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In the rehearsal studio, music makes the world melt away for York College musician

Grant at grand piano with face mask on

It’s a total escape. When Grant Deguzman ’21 is in the studio, the rest of the world fades away. There’s no pandemic, no grades to worry about. It’s just him, his guitar, and his four bandmates. Violet Fire is a little punk, a little hard rock-ish, and 100% powered by York College of Pennsylvania Music Industry and Recording Technology students.

Since the pandemic, the band has mostly been relegated to playing in a studio on campus. But, playing big shows isn’t Deguzman’s main motivation. There’s magic in creating a song out of nothing, then getting it as close to perfection as you can. The performance is just icing on the cake. Because for Deguzman, the real fun lies in the journey.

Music without melody

Deguzman loves playing music, but he doesn’t want to be a full-time performer. That’s why York College’s Music Industry and Recording Technology program is a perfect fit. There are classes to help him hone his skills in guitar and piano, but also in business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and all the fundamentals to help him make it in the music industry. “It has all these building blocks that I think will make me successful,” he says.

He likes the idea of working in a recording studio—and playing in a band on the side, of course. He also loves composing his own work. This semester, York College’s Groove Ensemble is working on a piece he composed. It’s a funky concept piece. Each part plays in a different time signature, only lining up altogether a few times within the song.

He’s heard it played electronically using software, but adding real people to the mix adds another dimension entirely. “It’s really kind of like, let’s see what happens when you get in a rehearsal room,” he says.

Practice makes (almost) perfect

Each semester, Deguzman prepares for a piano recital. Over those months, he’s slowly chipping away at different aspects of the piece he’s trying to master. “It’s never going to be perfect,” he says. But it’s like a puzzle, trying to figure out the best way to confront a song.

Like the semester he joined forces with three other pianists to tackle an eight-handed piece. Two pianists per piano played Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (you’d recognize it if you heard it). That performance was thrilling, but even more so was collaborating all semester.

“It’s the culmination of all of that, more of a release,” Deguzman says. “Like, bam, I did it, now it’s done. Now I can move on.”

Ready for a crowd

Although most shows are on hold, Violet Fire performed virtually in a livestreamed studio performance called “The Basement Dwellers.” The band played a few originals, like “Hera”—its first recorded song, produced in the York College studio—and some covers.

And even though it’s not all about the performance for Deguzman, he’s still pretty excited. “It’s really cool to actually play those out loud for people,” he says.

But when the crowd is gone, the studio will still be there, ready for Deguzman and his bandmates to let go of the rest of the world and just play music together.