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“First Impressions” by Jelani Brown ’20 and recorded by student-run Pac Ave Records is the first rap EP recorded in conservatory’s 140-year history.

“First Impressions” by Jelani Brown ’20 and recorded by student-run Pac Ave Records is the first rap EP recorded in conservatory’s 140-year history.

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Arts and Culture

Student-run music label releases latest project

Pac Ave Records, Jelani Brown '20 record first rap EP in Conservatory of Music’s 140-year history
May 2, 2019

University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music, the first in the Western United States and known for producing talented musicians, conductors, music therapists, educators, opera singers and jazz performers, has now produced its first rap album.

Pacific's student-run music label, Pac Ave Records, just released "First Impressions," written, produced and performed by music management student Jelani Brown '20 and other conservatory students. It is the first rap album in the music school's 140-year history.

"We're doing our first hip-hop album, because we feel Jelani is a different artist than we've worked with before, who has a different sound and a new tone to showcase," said Felix Cole '21, Pac Ave Record's vice president of artists and repertoire. "We feel he's definitely the right artist to break Pac Ave out of the mold to venture out into hip-hop and other genres."

Brown, who transferred from Modesto Junior College, has always been passionate about music. As a child, he recalls riding in a car with his father and twin brother one day and hearing classical music on the radio. He told his father he wanted to play "that high one," meaning the high-pitched violin, and he did. He went on to learn the guitar and piano before starting a hip-hop performance career, and now also plays violin in Pacific's University Symphony Orchestra. He credits Pacific's conservatory for allowing him the creative space to incorporate all of his musical skills and produce a unique sound.

Pac Ave Records and Jelani Brown '20, a music management student and a member of the Pacific's University Symphony Orchestra, just recorded the first-ever rap EP in the conservatory's 140-year history.

"Being able to work with so many people who are excited about getting their feet wet in this process, whether it's a direction they want to go in later or not, I think that's one of the things that makes this awesome," Brown said. "I've met so many people here who are genuine and are really helping me succeed. I've had a lot of professors who have moved on my behalf, because they saw something in me. And sometimes that's hard to find elsewhere."

Brown recognizes the inherent challenges of being first at anything.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say it was hard," Brown said of being Pac Ave's first artist to do a complete rap album. "But it's something that I believe in deeply. I think that it's something that the school needs."

Conservatory Dean Peter Witte embraces and encourages diversity of musical genres. He has worked to promote more contemporary music styles, such as supporting the 28/78 New Music Ensemble's New Music Festival 2019, a heavy metal ensemble concerts, and bringing a variety of national and international composers and musicians to perform and lead master classes for Pacific students.

"We've opened up healthy conversations within Pacific's Conservatory about whose music gets made and whose doesn't," Witte said. "This year Jelani and Pac Ave helped us challenge dogma around hip-hop and their EP 'First Impressions' stands with other student-led musical efforts as indicators that the conservatory believes in healthy, respectful and creative change."

Pac Ave Records, founded in 2012 as part of the conservatory's music management program, recorded six earlier albums for groups such as the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, Pacific's Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and various Pacific and regional artists. Last year's Pac Ave Records project, "Rose Gold: Songs for Sonoma," was a successful fundraiser to benefit Sonoma County students impacted by the October 2017 Tubbs Fire. Pac Ave Records provides students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and build their resumes. Past members of Pac Ave have gone on to work at music companies, such as iTunes, Spotify, Universal Music, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Plural Music and Mack Avenue Records.

Go to Pac Ave Records' release webpage to download "First Impressions."

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