A music student was the first recipient of a new scholarship inspired by Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson.
The scholarship, awarded this year to third-year music composition student David Ghesser, will be presented every other year to a third-year student in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music interested in pursuing a career in composing, arranging or producing popular music. The scholarship was facilitated by a $100,000 donation from UCLA adjunct professor David Leaf.
Leaf, who is also a writer and a filmmaker, said he established the scholarship in Wilson’s name to acknowledge his importance in the world of music and in Leaf’s career. Leaf and Wilson have been friends since the 1970s, according to a university press release.
“He’s one of the greatest and most influential creative forces in pop music from the 1960s,” Leaf said.
The album “Pet Sounds” and the song “Good Vibrations,” which Wilson composed, arranged and produced, inspired the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in certain ways, Leaf added.
“Here we are 50 years since the Beatles broke up and Sgt. Pepper’s is still the crowning achievement in the history of rock and roll,” he said.
Leaf, who chose Ghesser as the recipient of the scholarship, said he was extremely impressed by the music Ghesser has composed, arranged and produced.
“In many ways, (Ghesser) reminded me of where (Wilson) was at his age,” Leaf said. “So he seemed like the exact right person for the honor.”
Leaf added the scholarship is designed to help pay tuition so students like Ghesser can spend more time making music and less time finding ways to pay tuition.
“I think that’s something that every student wants and I wanted to acknowledge him, what he’s done, in a way that is out of the ordinary,” Leaf said. “And by him meeting (Wilson), who is one of his musical heroes, I think it inspired him in ways that I hoped.”
Ghesser, who had the opportunity to meet Wilson through the scholarship, said he was inspired to meet the music legend.
“He’s a genius and his music makes me happy,” Ghesser said. “That’s what I want to do with my music. I want to make a lot of people happy.”
Daniel Ghesser, David Ghesser’s father, said watching his son meet Wilson was surreal.
“Seeing David sitting next to one of his musical inspirations was really nice, something unexpected,” Daniel Ghesser said.
David Ghesser said in the future he hopes to write some of the biggest music in the industry.
Ghesser’s music starts as the emotions he feels in his day-to-day life. He puts those emotions into songs, which he writes out on sheet music or plays immediately on the piano, he said.
“I have an emotion: I’m happy or I’m sad or I’m hopeful, and I put that in a song that I write,” Ghesser said. “And I just go, I just hear it in my head.”
He begins with a few notes, then develops his songs from there, Ghesser said.
“Sometimes I go to the piano, and just play something on the piano,” Ghesser said. “And then I come up with the chords and a melody, but I make it really like big sounding, elaborate, like, a lot of scales and stuff in between.”
He said he listens to all types of music as inspiration for his own: Richard Rodgers, jazz, Spanish music, the Beatles and the Beach Boys, whose music he said he loves.
Daniel Ghesser added he thinks the most important thing is that his son is not in the industry for the money.
“He’s doing his music because he loves (it),” Daniel Ghesser said. “His musical passion is to create music that really reaches people’s emotions … And that’s the most important thing. He wants to move people with his music.”
Daniel Ghesser said his son’s music resonates with people because it’s timeless.
“It’s going to be relevant today, or in 10 years from now,” he said.