CSUN music grads find their niche in the industry

Kosta Kutay holds his saxophone at CSUN on Oct. 6, 2022, in Northridge, Calif.

Derek Ortega, Reporter

If Kosta Kutay had known about the CSUN music program, he would have taken jazz music seriously during his high school years.

Kutay, 22 years old, is from Los Angeles. He is a music major in the jazz program at CSUN and will graduate in the fall of 2022. Currently, he is working on an album with some help from CSUN alumni. The album is in the elementary stages and there is no working title at the moment. He also teaches music near his local high school in Calabasas.

Kutay credits his father for his love of music.

“My dad has always been a huge part of my life,” Kutay said. “He has always played the saxophone and I’d listen to it every time he played it, and it became part of my life for a long time and my dad was the reason for it.”

Kutay’s goals are to make his band more known in the world of jazz and start his own quartets. He wants to make sure he teaches more at schools, keeps doing it locally and spends time with his students so they can succeed and take what they learn into their future.

Kosta Kutay plays his saxophone at CSUN on Oct. 6, 2022, in Northridge, Calif. (Sonia Gurrola)

Jermaine Paul always knew he wanted to become a full-time musician and his best choice was to go to school. Some of his teachers from home inspired him to go to school, and he looked up to bassist and American composer Christian McBride.

Paul is expected to graduate this fall. In his off time, Paul loves being in a studio session where people record and play for days. He also loves being on stage playing his bass and making music with his friends.

“Gary Pratt is the reason why I actually came to CSUN when I was searching for schools and stuff. He was a big part of the process for me to come here,” said Paul. “It kind of influenced me and swayed my direction over to CSUN.”

Paul started touring in his young career just over a year ago, but once he graduates this fall semester, he will begin touring with artists in the same jazz field for a couple of months. Paul also plans on applying for his master’s at the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz at the University of California, Los Angeles Herb Alpert School of Music.

Melissa Ooi had a strong music background at a young age because her family hugely influenced her. Once she got here from Malaysia she started her academic career at CSUN and became a music major.

Since she was a child, Ooi has participated in music competitions and festivals both locally and internationally. Those experiences sparked a stronger sense of curiosity and passion as she continued her musical journey.

Ooi, 22 years old, is from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. She will graduate this fall semester with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. Ooi learned to play the piano and viola as a child. After graduating, she plans to continue her studies and pursue a master’s degree in piano performance or collaborative piano.

“My family definitely had a huge influence on me. Growing up in a musical household, my grandfather played the violin and viola, my mother played the piano, my older brother also plays the piano and cello and my younger sister plays the violin, viola and cello,” Ooi said.

Ooi plans to continue to learn the process of music. Along the way, she wants to share the knowledge of music with any music community, and hopes to inspire the next generation of children to love music as much as she does.

“I plan to teach students and hopefully they find their own creative and unique paths in their music journeys,” Ooi said. “I also enjoy collaborating, accompanying and playing with ensembles a lot, so I would love to continue being involved with them and other instrumentalists and musicians.”

During his middle school years, Noah Unterberger’s love for music was inspired by his middle school teacher Mitch Schuester. Unterberger was a drummer for his school band. He credits his teacher because he felt a connection and taught him very well.

Unterberger, 23 years old, is from Simi Valley. He is currently a senior at CSUN and will be graduating this fall with a degree in media composition. Students like himself have to intern at a music studio to acquire the experience for job opportunities. He has gotten help from his instructors who have hooked him up with gigs and colleagues leading him into projects.

“Something that resonates with me would be it’s community based,” said Unterberger. “There is no music industry without the community and if there are no listeners or fans then people aren’t connected with music and the whole point in the music is to build a bridge between one person or a group of people.”

Unterberger’s goals are to be happy and fulfilled with making music. He dreams of influencing the world through his music so he can help people open up their emotions.

When asked about his plans after he graduates from CSUN, he mentioned that there could be a potential internship.

“I’m a media composition major and there is this film scoring program,” Unterberger said. “Part of our progam we have to intern at a studio or as a composer we have to do some sort of internship.”