Lalibela Walto wasn’t expecting to join a rock band this year at UNO. But after her orientation this July, that’s exactly what ended up happening.
“The teacher, Jorge Velazquez, had a booth in the UC and it immediately sparked my interest,” Walto said. “I have been singing since I could talk and was looking for an opportunity to continue that and this was perfect! The other members of the band I’m in have all been in music for a long time as well and two were even in a band together in Houston before moving to New Orleans.”
Primarily a bassist for the New Orleans Civic Symphony, Velazquez received his undergrad degree in Music Education as well as his Masters in Orchestral Conducting from UNO before teaching the UNO Rock Ensemble. But Walto says the professor’s job is more about feedback and guidance instead of straight lecturing.
“He helps us logistically set up our group so we look good, gives us feedback on what we sound like to make sure we are performing to the best of our ability and guides through the process of being in a band. At the beginning of the semester the class met for the first time, there were about 10 of us, all playing different instruments, having different skills. Depending on what we played Jorge randomly selected the groups, placing us in a group of strangers that were now our band. It was a little scary and nerve-wracking, but also super exciting, and I can say that my band members have now become my friends.”
Walto’s band, Get the Bleach, is comprised of Ricky Boyles on bass, Jack Croce on drums, and Lexus Morgan and Eugene Sauerwin III on guitars. Ozone Kohen shares vocal duties with Walto. The other band in the class is called Service Blue Moon and features Misty Hayes on cello and Joshua Shanks on vocals and sax. Other members are Max Bauer on bass, Andrew Charles on drums with Sage Drada and Ben Parker on guitars.
Vocalist Walto maintains the hardest part of being in a band is dealing with different personalities, as with any group setting. “Everyone is unique and has their own individual style and ideas and balancing all of that can be challenging at times. It’s important to focus on the music, because that is really what brings us together,” she says.
She adds, “Personally I listen to everything from indie pop to hard rock, so I’ve been influenced by a bunch of different styles and people. I was raised on a lot of The Beatles and old music so I think that’s what really inspired me to start singing and get involved in music, but I also love musicals so I don’t really know if there’s a simple answer to that question. The rest of the members of the band have all been inspired by different artists too, so it’s really cool to see how that plays into what we end up performing and how we all view music. We have ended up doing a lot of rock, which I absolutely love.”
So far Get the Bleach has had three performances this semester, including one at a venue downtown and at the UNO Talent show last week. You can see them and Service Blue Moon perform at The Cove at 4 p.m. Dec. 6. The performance is free.