the performance Gratz said that Bennett had been on tour with Hilary Duff, so having him perform was a great privilege.

“He is the most important teacher I’ve ever had,” Bennett said.

“But playing with him is worth its weight in gold,” Bennett said.

The concert played a variety of different music throughout the night.

“Blue Rain” was a song that was played that had a mellow feel, with a touch of jazz.

Other songs such as “Turquoise” and “No Name” were more up-beat with a stronger tempo.

One of the big hits of the night was “The Blues,” which had an amazing drum solo by Bennett.

Jen McElroy can be reached at

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