Ashley (Estrada ’08) Espinoza lives in Florida with her husband Christian, and is a singer with the Voices of Liberty at Walt Disney World. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance from Vanguard University of Southern California. She also is a member of Sweet Adeline’s International and her current quartet, Windsor, came in 4th at International competition in Vegas this past October. She and her husband are expecting their first child in May of 2016.
A: I started singing in church when I was 8 years old.
- How has music impacted your life?
A: Music has greatly impacted my life. I love to sing and have managed to make a career out of it, which is such a blessing. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to combine what their passionate about with their job, so I’m very grateful. And, I met my husband through music.
- How did your time at Vanguard help you grow as a singer and/or person?
A: As far as my education goes, I received a well-rounded musical education, that has greatly benefited me on the career path I’ve chosen. At Vanguard I studied classical voice, was involved in the Concert choir, Vanguard Singers & Band, and the Beautyshop Quartet. By going back and forth between different styles at Vanguard, it made me a versatile musician and has helped me land different types of gigs. Also, traveling so much with my ensembles at Vanguard has taught me how to get along with others in close quarters, and definitely prepared me for the work place.
A: Since I graduated from Vanguard, I worked at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian church for a few years, then I worked at Disneyland performing with a group called the Voices of Liberty for about a year. In 2013, my husband and I moved to Florida, and I started working at Walt Disney World performing with the Voices of Liberty (the Voices of Liberty have been performing at EPCOT since 1982). I am currently working there full time. I’m starting to do some studio work as well.
- What is Voctave and how did you get involved in it?
A: Voctave is an a capella group of singers from central Florida. We are a versatile group that can sing everything from arrangements of top 40 tunes, to musical theater, Contemporary Christian, Disney, etc.. I’ve worked with all the singers before and was asked to join.
- How has your life changed since being a part of this new adventure?
A: I’m a little busier, but over-all, my day to day life is basically the same.
- What advice do you have for current VU students who are involved in music or otherwise?
A: For those planning to be performers, get as much experience as you can (without neglecting your studies). And your reputation is as important, if not more, than talent. Be nice to work with! You’ll get more work that way. And vocal performers, take aural theory seriously! Sight-reading is so important, especially if you want to do studio work. My aural theory training has come in handy.
- Whether it’d be by yourself or with your group, what are your favorite songs to sing?
A: Jazz and big band songs! Especially anything sung by Ella Fitzgerald.
- What do you have planned for your music in the future?
A: Voctave is hoping to expand our repertoire with other artists and our own songs, and just see where that takes us.
Also, Voctave just came out with a Disney Medley music video that features Kirstin Maldonado from the famous a cappella group PENTATONIX and Jeremy Michael Lewis. Click HERE to watch the amazing talent that all of the artists bring to this video.
Ashley Estrada Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ashleyestradafanpage
Voctave Website: www.voctave.com
Voctave Facebook page: www.facebook.com/voctavesings
Voctave YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKb63xBY-hnVbQ82sxfzXEQ
Jonathan Rowden ’07 was born in north Los Angeles near Sun Valley. His father’s career as a pioneering worship leader and missionary caused his family to move around quite a bit and also sparked Jonathan’s love of music. He started playing the saxophone at the young age of seven years old, after hearing the sax player on an album his dad was recording. He served in music ministries and spent a number of years as a part-time worship leader/director at a small church plant in Orange County, but his interest as a jazz/creative musician only grew stronger. He graduated from Vanguard University in 2007; where he was classically trained by Ken Foerch and went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Saxophone/Jazz performance at CSU Fullerton. In 2013, he formed an original band, the Jonathan Rowden Group, performing exclusively original music for the first time.
- What instrument(s) do you play?
A: Saxophones (mostly tenor and soprano these days), some woodwind double like flute and clarinet. I dabble with piano, drums, and guitar, but mostly for writing purposes.
- When and why did you start playing?
A: I began playing the alto saxophone when I was 7 years old. My father was a singer-songwriter/Christian music pioneer when I was a boy (we spent a huge amount of time touring with him when I growing up) and he hired a Seattle-based saxophonist named Richard Cole to play on his second album (I think). I heard him playing in the DIY studio we had in the garage and I guess I really liked the sound and asked him to teach me how to play. My dad actually thought I was too little to do it, but Rich gave it a shot and gave me a few lessons. He got me started on all the fundamentals of the instrument, but we moved to California before too long. Somehow I managed to stay interested and continued to play independently until senior year of high school, at which point I decided I wanted to pursue the saxophone professionally. Most of my early life, I wanted to be a comic book artist, so it really took everyone I knew at the time by surprise.
- How has music impacted your life?
A: I suppose it’s complicated to describe, since music has been a constant in my life since I was a boy. When I would go to bed at night I’d fall asleep to the sounds of my dad writing music on the piano or guitar in the room down the hall, experience music in all sorts of situations, and had a really eclectic collection of CD’s, tapes, and some LP’s growing up. In order to say how it has impacted me, I’d have to imagine life without it. Music was a good friend to me in some pretty dark times. But once I chose to do music professionally, my relationship with music changed and went through many stages. I think it has given me a creative outlet that is very unique and allows me to really explore nuanced personal expression, and my faith both in the abstract and otherwise. Once I discovered that I could write music without trying to pay homage to any style or genre in particular, my eyes and ears really opened up.
- How did your time at Vanguard help you grow as a musician?
A: My time at Vanguard was spent building an intimate connection to my horn. I sacrificed a lot of time working on my playing. I was very focused – there were a lot of personal desires that needed to be put aside for the sake of the longer goals I had. My time studying with Ken Foerch was foundational, and his pedagogy of the saxophone is exactly what I needed at that time. I was always really self-motivated but Ken showed me that I could overcome technical and mental blocks that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Greg Glancey taught me a lot about theory and really gave me the freedom to explore a lot of music that (believe it or not in a music program) other students would basically scoff at. In many ways, there were few students during my time at VU that were really pushing themselves, but I strongly believe that being in a small program where I wasn’t extrinsically obligated to “do thus and so” for 10 different groups really benefitted a self-motivated person like me, who had a LOT of technical work to do. I just took advantage of the time and hit the shed.
- What have you been doing since your time at Vanguard?
A: I completed my Master’s degree in saxophone/jazz performance at CSUF in 2011, during which time I created my band now known as the Jonathan Rowden Group. The band went on to release our debut album “Becoming” in 2014 on the Los Angeles based creative-music label Orenda Records, including a West & East coast CD release tour stint, and the album received a nice review in the world-renowned Downbeat Magazine. The Jonathan Rowden Group is now prepping/fundraising to record our second album, slated to hit the studio in April – there will be some previews available on my website. I’ve continued teaching in a number of different capacities over the years (something I began in 2004), and am currently serving as the adjunct professor of saxophone at Cal Baptist University and leading/or co-leading jazz/jazz-combo programs at a few high schools. In 2015 I founded Tear It Down Los Angeles | Orange County with is a non-profit organization that produces shows in OC and LA, featuring many of the brightest and best up-and-coming creative-music artists in southern CA. We will be producing a Downtown LA Arts District Jazz Festival the end of 2016. Finally, I created WYR which is the highly experimental side to my musical personality.
- What is your new film project about?
A: WYR TERRANIGMA is a full-length concert film (think about it like a live album but with studio-production value and incredible filming) of entirely improvised, experimental music. The core of the ensemble WYR is made up of two drummer-percussionists (Chris Wabich and James Yoshizawa) and myself on saxophones with electronic effects and gadgets. The group improvised on a loose-formal score of instrument/color/timbral cues. This sounds intellectual, but really, the music is pure heart – there’s almost no instruction, just play. For TERRANGIMA we invited two incredible vocalists Areni Agbabian and Joanna Wallfisch to join us. Areni also played prepared piano, and Joanna used a looper to created really interesting vocal effects. The collective sound is something with it’s foot in jazz, new-music (classical), electronic-ambient, and really just anything that feels right in the moment. With so much freedom, you’d think the music would lack focus, but because of the world-class musicianship of my collaborators, the music is incredibly focused and really “lives” in it’s own universe. I think that the best music does this – discovering the intended nature of a given musical moment, and finding a way to live it out to the fullest, or helping its natural direction come to fruition, is what makes this as focused as it is free. There was no rehearsal, only conversation. What I found is that if everyone’s personalities just “make sense” together, their aesthetic sensibilities can come together in some very surprising and beautiful ways during the performance.
- What advice do you have for current VU students who are involved in music or otherwise?
A: I think I have three suggestions. First, utilize those practice rooms and don’t be afraid to be a hermit. Good friends will understand. Secondly, don’t wait to start creating your own projects – this is a time in your life when you will (likely) have more time and opportunities to hone your craft than when you graduate and the real world sets in. Third, it’s never too soon to begin looking at what you want your career to look like, and to go out there and start creating opportunities for yourself. Find a mentor, get involved professionally, and never convince yourself that you’ve “arrived”. That’s an easy road to complacency and inactivity.
- What are your top five favorite songs to play?
A: Of the songs I’m playing with my band, I’d have to say I really enjoy two new songs I wrote and those of my bandmates. 1) The Wait (a electro-pop/drum & bass-meets-minimalism inspired original) 2) 133 (an ethereal original named after a lovely drive on an OC toll road which costs way too much) 3) Ruins of Númenor (an epic original composed by my bandmate Ryan Pryor) 4) Snowing In Paradise (an original song composed for my wife’s hometown of Paradise CA) 5) Can’t decide on the 5th…
- What do you have planned for your music in the future? Any other film projects possibly?
A. There are many exciting plans, actually. We will be releasing a new album this year (2016) with my band the Jonathan Rowden Group with plans to record in April/May. The band will be performing at the incredible MENG CONCERT HALL at CSU Fullerton on March 12th (please join us). There is a possible WYR studio record on the horizon as well. Additionally, I am in the throws of crafting a vision for a YouTube series of short music films, exploring outdoor locations with improvised and composed material with a variety of collaborations. There are some other editorial things coming up that are really, really exciting for me but I’m not at liberty to share them publicly as of yet.
As Jonathan had previously stated, he and his band are having a HUGE OC show on March 12th at Meng Concert Hall in Cal State Fullerton and would love for you all to attend. There, he will also be raising money for his NEW ALBUM! Click HERE for more details!
To listen to more of Jonathan’s music, keep up with current events or get into contact with him, you can visit:
Homecoming 2016 on January 30th included MANY exciting events and familiar faces back on campus! It was a wonderful time for alumni to reconnect and for the whole Vanguard community to join in fellowship with one another. It was great to see alumni, current students, families, faculty and staff share their own stories about Vanguard while partaking in the fun events the 2016 Homecoming weekend had to offer.
Prior to Homecoming week, current Vanguard students were participating in an Instagram Contest hosted by the Alumni Relations Office. The challenge was for students to post a picture and a heart-felt caption about how Vanguard was home to them by using the Homecoming hashtag: #Home2VU. The Alumni team chose five winners, each winner was revealed day by day during Homecoming week. The first four winners received a $25 Visa gift card and the first place winner received a $50 Target gift card. All of the photos did a great job in expressing how Vanguard has truly become their home, but the post that really tugged on the Alumni team’s heart strings was submitted by Faith Pryzer. In her post, Faith told the story of how her home had burned down at the beginning of last semester. Therefore, Vanguard was the place where she not only had a roof over her head, but where the VU community took the time to pray for her, her family and hometown.
The Homecoming festivities started early from January 26-29, alumni speakers and worship leaders were featured throughout the week at Vanguard’s morning chapel services. Tuesday, January 26, was kicked off by Worship Leader Joe Lopez ’02 and his team including: Jenn (Castro ’03) Robertson and his good friends Joel and David. Then, Distinguished Alumni Award winners Bonnie (Bethany) Brigman ’73 and Keith Brigman ’75 shared their incredible testimony of being educators for the past 30 years. On Wednesday, January 27, worship was led by Heidi (Rose ’12) and Jeff Fernandez ’14, Christopher Lucas ’15, Matt Johnson ’12 and Mark Davenport. Following worship, Young Alumnus of the Year Award winner Dr. Jesse Payne ’07 gave an enticing speech about the importance of the development and personal care of the brain. The last Homecoming Alumni Chapel took place on Thursday, January 28, where Jenni (Schork ’07) Rouanzoin, Courtney Harell ’07, Bryan Rouanzoin ’07, Tim Burnette ’07, Savannah Cornelison ’15 and Oscar Islas ’16 led the congregation in a time of worship. Then, Alumni of the Year Award winner Erin (Bongiorno ’03) Donovan gave an incredible message on leadership and following God’s call.
Check out more about each of the award winners in this special Alumni Award Winners Article!
The annual VU’s Got Talent occurred that Friday night where the Alumni Relations Office provided the top three winners with their prizes. First place winner Emmy Fischbenk blew the judges away with her remarkable voice and original lyrics!
Saturday, January 30, was a big day for everyone on Vanguard’s campus! Events went all day long, starting with our biggest event of the week- The Run for Mercy 5K! Vanguard Alumni, current students, faculty, staff and eventhe surrounding Vanguard community joined together to support the Harrington Family. Nathanael Harrington ’15 began his Vanguard experience as a freshman in the fall of 1998. He continued his studies until the spring of 2001. Following September 11th, he felt a call to serve in the military and began serving as a Chaplain Assistant in the Army, but again his life took an unexpected turn.
After only two years of service, Nathanael was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, an incurable disease that causes breakdown of the nerves cells in the brain. He received an honorable discharge due to the diagnosis. In the midst of this painful season, he met his beautiful wife, and three boys who were five, four, and two. They moved back to the Pacific Northwest, and welcomed a beautiful daughter. In
2013, Nathan returned to Vanguard University to finish his degree. He and his family moved to Costa Mesa for 2 years while finishing his Bachelor’s degree. At the completion of his degree, Nathan and his family moved back to his home town of Clarkston, WA.
Run for Mercy was a huge success! Seeing the Vanguard community come together in support of the Harrington Family was a truly beautiful sight. There were 200+ people who participated in this event and about $3,000 was raised! The Doyle family was able to make another appearance this year and Mercy provided her cherished artwork for the winners! The Vanguard Jazz band performed by the Vanguard sign in order to pump up the runners as they passed by. Upon finishing the 5K, participants were invited to a celebration for the Harrington Family in the Campus Mall. The Blues Lyne Band performed while people enjoyed a meet and greet with the Harrington’s and a delicious, well-earned lunch from Chick-Fil-A. People also visited the array of Vendor Booths while children played in the Kid Zone.
There were several events that occurred throughout the rest of the day. A worship service was held in Needham Chapel where Rusty Peavy ’70 and friends led the congregation into an old school worship set. Afterwards, Vanguard’s newest praise ensemble, LIFEsong, rocked the house with hymns and gospel music. Check out more by visiting LIFEsong’s homepage on our Vanguard website.
The Vanguard Athletics team had a full day with several games and activities. The men’s baseball team played a double-header against Loyola Marymount University and won both games! Click HERE to see more details about the games! Due to inclement weather the girl’s softball game was cancelled. However, there was a fantastic Softball Alumni 30 year reunion where each team dating back 30 years was honored and recognized. For more details on this event, visit this article about the 30 Year Softball Reunion! During these two events the men’s basketball and women’s soccer teams ran around with some children during the Kid’s Sports clinics. There, they provided these future little VU lions with the correct amount of skill development and fun!
Later that night, prior to the basketball games everyone enjoyed scrumptious tailgate food in the Caf and the Activate spirit committee stood in front of the pit painting faces, providing sign materials, and foam Lion paws! The Vanguard men and women’s basketball teams challenged The Master’s College in the pit. The women fought extremely hard, but fell behind losing 55-58. Click HERE to read about women’s game! However, the men secured a victory of 82-57! Read more about the men’s game HERE!
The Vanguard Concert Choir sang the National Anthem, and the Alumni Upperdeck was open during halftime of both games. Speaking of half-time, Vanguard used this slot during the men’s game to recognize Athletic Director Bob Wilson as he is retiring this year. The VU community is proud of all that he has accomplished in his past 20+ years at Vanguard. Click on both links to learn more about his accomplishments and journey at Vanguard: Bob Wilson and Champions of Character.
Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated this Homecoming Weekend with us. We hope you had a fantastic time reconnecting with former classmates and had a chance to meet new friends as well!
We look forward to seeing you next year at Homecoming 2017!
The summer is off to a great start with three different events during the month of June. At the beginning of June, Vanguard hosted a booth at Fish
Fest. Throughout the day we were able to welcome future lions and catch up with many different Alumni that stopped by.
Only a week later, Vanguard University hosted the 1960’s reunion. This year’s theme was “Friendships & Memories” and this was seen throughout the entire weekend as friendships were rekindled and memories were shared.
“The reunions are magical in this way: You may not have seen these friends for years. Yet when you meet, the years fall away and it is yesterday again. You realize there is a bond between all of you and they are still your dear, close friends from SCC. I was so happy seeing all my friends again that I could not stop smiling the entire weekend.”
The weekend was full of planned activities as well as time to simply visit and catch up with old friends. Not only that, but they also took time to honor the Class of 1965 and Class of 1966 for celebrating their 50th class anniversary. Thank you to everyone who came out to this event and to the many that made it possible.
The final event that was hosted by the Alumni office during the month of June was the Delta Kappa reception. This was an exclusive event for Delta Kappa members to help us celebrate the accomplishment of the Through These Doors $7 million dollar goal. We celebrated with a classic Vanguard Student meal- Laventina’s Pizza and Root Beer Floats. Along with that, they also had the opportunity to hear from President Michael Beals ’81 followed by a special tour of the Scott Building. We are so grateful for our supportive Alumni that continue to pour back into Vanguard.
The American Coast Theater Company, comprised of Theatre Faculty and Vanguard Alumni, is performing “Cotton Patch Gospel”, a Southern bluegrass musical depicting the books of Matthew and John. The show runs from June 13 – July 13 (no shows during Fourth of July weekend). As with all of our Theatre shows, alumni receive a special discount! Get your tickets today with the Lyceum Theatre Box Office.
I remember reading Cry My Beloved Country and The Heart of Redness for one of my college assignments. The books were powerful and compelling, but I learned much more about South Africa during my brief time living there. First-hand stories, images, and food brought a richness I couldn’t experience in any book. I enjoyed the books, but I wouldn’t trade my time in South Africa for anything.
How do we learn? Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Our professors impact our student’s intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth, but class time is limited. Next year, Vanguard is taking the approach to learning in a whole new direction.
Students who are choosing a minor in Spanish have a fantastic opportunity next year – and it will take place in their dorm room. Students who are accepted can get practicum credit by choosing to live in a Spanish Immersion quad. Students will not be required to speak Spanish constantly, but a professor will share weekly meals with these students, and well as other opportunities. This allows a great experience for students wishing to develop a broader cultural perspective, engage in local and global outreach, and market themselves in the workplace. All levels of proficiency are welcome to this new Spanish immersion floor.
Vanguard realizes much of our learning happens out of the classroom. This new relationship brings together faculty, student life, and the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership. I am thankful for this opportunity, but I wish we had that when I was in school.
Director of Alumni Relations