There are benefits to being raised in a musical family. Having a lifelong love of music instilled in her at a young age opened up a whole world for 28-year-old Corona resident Ashley Grether. She has gone from singing in a children’s choir her mother ran from the family garage to starring in musical theatre productions throughout the region. She also parlayed her knowledge of the voice and how it works into a career helping others as a licensed speech language pathologist assistant.
Grether drew her earliest inspiration from her mother, Renee Jensen. “I remember going as a kid to see her in shows,” says Grether. “There was something magical about sitting in a dark theater and becoming part of someone else’s story for a few hours. Every now and then I would get to tag along to rehearsal and work on my homework backstage. It gave me a chance to see all the work that goes into the show. I loved watching the story being told but I knew telling the story would be a whole new kind of magic.”
Grether got her chance to be the storyteller when she was cast as Kim MacAffee, the female lead in “Bye Bye Birdie.”“I was 16 years old,” she says. “I got to wear cute costumes and kiss a boy on stage. It was a blast!” She adds with a laugh that now after ten years theatre means more to her than clothes and boys. Roles she has played include Lily in “The Secret Garden,” Christine in “Phantom” and Hope in “Urinetown.” “I seek out art that moves me, try to get to the bottom of why it moves me and gain my inspiration there,” she explains. she explains.
Grether attended Citrus College in Glendora and was part of the renowned Citrus Singers, first under the direction of Ben Bollinger, then Doug Austin and John Vaughan. After graduating from the program, she moved on to study communicative disorders at Cal State Long Beach. A friend had suggested that she look into it, and the more research Grether did, the more she realized it was a perfect fit.
“I feel lucky that my background in performing has repeatedly set me apart in the field of speech,” she says. “I even had a professor pull me up in the middle of a lecture to give the class a mini voice lesson. The techniques I have learned for singing and articulating lines have all come in handy with my clients. Many of my clients had moderate to severe special needs and incorporating music into our sessions elicited an incredibly positive response.”
Grether explains that the same is true for teaching voice lessons to singing students. She says that she is able to share her understanding of the anatomy of the vocal tract, voice disorders and vocal health. “I love the field of speech,” she says. “You get to be there for monumental moments like a child’s first word, or a mom hearing her child articulate ‘I love you’ for the first time, or a stroke survivor being able to call their spouse by name again.”
Grether is currently taking time away from her work as a speech therapist, as she and her husband are raising a daughter who just had her first birthday. “I won the lottery when I met my husband,” says Grether. “He makes it possible for me to do it all. He steps up as Mr. Mom when I have late rehearsals.”
Sitting in the recording studio looking up from my drums, I could see a tall microphone and a big red pedal board that belonged to my lifelong rock hero, Neil Young. I was preparing for a recording we were about to make. Neil was scheduled to arrive in just a few days.
Flash back in time to when I first started at Citrus. I was just another rock 'n roll drummer, far from the all-star I aspired to become. Professor Bob Slack told us that if we wanted to be musicians, we needed to play our instruments as many hours as our parents worked in a week. I took his advice and began playing drums ten hours a day.
When I wasn’t practicing, I used to hang out in Alan Waddington’s office and listen to Neil Young records. One day I told Alan that if I could play with any artist, it would be Neil. Alan never doubted that my dream was within reach.
After completing the music program, I formed a band with Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson. Alan previously introduced me to Lukas at a Neil Young Concert. Lukas and I toured together for five years playing over 250 shows a year. During that time we backed up legendary artists such as Willie Nelson and BB King.
Flash forward: the day I dreamt about finally arrived: Neil walked in the door - and it was “go time.” Neil started jamming on his guitar, Ol’ Black. All my hard work paid off, and my dreams had come true!
“I am so thankful to Alan Waddington, Bob Slack, and all the Citrus faculty for giving me the skills, confidence, and work ethic I needed to make it as a professional musician.”
Attending Citrus College changed my life forever. As a member of the Citrus Singers, under the direction of Ben Bollinger, I learned skills that have sustained me as I’ve pursued the ever-challenging career of being a professional performer. These skills have stayed with me all the way to Broadway.
Being a ‘big girl’ in a world obsessed with societal ideals of beauty can be tough, but teachers like Doug Austin and John Vaughan taught me to believe in myself. John Vaughan used me as a dancer when others would have put me in the back to hide me from view. Doug Austin helped me earn the spotlight and I’ve never wanted to step out of it since. All my teachers at Citrus: Ben Bollinger, Doug Austin, John Vaughan, Michael Skidgel, Robert Slack had been or were currently working in showbiz. To this day I think of them as some of the most talented directors, music directors, and choreographers I've ever worked with.
There was a dream I had for as long as I could remember - to work with Sting. And while it might be nice to think about meeting your favorite musical idol, that isn't the feeling I am talking about. I KNEW in my very being that I would work with him. Thinking it was just a matter of time and circumstance, I put that dream aside and focused on Broadway.
For almost three years I was on the road playing the part of Madame Thenardier in the New 25th Anniversary National Tour of Les Misérables. When my tour was over, I was relaxing at my house in Florida. I was just hanging out with my family when I got a call from my agents about an audition in New York that next day for a new musical which was being written by Sting. I said yes immediately, hung up the phone, bought a plane ticket, packed a bag and asked a friend if I could stay on his couch. I made it to the airport in an hour and a half.
Because of my training at Citrus, I had a rock song in my audition book. I performed the song for the casting director and waited to hear from my agent. Then I got the final callback.
All I could think about was the fact that I'd finally be singing in front of a man whose work had been my constant companion, my source of joy and compatriot in my sadness for most of my life. The accompanist played my song twice as fast as the tempo I gave him. But despite the challenge, I had the BEST time.
I was leaving the room when I heard Sting say, "That was Shawna Hamic, right?" I left thinking, if nothing else, Sting knows my name. How cool is that?
Homeschooled throughout high school and set to graduate early, I had everything I needed to attend a four year university - except the will to go. I loved learning but I wasn't sure I would be satisfied majoring in business. I had countless talks with my mom that always concluded with her saying, "You can do it all, anything you want."
I heard about Citrus College from a few friends and decided to look into the programs they had to offer. I was intrigued by photographs I found on the performing arts website, especially those of students singing and dancing on stage sets that looked to be straight out of Broadway. I immediately knew this was the program for me. When I enrolled, I never could have imagined how far the program would take me. Had you told me that I would be a part of two songwriter showcases, four plays, two dance concerts, and countless performance opportunities, I probably would have just shyly smiled and thought you were crazy.
I gained so much knowledge from my professors. To name a few: Laurie Woolery, Cherie Brown, John Boylan, Alexander Galvan, and Director Kari Hayter. If it weren't for their constant encouragement, wise words, and passion I would not have been able to release my first CD, land a job at a performing arts school, or attend the CSU Summer Arts program in Monterey Bay with a full scholarship.
“I cannot thank the Citrus staff and faculty enough for all of their support. You can tell when someone is "just doing their job" and when they love what they do. These professors genuinely care and love what they do!”
Luselia Marin transferred to Laguna College of Art and Design and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts: Drawing and Painting. She also obtained a single-subject (art) teaching credential from Azusa Pacific University, along with a Master in Education: Teaching. She has been teaching art at the high school level for the past six years; teaching several different art classes, such as: Drawing and Mixed-Media, Printmaking, Fiber Arts, and Illustration and Design. She continues to create and showcase her representational figurative/portraiture drawings and paintings. Currently she is a student at LCAD and various Los Angeles based art studios, as she prepares to pursue a Masters in Fine Art: Painting and Drawing.
My interest in recording music began while I was enrolled at a local college. Having taken a few recording classes, I knew that recording was my passion and ultimate career path. One of my instructors recommended that I consider the Recording Arts Program at Citrus College. I toured the campus and immediately knew it was the place for me. The program offered hands on training which was crucial to my future success.
Citrus College helped me take my passion to the next level by introducing me to a number of highly regarded industry professionals. Legendary producer Ed Cherney was the keynote speaker at my graduation. Also in attendance was his wife Rose Mann-Cherney, president of the world-renowned Record Plant Recording Studios.This was a unique opportunity for me to speak with Rose one-on-one, schedule an interview, and ultimately gain a position at Record Plant.
Since then I have worked with a diverse range of artists that include Lady Gaga, Elton John, Bette Midler, The Offspring, and Lil’ Wayne. In addition to music, the program covered all aspects of post-production. I use these skills every day in my current position as an audio mixer at 20th Century Fox.
“I would not be where I am today without the Recording Arts Program and the amazing teachers at Citrus. Their influence was essential to my development as an audio engineer. I am proud to call the teachers, friends and colleagues.”
Sitting in a cold studio at 30 Rockefeller Center, the director calls for the house band to play. I recognize that sound. It’s the Saturday Night Live band bringing us back from commercial break. Suddenly all the attention is on me. I can see the artist and the band anxiously waiting to go on. My next action will trigger a chain of events that will resonate throughout the world into millions of people’s televisions. Sure, you can narrow it down to simply pressing the spacebar at the right time, but it’s more than that. It’s days of rehearsals, countless sleepless nights, hours of programming, months of negotiations, and years of training that brought me to this very moment, the premiere of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” on Saturday Night Live.
Graduating from Glendora High School, I knew I wanted to attend Citrus College for their highly regarded music program. I made the right choice! The music program provided me the training and skill set that I use daily in my line of work. Whether it’s being an engineer for the world’s biggest pop-stars, an audio specialist for Cirque du Soleil, or a music producer in some of the best studios, Citrus College gave me the tools to succeed.
The lessons I learned went well beyond the classroom. I was fortunate to develop personal relationships with very talented instructors who took me under their wing. They taught me to work hard, be meticulous, professional, and most importantly to have passion for my craft.
“Bob Slack, Tim Jaquette, Alan Waddington, David Beatty, Gunnar Eisel, I will be forever indebted to you for going beyond the call of duty and leading me down the path toward my goals and dreams.”
Backstage theater technology was a big part of my life at Claremont High School, and I knew I wanted to make it my career. Enrolling at Citrus allowed me to make my dream come true. The Emerging Theatre Technologies program allowed me to use state of the art theatrical equipment which prepared me for my future in theater. The program extended beyond lighting into audio and production management which gave me an edge in a very competitive field.
Citrus helped place me in an internship that resulted in full-time employment in production technology, the career of my choice. Because of the required professional internship and the hands-on curriculum, I was able to go directly from the classroom to working on high profile shows like The Ellen Show, Coachella Music Festival, The Grammy Awards, and The Oscars.
I am grateful to Professor Dan Volonte for creating an immersive program that covers a broad variety of usable technical skills. I am also very thankful to Dan Vilter. Together we rebuilt the audio system in The Haugh Performing Arts Center at Citrus.
“I want to thank the faculty and staff for my experiences at Citrus, and my exciting career that has followed.”