Helping Students Pursue their Dreams: CSUSM News Room

Malesha Taylor wants to help instill confidence in her Cal State San Marcos students to pursue a career in music if that’s their dream.

“A lot of people think you can’t have a musical career, that it’s just a hobby,” said Taylor, who joined CSUSM’s music department as a lecturer in January. “I want students to feel like they can look into jobs and opportunities in the music field.”

An accomplished musical artist herself, Taylor is certainly setting the right example.

Taylor got serious about singing while in high school. Her choir teacher recommended she look at Cal State Fullerton, which has a well-regarded music program. After earning her bachelor’s in music with a concentration in vocal performance there, Taylor received her master’s in music from USC. She has been performing and teaching ever since.

Among Taylor’s numerous solo performances are appearances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Taylor, a classically trained opera singer, has also participated in unique projects, including “Guerrilla Opera.”

“It started as a joke,” Taylor said. “Someone said, ‘You should just bust into a corner store one day and start singing opera. Shock people.’ ”

As Taylor mulled over the idea, she thought about having a video person follow her to capture the reaction from people. From there it grew into a serious project.

Living in Brooklyn at the time, Taylor went into barbershops, bodegas, buses and laundromats for impromptu opera performances. Her work became part of an exhibition called “Cultural Fluency: Engagements with Contemporary Brooklyn,” hosted by a Brooklyn gallery.

Taylor revisited the idea after relocating to San Diego, participating in the Museum of Man’s “Art Crawl” in 2016.

Taylor said “Guerrilla Opera” draws varied reactions and often leads to deeper conversations about class and classism.

“You never expect opera to be in those places and why is that?” she said.

While Taylor has an opera background, she is comfortable in a wide range of genres, which is one of the reasons she was a perfect fit at CSUSM.

The University’s music department is unique in its approach, allowing students to learn different genres rather than discouraging crossover. Taylor supports students no matter their interest, whether it’s jazz, pop, soul or something else entirely.

“It’s very liberating for students to come in and know that I’m going to support what they want to learn and that I’m not going to impose a genre on them,” Taylor said.

Taylor works in group settings with students as well as individually. They routinely do mind and body exercises, including stretching and yoga, as well as a variety of vocal exercises. She also works with students on overcoming nerves that may accompany performing.

“It changes everything when you’re nervous,” she said. “We talk about coping skills, how to think about your audience, how to think about yourself and how to be well prepared. You have to practice so that you’re less nervous.”

With her first semester at CSUSM complete, Taylor is looking forward to picking back up again in the fall. She will be directing a new gospel choir, which is open to students, faculty and staff, while continuing her vocal work with students.

“I’d like them to look for opportunities near campus to perform,” Taylor said. “I want them to find places where they can share their gifts because they’re all very gifted.”

Learn more about Taylor's work at her website.

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314

Ordinary Magic: Where Hip-Hop Theater Meets Opera

Ordinary Magic: Where Hip-Hop Theater Meets Opera

When hip-hop and classical music combine, it never fails to turn heads, and for many reasons. I’ve seen jaws drop in the audience of the hip hop orchestra Dakah, or after a crowd leaves concerts by Black Violin, the touring hip hop violin duo. Rappers like Nas use symphonic tracks in their music, but despite all of these collaborations, Ordinary Magic may be paving the way for a new subgenre in theatre, the spoken-word opera. And, when I say “spoken-word,” I am talking slam-poetry style. Some of you may remember the television series Def Poetry Jam hosted by Mos Def and created by the iconic rapper Russell Simmons. It was part of what brought spoken-word poetry out of neighborhood cafes and into popular culture.

"Artists Changing the Course of the River"- Arts in a Changing America

Editor’s Note: This week’s  contribution is by Malesha Taylor who furthers the discussion on how artists are leading the way in creating new narratives and models of creative practice. The original conversation was first presented at the Arts In A Changing America REMAP: Bay Area’s Future Conversations panel “Artists Changing the Course of the River.” 

I am honored and thankful to be apart of this conversation: how we can remap and change the course of the river.  Maps and rivers involve lines, sometimes to divide and sometimes to nourish and draw in. They also define flow, movement and the rhythm of communities. In my art practice, I am seeking opportunities to bring the arts to people directly without the barriers and invisible lines we find between audiences and performers.  I am aligning my work with my values which are centered in social justice and bringing more power back to the people who make up our communities.

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"Is Your Theater Diverse and Inclusive Twice a Year?"

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I am not known for throwing around “the race card.” But every now and then, it’s thrown on me, especially in the arts. And, when I took a position in building new audiences, but only for the black plays, things really hit home. After this experience, I would like to help devise the best practices in new audience development, and suggest beginning with genuine community engagement. But it took working this job I describe below, to get me here.

ArtSpeaks Salons at Thumbprint Gallery: San Diego Reader

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"New panel series aims to give fans access to artists, and artists access to each other, to foster a sense of artistic community." 

The first goal of the new “Art Speaks” salon series at Thumbprint Gallery 2, at the back of Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge, is to “provide a platform for artists to engage in dialogue with their community and with each other.” That sounds simple, but it hearkens to the cri de coeur of so many artists interviewed by the Reader and elsewhere: the arts community in San Diego struggles to come together from a disparate group of artists in isolation to a bona fide scene.

Continue reading article here