Alumni Band Rocks On To Big Win

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 23, 2016) — A self-taught musician, Jonnie Morgan ’10 won a national songwriter contest last week that will send his band – the aptly named Jonnie Morgan Band – to Los Angeles for a recording session in legendary Village Studios.

“We really want to put Orlando on the map as a music city. It’s very important to me to try to build that culture, and that’s why this contest is almost as important to me as anything else,” he said. “I feel like there’s a responsibility to represent where you’re from.”

Morgan grew up on the west coast of Florida and ended up at UCF based off a recommendation from his 10th-grade high school Spanish teacher.

He studied economics and minored in marketing – not exactly the DNA of rock stars. But as a junior, the he started to write his own music.

His inspiration for one of his earliest songs was what else, but a relationship. He called the love song Saranade, named after the girl he wrote it for.

“To this day, it’s still some people’s favorite song of mine,” he said. “Once I wrote that song, the floodgates opened. Everyone was like where are these songs coming from?”

Soon after he formed a band with bass guitarist Jeremy Adams ’12. The two serendipitously met at a pizza place on campus.

They drafted other bandmates along the way, including Brandon Sollins ’11 ’15MS, at open mic nights and local gigs. He thanks former SGA presidential duo Logan Berkowitz ’08 and Brandon Delanois ’10 for always pushing him to perform by booking him for tailgates or happy hours at the Dungeon.

“I love this university. I love everything that it stands for. The experiences. The friends that I’ve made. The people that have helped me and still help me to this day,” he said. “This is the place where I found out I wanted to do music for the rest of my life, and I think that’s something special.”

jmb-house-of-blues

The band has experienced some pretty cool moments, like opening up for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cheap Trick at the 2013 SunFest. Even though some of the players have changed in the lineup, the Jonnie Morgan Band has become family.

That family includes Morgan’s wife, Amie, who has been there rooting for him every step of the way, even as she battled breast cancer twice before the age of 29.

Morgan was in the room with her both times she learned she had cancer. He was there for her treatments, the scans, the tests and cared for her through six surgeries. Their first four months of marriage earlier this year included the bulk of her chemotherapy treatment.

“I am so thankful that I have had Jonnie next to me through this, I am not sure how I would have handled it without him,” she said. “I am a very practical person, and I never expected to be a musician’s wife. It’s a bit of a different lifestyle. But I see this guy, and he is just so talented. As an added bonus, he has surrounded himself with such an amazing group of guys in the band. We have really created such a great JMB family, and I am so thankful for each one of them.”

Now that Amie has been deemed cancer free, the band went back to recording music and booked tours in different regions of the United States in the New Year.

When a booking agent called about the EON One Take contest, Morgan figured why not? The contest was judged by legend Quincy Jones and Andrew McMahon (known for hit song Cecilia and the Satellite).

JMB made it to an initial cut of 20 semifinalist, to a top 10, to finally the last band standing with a trip to Village Studios.

“This is what we’re supposed to do and this is the time to do it,” he said.

Village Studios has hosted legends like Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, B. B. King and Bob Dylan to current artists like Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and John Mayer. Even soundtracks like “The Bodyguard” and “The Shawshank Redemption” were recorded there.

He said winning the contest has helped give him the confidence to continue pursuing what he feels is his purpose in life – helping people. He believes music is the tool to achieve it.

“If you look at some of the greats – Bob Marley, Bob Dylan – they have shaped people’s lives. They help you when you’re down. They help you think about things differently,” he said. “I feel like that’s one of my purposes.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 22, 2016

shuttle-driver-gift
UCF student Joshua Gicker organized a special Valentine’s Day/birthday surprise for campus shuttle driver Maurice Mosby, raising more than $400 for the man who, Gicker says, takes the time to learn his passengers by name and delivers them a “good morning” every day. (See No. 4 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Twenty students (out of UCF’s 63,000) were named as recipients of the 2016 Order of Pegasus, the university’s most prestigious student award.
  2. UCF Celebrates the Arts — a free festival of music, performances and visual displays — reprises its second season April 8-16 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the performing arts in downtown Orlando, with an extended program of student and faculty presentations and collaborations. The university’s annual spring dance concert kicks off the nine-day festival, which also includes many displays from the School of Visual Arts and Design. For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit arts.cah.ucf.edu.
  3. This Thursday, expand your network and connect with fellow Knights! Mingle with alumni working in the nonprofit community during a joint Networking Knight at Bar Louie (UCF) from 6-8 p.m., hosted by the UCF School of Public Administration and UCF College of Health and Public Affairs Alumni Chapter. Or, join the College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter for an alumni and student Networking Knight in the Engineering II building atrium from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  4. UCF students showed some love to their favorite campus shuttle driver, Maurice Mosby, as they surprised him with more than $400 in gift cards in honor of Valentine’s Day last week, which also happened to be Mosby’s birthday.
  5. Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix brings its World Tour 2016 to the CFE Arena on April 14!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 15, 2016

professors-love-story
UCF neuroscience Professor Kiminobu Sugaya and UCF music Professor Ayako Yonetani bring personal experience to their Music and the Brain class in The Burnett Honors College. (See No. 1 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Seven years ago, when UCF music Professor Ayako Yonetani played the final movement from the Violin Partita in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, she had no idea that she’d also composed a love story for UCF neuroscience Professor Kiminobu Sugaya. Now, the pair teaches the Music and the Brain class in The Burnett Honors College.
  2. Thanks to a special harness system, UCF’s new, first-of-its-kind therapy cafe allows traumatic brain injury survivors an opportunity to take the next step in their recovery.
  3. A collaboration between the University of Central Florida and Florida Hospital awarded its first $20,000 seed grant to a team that will study the fundamentals of cough in patients with head and neck cancer.
  4. Last week, the Orlando City Council unanimously voted to provide $75.2 million in support for the UCF Downtown campus.
  5. The CFE Arena is offering a $5 discount to students and alumni for this Friday’s show featuring comedian Katt Williams. (The discount is available only at the arena box office.)

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

student-therapy-dog-Nemours
(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

UCF Student Entrepreneurs Take Art into Their Own Hands

Yuan Chang aims to introduce UCF students to healthier food options and fresher-quality ingredients. (Photo courtesy of Yuan Chang)

By Shanae Hardy
Digital Producer, Central Florida Future

Unlike most college students who see college as a time to study and party, some students are using their time to explore and cultivate creativity.

Since the launch of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, many students have received help to facilitate their entrepreneurial ventures.

Although there are some students who walk into the UCF Starter Lab with ideas brimming the innovative pool in their brains, while others walk in unsure of where their entrepreneurial aspirations may lead.

From Garden to UCF
Hae Yuan Chang, a junior environmental science major, decided she wanted to provide healthier food options for students after being frustrated by the limited vegan and vegetarian options on campus.

“I’ve had experiences where I would be on campus for a long time, and I would have to eat some of the options we have on campus that were suitable for vegetarians, and it made me really groggy and not want to do anything, like not want to go to class,” she explains.

Inspired by the vegetarian Hare Krishna buffet offered at the University of Florida, Chang wants to introduce students to fresher-quality ingredients that will have similar flavors of a student’s acquired tastes.

“I definitely want to incorporate ethnic dishes such as curry and stir-fry,” she says. “I want to prove that vegan food isn’t just salad.”

Chang is currently working on her company with the help from UCF’s Startup Community. She is also testing out the flavors of her menu with her six roommates at the Peanut Butter Palace, a sustainable student co-op.

Learning how to completely adjust to a vegetarian diet by cooking and gardening with her vegan and vegetarian roommates, Chang hopes to teach students that it’s really easy to become environmentally aware and it can be beneficial.

Growing your own food lowers food costs and promotes healthy eating, she says.

Chang plans to set up a vegetarian food stand on campus, potentially named “The Beet Bar.”

Molding a Hobby
While developing an app for students to track the night life in Orlando, Cedric Lopez, a senior entrepreneurship major, accidentally stumbled into leather designing.

“One day I decided to make a wallet for myself,” he explains. “Then, I decided to make a laptop cover and posted it online. I got a surprising response from friends, and the orders started coming in. So, I had a hard decision to make: keep working on this app or invest all my time into leather working.”

He decided to brand his products with the help of Blackstone.

Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)
Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and
key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)

Previously wanting to become an architect, he uses the same creative process he learned to incorporate into his designing.

“I could see the silhouette of a building, or a feature of that building, and be inspired to make something out of leather,” he says.

Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for the wallets, bags and key chains he crafts, which makes for better-quality products to distinguish his brand.

Abandoning one idea for another has proved to be a challenge for Lopez, but he plans to maintain his brand through perseverance.

“I have learned to just get there and start something,” he says. “You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s when you learn what not to do. Fail fast and fail early.”

Musically Inclined
Turning his uncertainty into a brand, Brandon Nightingale, a senior history and writing and rhetoric major, launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” in April after receiving encouragement and mentoring from Blackstone.

“Three months ago, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I just released the project,” Nightingale says.

He utilized a community of music artists, designers and producers from UCF and his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to help with his first music venture.

Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, "Flight 'n Friends," and hopes it resonates with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)
Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” and hopes it resonates
with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)

Nightingale said he hopes his mixtape resonates with the UCF community even after he graduates.

“I think people will get the message to bring people together through music because people are moved through music,” he says.

Nightingale recently started performing at local clubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, and he is working on his second project, which will not have as many featured artists.

“Music is something I’ve always dreamed about. I just had to be told I could do it.”

This article appeared in a June 3, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — May 4, 2015

EdSheeran2
Ed Sheeran rocked the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on Monday.
(Photo courtesy of Briana Morrison)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran hosted a master music class and performed an intimate, acoustic set for about 300 lucky UCF students on Monday, May 4, thanks to the university winning the #EdOnCampus social media contest. The contest’s organizer, Chegg, also presented the UCF Department of Music with a $10,000 grant as part of the win.
  2. On Thursday, Andrew Kirk will be the first graduate of UCF’s new Bachelor of Science in Photonic Science and Engineering program. The degree enables students to analyze and design optical and laser systems for a broad set of applications. And, on Saturday morning, May 9, UCF’s 250,000th graduate will cross the stage during one of six commencement ceremonies at the CFE Arena. Learn more about some of this semester’s graduation stories.
  3. The annual Leadercast conference returns to UCF on Friday, May 8, with headliners that include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Navy Seal Cmdr. Rorke Denver and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, among others. The live broadcast from Atlanta will be hosted locally for viewing by UCF’s Human Resources office at the Live Oak Center on the main campus.
  4. The UCF Downtown Leadership Team has proposed a list of academic programs that could relocate to the new downtown campus over a period of time. State funding has yet to be decided.
  5. The Baltimore Ravens selected UCF Wide Receiver Breshad Perriman as the No. 26 pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft over the weekend. Safety Clayton Geathers was also drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round. In addition, four players signed NFL contracts as free agents: Linebacker Terrance Plummer (Washington Redskins), Tight End Justin Tukes (Philadelphia Eagles), Wide Receiver Rannell Hall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Offensive Line Torrian Wilson (Detroit Lions). Go Knights!

GRAMMY-nominated Artist Ed Sheeran Visits UCF for Exclusive Behind-the-Mic Music Session

Ed Sheeran presented a check for $10,000 from Chegg to UCF Department of Music faculty (left to right) Jeff Moore, director; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)
Ed Sheeran presented a $10,000 check from Chegg to (left to right) Jeff Moore, director of the UCF Department of Music;
Tina Fleming, marketing assistant for the UCF School of Performing Arts; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands for the
UCF Department of Music. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships.
(Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Hundreds of students lined up outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on Monday, May 4, for an intimate performance by GRAMMY-nominated artist Ed Sheeran. This special event was made possible thanks to Chegg’s #EdOnCampus social media contest, which UCF won in March, giving 300 lucky students an exclusive music class with the superstar, as well as a $10,000 grant for the UCF Department of Music.

The contest launched in late January and was open to all college and high school campuses across the nation. In just one month, more than 225,000 votes were cast by students representing more than 8,000 schools, generating 65 million social media impressions.

During his Music 101 class, “Professor” Sheeran performed acoustic versions of his hits “Don’t,” “I See Fire” and “Thinking Out Loud” in between answering students’ questions — everything from his favorite song he’s ever written (“the newest because it’s the most fresh”), to his dream collaboration (“Beyoncé,” with whom he got to perform at a Stevie Wonder tribute in February), to his advice on getting over stage fright (“just do it”). One student even asked him for a date, to which he immediately replied, “Where do you want to go?”

It was an unforgettable afternoon for all of the students who got to attend, and a great day for the UCF music program.

(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, '08)
Ed Sheeran played three songs on acoustic guitar during an exclusive performance and Q&A session for 300 UCF students.
(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, ’08)

More Info

See the social media response, with more photos and videos of Ed Sheeran’s visit to UCF: Twitter | Instagram

Ed Sheeran is a six-time-GRAMMY-nominated, multi-platinum singer/songwriter. At 24 years old, the British-born artist has seen his latest album, “x” (pronounced multiply), go to No. 1 in 14 countries, including the U.S. and his native, U.K., where it was both the biggest- and fastest-selling album of 2014. “x,” which features back-to-back platinum hits “Sing” and “Don’t,” as well as the current single, “Thinking Out Loud,” was nominated for Album of the Year at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards and won Best British Album at the 2015 BRIT Awards. This summer, he’ll perform for three sold-out nights at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Knights Jam to Knights at SunFest

Many alumni musicians took part in the SunFest Music Festival in Palm Beach, Fla., including Jonnie Morgan Band members  Jeremy Adams, '12 (far left); Corey Paul, '13 (second from left); Jonnie Morgan, '10 (front, center); and Brandon Sollins, '11 (far right).  (Photo: jonniemorganband.com)
Many alumni musicians took part in the SunFest Music Festival in Palm Beach, Fla., including Jonnie Morgan Band members
Jeremy Adams, ’12 (far left); Corey Paul, ’13 (second from left); Jonnie Morgan, ’10 (front, center); and Brandon Sollins, ’11 (far right).
(Photo: jonniemorganband.com)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

The Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter gathered April 30 to rock out to fellow Knights in FELICITY, the Jonnie Morgan Band, and Kasson, all of whom performed during the SunFest Music Festival, which hosts 50 bands on three stages over five days at the West Palm Beach waterfront.

Damien Fagiolino, ’14, is the vocalist for American Hard Rock band FELICITY. Their first single, “Gold,” was selected by the Remix Your Future company to be put on the “Best of the City: Orlando Edition” album, and has has more than 70,000 streams.

Four of the six members of horn-infused modern rock band, the Jonnie Morgan Band, are alumni, who include Jonnie Morgan, ’10, vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Brandon Sollins, ’11, lead guitarist; Jeremy Adams, ’12, bassist; and Corey Paul, ’13, trombonist. JMB headlined the 2013 Florida Music Festival and opened up for Cheap Trick in West Palm Beach, as well as played at the House of Blues Orlando, and UCF Homecoming in 2012.

Jordan Telesca, ’14, is the guitarist, saxophonist and vocalist for Kasson, which plays rock/gritty pop mixed with influences of indie/alternative. They’ve performed at The Big Orlando Festival and Warped Tour, playing alongside bands like Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Yellowcard, Anberlin (with frontman Stephen Christian, ’05), Paramore, and more.

Rock on, Knights!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 6, 2015

UCF-Celebrates-the-Arts-2015
Click on the image to watch the YouTube video.

Here are five things you need to know this week:

  1. A UCF scientist developed a $1 prostate screening test that’s more accurate than the standard PSA test currently being used for early-stage detection.
  2. On Wednesday, alumni and students will take over Tallahassee for the annual UCF Day at the Capital, where Knights Advocates and SGA will meet with our lawmakers to discuss UCF’s legislative priorities and ask for their support.
  3. Aerospace engineering graduate Matt Harrison, ’13, established a leadership scholarship in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says.
  4. UCF Celebrates the Arts is a free, seven-day festival celebrating Central Florida’s performing and visual arts. It takes place April 10-15 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and will showcase UCF theatre, dance, film, and more.
  5. Starting Wednesday, members of the 2015 senior class will take part in #MyUCFStory on Instagram — a photo challenge started by the alumni association to increase social interaction with our newest alumni to be! Click on the hashtag above to follow along!

Strumming in the Spotlight

Alumnus brings six characters to life with just his voice and a guitar

ChasePadgett

Chase Padgett, ’07 | Actor and Musician

By Angie Lewis, ’03

While it may appear he’s having an identity crisis during his 90 minutes on stage, Chase Padgett, ’07, is actually just doing what he loves: performing.

For more than five years, from Orlando to British Columbia, and Scotland to South Korea, he’s been bringing six distinct characters to life in his one-man show, titled “6 Guitars.”

Each of his six characters play songs from their genres — blues, jazz, rock, classical, folk and country — while telling the stories of how they fell in love with their music, what they think of other styles of music and what music means to us all. Padgett also incorporates his improv comedy background into the act.

The show premiered in 2010 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, where it became a breakout hit, winning multiple awards including Best in Venue, Best Musician and Best Solo Show, among several others. It also won awards at fringe festivals in Canada and Scotland.

Before his successful solo career, he performed various roles at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and the SAK Comedy Lab in downtown Orlando, as an actor, improviser and musician.

Padgett says his UCF degree gives him authority when he speaks about music, and sharpened his musicianship, which is a key component of his livelihood.

In 2014, Padgett became the artist-in-residence at the Curious Comedy Theatre in Portland, Ore., which is now the place he calls home — that is, when he’s not on the road, which is where he’ll remain for at least the next couple of years, as he’s touring Canada for “6 Guitars” through 2016. While that will take up much of his next two years, he’s already preparing for his next career move.

“[I want to] develop more material that would make sense as a TV special,” he says. “Also, [I want to have] a legitimate run with one of my solo shows. Over time, I want to transition into more film and television. I just wrapped my first role in a feature film and I’d love to keep doing that. It was a blast!”

Hitting the Notes Q&A

Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. Doing anything else would not nearly be as fulfilling.

Q. Favorite UCF memory?
A. I think the choir performances I did were my favorite memory. Singing in a group like that is a truly intoxicating experience.

Q. What advice would you give to current UCF music majors?
A. Being able to promote yourself in the artistic marketplace is crucial. Putting together a good online resume with videos and graphic design is so important. It could be the difference between really making it in your field and just scraping by. Also, talent has never been, nor will ever be, a substitute for character.

Q. Most memorable work experience so far?
A. Lots of highlights to choose from. I got to workshop a new musical improv show for Wayne Brady recently. Last fall, I did a sketch comedy showcase for the executives of NBC. But, honestly, the feeling I get during the final blackout of one of my live shows is probably the best thing. It’s the moment right after the performance and right before the audience’s applause. Therein lays an accomplished stillness that I still chase to this day.

Q. Who/what inspires your music?
A. Ray Charles is my single greatest inspiration both musically and entrepreneurially. Also, the guitar player Tommy Emmanuel is an enormous inspiration.

Q. First concert you attended?
A. B.B. King at the Naples Philharmonic

Q. Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
A. Piano. I also beatbox a fair bit.

Q. What instrument do you wish you could play?
A. Chapman Stick!

Q. Who/what inspires your comedy?
A. There’s no better source for comedy than the truth in one’s own life.

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” in terms of a career in entertainment. Also, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s easy to get down on one’s self for not being where you’d like to be, but you’ve got to combat that with gratitude. I’m a successful full-time performing artist making a living doing the material I created for myself. That’s certainly good enough to be grateful for.

More Info

“Six Guitars”