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Music in Schools: A Year Later with Ethan Opdahl

Chronemics Ethan OpdahlIn 2014 we sponsored the first chair guitarist for the 2014 California All-State Jazz Band. We didn’t know who the first chair would be, but were excited to find out. This ended up being Ethan Opdahl. Check out our first interview we did with him after the 2014 performance here. A little over a year later, Ethan is going to UCLA and has a lot more to share about his musical growth below.

It’s been about a year and a half since the 2014 California All-State Jazz Band performance. How has your music been growing since then?

My music has always been about rhythmic complexity; I love finding a groove where there shouldn’t be one, and creating odd poly-rhythmic overlapping patterns. The All-State performance was my first experience with jazz. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time learning about harmony and sharpening my music theory. I’ve been finding it much easier to come up with ideas that are as harmonically interesting as they are rhythmic. As a guitarist I’ve become better about straying away from a scale and mode approach of improvising, trying to anticipate changes better with chord tones. This approach can help me be more efficient and melodic when things get tough. Thank you guys so much for supporting me at All-State! As you can see it’s set me in a really positive direction. And believe it or not I was getting compliments on the ‘Ola‘ pedal at my colleges auditions.

You are now going to UCLA. What appealed to you to choose UCLA? What are you studying?

UCLA is great because there’s so much I can do here. I’m studying Ethnomusicology – World Music. I’m really passionate about writing music, so being exposed to the complexity of world music traditions like North Indian Classical should help me become more flexible as a composer. I also auditioned and got into a jazz combo to keep my chops up on guitar. In my free time I record my original progressive rock / fusion compositions in the practice rooms. So far it’s been a total blast.

Has the UCLA music program been challenging you?

Absolutely. I tested into the highest “musicianship” class and we have been doing some pretty ridiculous ear training. It gets intimidating at times. There’s been a lot of great information in my music history and theory classes as well. It’s actually been great seeing all the things I don’t know. Now I feel like I can see what I need to improve on to push forward and grow as a well rounded musician.

Have you been working on new music with your band, Chronemics? If so is there anything online you can share.

Chronemics came to an end since we all had college pulling us to different states. I’ve been working full steam ahead on my original prog metal and fusion pieces for an upcoming release! I’m hoping in a month I can get it out. In the mean time I’ve been posting video promos of myself recording the songs. I’m influenced by bands like Intronaut, Dream Theater, Tool, The Aristocrats, Chon, This Town Needs Guns, and Snarky Puppy to name a few. I’m trying to blur the lines between the rhythmic side of prog metal and the harmonic complexities of fusion and jazz. I think that’s where the most potential is with progressive music right now.

Here’s a video of the solo on my song “Stiction”

Here is my YouTube channel to hear more.

You can also find me on facebook at


Is there anything else new and exciting going on that you would like to share?

I talked my jazz combo into playing one of my favorite tunes “Bad Asteroid” by the Aristocrats. I brought in the music for it and helped arrange for the group. Now it’s one of the two songs we played at our combo band concert! That’s right – I’m shredding some Guthrie tapping at a jazz show Hahaha. We are also did a beautiful rendition of “In Sentimental Mood.”

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