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Intelligent Folks 

Bay Area music students earn high marks for their after-school band Aquadeer

Some things can't be learned in school; like the meaning of the word "Aquadeer."

"Let your imagination run with it," says Linnea Sablosky when asked to define the name she and her three California Institute of the Arts classmates chose for their band.

The fictitious hooved marine mammal likely has nothing to do with a band consisting of two acoustic guitar players Dylan Rodrigue and Steven Kai Van Betten; a bass player, Gregory Uhlman; and Sablosky on the cajon, a box like percussion instrument that originated in Peru. But it is in keeping with the paradox that is four students of jazz and world music choosing harmonized progressive folk sounds for their extracurricular foray into musicianship.

"We are definitely encouraged to explore by our professors," says Sablosky. "The jazz program is very progressive in itself. [The band] has a common language because of school, which is really great."

Three years ago, the four—now 21-year- olds—stumbled upon each other on campus and realized they had something.

"We are all the same year and entered school at the same time," Sablosky recounts. "I found Dylan and Steven playing their guitars on the lawn and immediately went to get my cajon and started playing with them. It was magical."

Since then, Sablosky says the group has stayed together in part because of the prowess of Rodrique.

"Dylan is basically the leader of the band and we really like his music," Sablosky says. "The three of us who aren't Dylan love how interesting and challenging it is to play. He's a prolific composer."

Sablosky might be a bit biased when it comes to defining the talents of her group's luminary, but she's not completely exaggerating. The music of Aquadeer isn't typical acoustic folk. Not by a long shot. There is purposeful complexity within the sweet harmonies, and the lyrics are extremely earnest. And though Aquadeer is just getting ready to release its first album—thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign—the Internet is full of rudimentary live performance videos that stand as proof that Sablosky is right.

Instead of spreading out on a stage wherever they play, all four members sit in a tight row. Rodrigue's novel musings on life are a focused display of tightly connected instruments playing tension-filled folk music that rises in unison to meet the lyrics. There is no space for distraction to get in.

It's not quite wistful and not quite sorrowful. It's serious music.

So while most musicians never set one foot in a classroom devoted to music theory or history, the members of Aquadeer are clearly putting their education to good use. They get an A+. SW


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