Music Success Stories

Dr. Nick Vasallo Awarded Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni Award by UC Santa Cruz

Director of Music Industry Studies, AV Technology, and Music Composition at DVC, Dr. Nick Vasallo was recently named a Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni by UC Santa Cruz.

Here is an excerpt from the UC Santa Cruz story:

Bay Area native Nicholas Vasallo picked up the electric guitar while in high school and formed Antagony, later credited as birthing the popular subgenre of metal music called “deathcore.”

A graduate of California State University, East Bay, Vasallo completed his doctorate at UC Santa Cruz, where he found a nurturing environment that supported his artistic growth and interests.  

“I’ve always felt like an outsider, and looking back at it, my professors really let me be who I was,” he said.

Vasallo’s primary composition instructor was David Evan Jones, who described Vasallo as “the most brilliant and accomplished composition student with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work... I believe his work will continue to be recognized at the national and, going forward, the international levels.”

Read the full story at the UC Santa Cruz site

More success stories

College Magazine: DVC's Music program listed in top 10 to rock the industry

DVC music programDVC's Music department was recently featured in College Magazine! We are thrilled to be listed as one of the "10 California Schools for Music Business Degrees that Rock the Industry". DVC was also recognized as “California’s finest community college for music”.

Have you see our latest video? Watch why DVC is the premier career education destination for bay area music students. Hear from instructors and students about our DVC MUSX program.

DVC vocal jazz ensembles win big at Reno Jazz Festival

Jazz ensemble smiling togetherJoin us in congratulating two DVC vocal jazz ensembles, Dreaming in Burgundy and Silent K, for placing first and third in their division at the Reno Jazz Festival. The Music Department took nearly 50 instrumental and vocal students to the three day event. Participants enjoyed competing, listening to other ensembles, and learning new skills in clinics with leading jazz educators from around the country. One of the highlights included seeing the performance of jazz legend Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus.
Both vocal jazz ensembles are led by faculty members Bret Peppo and Ben Flint with student directors Jasmine Reyes and Holly Camacho.  DVC applauds both groups for their dedication to music and thanks them for their hard work in representing our school at the festival. Congratulations!

Dr. Nick Vasallo honored at CSUEB 40 Under 40 Alumni Awards ceremony

Nick Vasallo smiling and helping students"It is such an honor to be awarded the inaugural 40 Under 40 Award from Cal State East Bay. As I have attended and taught at both schools, I consider DVC and CSUEB my homes. Music composition has given me such a purpose and direction in life that I feel obligated and honored to pass my knowledge and experience on to students. I believe if you have the desire to compose, you should not only have the opportunity to learn how, but also hear your music performed. That was truly a life-changing experience for me, and I have had the good fortune to see it come full-circle. Years ago, my first composition was performed at DVC, and now I have the privilege of creating music composition courses for the next generation of composers."

Dr. Nick Vasallo is an award-winning composer and professor of music. He teaches music composition at all levels, from beginners to post-graduate students. Dr. Vasallo created the music composition programs at Diablo Valley College and Cal Poly Pomona. He has taught music theory and composition at UC Santa Cruz, CSU East Bay, Cal Poly Pomona, Gavilan College, and DVC. His students have went on to have successful careers as media composers, concert music composers, and graduate students at prestigious composition programs throughout the Unites States. Dr. Vasallo is the recipient of the San Francisco Classical Voice Music Educator Award 2013. His music has been performed worldwide and can be seen/heard on his website.

Nick Vasallo: Hitting all the right notes

Nick VaselloUC Santa Cruz Magazine, Ann Parker - "He’s a loving husband and devoted father, an award-winning composer, a renowned musician, a respected teacher.

Nick Vasallo is also the originator of “deathcore,” a genre-blending mix of death metal and hardcore music.

Now the Music Department cochair and director of music industry studies and music composition at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Vasallo has an eclectic musical background that started with his father’s love of classical and rock recordings.

“My dad was a stereophile,” says Vasallo, who is of Filipino and Taiwanese descent.

At 14, a Nirvana concert changed his life.

“Kurt Cobain smashed his guitar onstage: It was such a great, distorted sound,” recalls Vasallo, who asked for an electric guitar for his birthday and formed an extreme metal band called Antagony.

After studying music at Diablo Valley College and California State University, East Bay, he earned a master’s and doctorate of musical arts at UC Santa Cruz, becoming the first music doctoral candidate to win the President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship Award.

“My dissertation was about championing heavy metal within academia,” he says.

Vasallo wrote his first song at 14. (“It was about a girl,” he admits.) His innovative compositions have been performed internationally by groups such as Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea and the Silesian Philharmonic. He’s currently recording two albums.

Teaching is intensely gratifying to this composer/performer, whose many honors include the San Francisco Classical Voice Music Educator Award 2013.

“Seeing students come from point zero to the highest apex of their capabilities is amazing.”

Vasallo says of his wife, Denise Linda Vasallo, “I couldn’t do anything without her. She’s my MVP, and super-mom to our children: 4-year-old Madison and 9-month-old Lucas.”

Deathcore has a soft side."

Parker, Ann. “Nick Vasallo: Hitting all the right notes UC Santa Cruz Magazine, Oct. 2017,

SF Chronicle: Melina Duterte - She's generated success

Melina Duterte"DVC made a significant mark on the trajectory of my music career. Straight out of high school I wanted to break away from the DIY music/recording knowledge I taught myself and learn the basics in an educational environment. I took memorable classes with Tim White, Doug Michael, Mark Steidel, Guy Lento, Jon Bendich, Danny Carnahan, Michael Aczon, and Steve Sage. The music industry program solidified my endeavor into the music industry and I still apply so much of what I learned to my newfound career. I am so grateful for the time I spent at DVC!" - Melina Duterte, former DVC music student

SF Chronicle, Aidin Vaziri

"Age: 23

Lives in: Oakland

What she does: Melina Duterte, who goes by the stage name Jay Som, is a multi-instrument and producer who recently released her first proper studio album, "Everybody Works."

Career highlights: An earlier collection of demos, released on the music sharing website Bandcamp under the unassuming title "Untitled" (later repackaged as "Turn Into"), grabbed the attention of tastemakers online such as Pitchfork, SPIN and NPR Music; leading to a deal with the Polyvinyl label for "Everybody Works."

On the brink: A lot of people tend to overlook Duterte's lo-fi bedroom pop because they see her stage name, Jay Som, on the label and make assumptions. "They skip listening to my music because they think I'm some guy who makes hip-hop music," the Oakland singer-songwriter says, calling from a tour stop in Atlanta. She plucked the moniker randomly from an online baby name generator, indicative of her casual approach to her work.

Raised in a musical family in the East Bay, she got her first guitar at age 8 and moved on to trumpet at 9, picking up other instruments over the years and honing her recording skills along the way. "It was all self-taught," she says. "Sometimes I wonder where I got my motivation from. It's just a natural curiosity. I was always motivated to get better."

On Thanksgiving 2015, feeling encouraged by her friends - and maybe a little tipsy - she uploaded nine tracks she had recorded at home onto Bandcamp. That first set of plaintive demo recordings became "Turn Into" -- a set of "finished and unfinished songs" -- released in 2016 on the independent label Polyvinyl, earning her a spot on a female-fronted indie rock tour with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. "I feel like there's a certain amount of luck," Duterte says. "I'm at a place where I was working hard and I was willing to spend more time getting to where I am now. I thought this whole thing would happen in five years. It's a been shocking how easy it's been to get certain opportunities."

Her latest release was made in three weeks with Duterte performing all the instruments and producing all the material, pulling together her dreamy vocal melodies and harmonies with fuzzy guitars and synthesizers. "I definitely had more of a clear and intentional idea of what I wanted the album to sound like," she says. "I was listening to a lot of throwback james."

Now she's on tour, performing Friday, Oct. 20, in San Francisco, and finding new fans around the country singing the songs back to her. "It's so strange," Duterte says. "We were in Toronto for the 'Baybee' I stopped singing the second verse and the entire crowd started singing. It truly made me cry."

A musical home: "My brother and I grew up into a very supportive family of music and arts," Duterte says of her parents, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. "My mom was always singing. My dad used to be a DJ, so there were records everywhere. There were a lot of mix tapes around the house.""

Vaziri, Aidin. “She's generated success” SF Chronicle, Oct. 2017.