The University of Southern California Debuts A Music Festival Along Route 66 - A Musical And Social Media Renaissance

Imagine a horizontal music festival, occurring at multiple venues along America’s iconic Main Street, Route 66. This music festival is eclectic, including jazz trios, retro swing ensembles, classical guitarists and rock and pop musicians.

All will play concerts along the way, but also will be encouraged to do busking and impromptu street performances. Websites, blogs, video and social media updates will connect groups with each other, potential venues, prospective audience members, fans and possible hosts along the route who can offer an extra bedroom.

The Hi Fi Honeydrops

 This “open source” festival, Music Licks on 66, is taking place July 19-30 with the sponsorship of the USC Thornton School of Music’s Contemporary Music Division and specifically, studio/jazz guitar instructor Bruce Forman, who has toured the length of Route 66 three times with his cowboy jazz and bebop band, Cow Bop. 

The common thread among the two dozen or so groups scheduled to take part is that most of the musicians are connected to USC, either as current students, alums or faculty. The public can follow the tour at the festival website or via Twitter at @lickson66.

“This festival captures the Thornton School’s philosophy of working to be a part of the real world of music,” said Robert A. Cutietta, dean of USC Thornton. “We strive for our faculty and students to be a part of the vibrant musical scene that can be found just about anywhere.”

Cow Bop

Said organizer Forman: “This project puts to use most aspects of our core curriculum in a ‘rubber hits the road’ manner, pun intended. We will help bands plan for the experience, explore ways to find the right venues, help with the logistics of the road experiences and help them to develop product to ensure a more robust revenue stream.” His band’s past Route 66 experiences taught him how an impromptu tour, playing everywhere from hot dog stands to hair salons and car dealerships, is vastly different from playing set gigs where everything is prepared.  “When you just show up and play for people spontaneously, it creates a more mutually connected experience,” he said.

For several of the student groups, Music Licks on 66 will be their first extended tour, and the scheduling, logistics and promotion are meant to be a learning laboratory on the current realities of the music industry.

“There’s no class you take in an educational setting on touring,” said Tim Fischer, a grad student and guitarist who plays traditional swing jazz of the 1930s and 40s in a trio, Rose Room, along with USC Thornton alum Angela Vicente, a vocalist, and bassist Emilio Terranova. Since the three have day jobs, Rose Room will be doing the tour only for a long weekend, traveling from Los Angeles to Rose Room, N.M.  “For young jazz bands, there isn’t a real network of stops as there was for past generations,” said Fischer. “We’ll be laying the groundwork and will be doing this again next year.”

Nora Germain Band

Other groups are signing up for the whole route, including Bryan Fasola, a doctoral student in classical guitar, and Donovan Butez MM ’13 in classical guitar, who have been performing together for a year and a half as Los Angeles Duo. They are starting in Chicago and will be driving Fasola’s Honda Civic west to Los Angeles, looking for gigs in libraries, cafes and schools.

Fasola said they have 40 minutes of original, modern compositions written by Butez and 40 minutes of classic Spanish music written for two guitars. “Learning how to organize something like this and react and play to different audiences – that’s going to be the real learning curve,” said Fasola.

Another young group making the entire trek is the Nora Germain Band. The trio of Rose Room recent alums Jon Swan ’12 (guitar), Taylor Hopkins ‘13 (bass) and current USC student Nora Germain ’14 (violin) is starting in Los Angeles and playing its way to Chicago.  They’d like to play their Americana, jazz and blues at a different gig every evening, and busk during the day.

Hopkins, who said this will be his first time touring outside California, considers it his transition from music student to professional musician. Swan said the tour, also a first for him, will involve “showing up and playing your hardest and realizing what you want musically along with other people.” Germain, who has wanted to be a band leader and not a sideman, said she is learning the responsibilities of rehearsing a band and organizing a tour – all before she graduates. To see a video of a rehearsal of the Nora Germain Band, click here.

Rose Room

Other groups planning to go on the tour include a guitar and piano duo, Molly Miller and Kait Dunton, USC Thornton graduate students who play jazz and pop, and a retro swing group, The Hi Fi Honeydrops, made up of current student Eliana Athayde (bass), past student Greg Fleischut (guitar) and alums Keegan Anglim (guitar), Max Bryk (clarinet) and David Elsenbroich (guitar). The Honeydrops have become a regular part of the swing dance community in Southern California in the past three years, and have a regular residency at Silver Lake’s 1642 Beer & Wine.

The five-person Cow Bop group will be making the Route 66 tour for the fourth time since 2004, starting in Chicago and connecting with other USC Thornton bands along the way. One of its members, drummer Jake Reed, just received his doctorate from USC this spring. (Daily posts from the band’s three past trips are archived here.)

Forman said these pilgrimages are a link to itinerant musicians of the past and to the musical and social media renaissance of today.  “It gives me an appreciation for the hard work people do to keep their communities together, and puts life, music and community in perspective,” Forman said. “This is what I want to share with my peers and students through this festival.”

Los Angeles Duo

How can Trojans help? If you live close to Route 66 and have venue ideas or contacts, extra bedrooms or other help, contact Bruce Forman or any of the individual bands:

Rose Room 
Los Angeles Duo 
Nora Germain Band 
The Hi Fi Honeydrops
Molly Miller and Kait Dunton 

Find downloadable versions of these images and those of the other bands here 

CONTACT: Allison Engel 213/740-1927 

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