UCLA Luskin Conference Center Quarterly Newsletter — February 2020Enjoy piano music performed by talented UCLA students

Student Music Series hits high note with guests, visitors

We all know people who grew up taking piano lessons. As you walk around the UCLA campus, talented students can be found playing music at pianos that have been placed outdoors around campus, including those near the undergraduate residence halls and on BruinWalk, a popular walkway that runs through campus.

These pianos were installed as part of the UCLA Piano Project. The program was spearheaded in 2019 by a fourth-year economics major as an outlet for artistic expression and a way to connect people through music.

The success of this effort struck a chord with managers at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center and with Pete Angelis, the assistant vice chancellor for UCLA Housing & Hospitality, the department that oversees the conference center and its Plateia restaurant and lounge.

They believed those attending meetings and conferences, staying in one of their overnight guest rooms, or stopping in for happy hour with colleagues or dinner with friends at Plateia, would equally appreciate the energy and beauty of student-played melodies filling the air. And they knew there were a lot of students looking for a place to play and performing for a different kind of audience.

From there, the UCLA Luskin Conference Center Student Music Series was born. These free performances are currently being held Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5 – 6:30 p.m.

“We have all these amazing musicians on campus,” said Cherisse Rutledge, an executive assistant at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center who manages the program. “Why not give them an opportunity to perform for the UCLA community.”

She said the volunteer program, which is less than a year old, has been well received by both the student volunteers and the conference center guests.

“It sets a mood and an ambiance for everyone to enjoy,” she said. “I think our students really like to perform pieces and practice in a setting that would not normally be available on a regular basis.”

One of these students is 22-year-old David Ghesser, a third-year UCLA music composition undergraduate who began studying classical piano when he was nine and taking weekly composition lessons when he was 13. Over the past four years, Ghesser has written more than 125 melodies. More than 30 have been converted to songs as piano/vocal tracks, in collaboration with lyricists. Three have been produced, with a fourth in the works.

Ghesser, who is from Tarzana, California, began performing as part of the Luskin Student Music Series last fall. He said he finds purpose and happiness in sharing his original compositions with this new audience.

“Music is a part of me. It’s who I am… I’ve been through stuff growing up and music helped me, and I want to heal other people and inspire them.”

Ghesser has already been recognized for his talent. Last fall, he became the first recipient of a UCLA scholarship named for Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson, one of his musical inspirations.

“Brian Wilson is an amazing songwriter, and I want to make people happy with my music like he did, and does, with his music,” Ghesser said.

For the most up-to-date Student Music Series schedule, visit the program’s website.