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Memorial expresses love for student musician through song

Emma Wood-Wright

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Saxophone, trumpet, percussion, trombone, piano, guitar, bass and tambourine players gathered for a display of rhythmic love for Aaron Drange Friday night at Harlen Adams Theatre.

Friends, family and professors shared stories in honor of Drange, a Chico State student who died in July, and played some of his original music and arrangements at the “I Remember Aaron” concert.

“I feel like Aaron would be pretty stoked because he loved to get as many people out to the shows as possible: regardless of who they were, regardless of where he met them,” said Harrison Hedriana, Drange’s friend and bandmate.

At 7:36 p.m., members of Chico State’s A Cappella Choir filed on stage one by one. “Remember me” were lyrics sung repeatedly in their harmonious song.

David Scholz, a faculty member of the music and theater department, stood behind the lectern and was the first of many to speak about Drange.

“Just by being around him made me want to be a better man,” Scholz said.

Following Scholz, Drange’s older brother Matt expressed his love for his brother. He also mentioned that the scholarship created in honor of Drange has received more than $10,000.

“It’s a scholarship that’s in memory of him and it’s for potential music students,” said Drange’s twin and lifelong music partner, Phillip.

Kim Pearson, Drange’s girlfriend, said she wanted to settle any misconceptions about Drange being reserved or serious.

“He was actually really goofy,” she said.

She said he loved the stars and the ’80s TV show “MacGyver,” and what a high honor it was when he let her carry his saxophone.

Drange’s mother, Diane, described his history as a musician, starting with his very first instrument, a red recorder.

“He could not pass a piano without touching it,” Drange’s mother said.

After a few video clips put together by the Drange family were shown, Drange’s band The Upstairs Neighbours were ready to perform.

“Most of the songs Aaron wrote are a lot of fun to play,” said Hedriana. “Some of them are really sad, slow ballads but some of them, the ones that we are going to be playing, are just a lot of fun.”

Drange’s father, who is also a singer-songwriter, joined the band on stage to play saxophone and sing.

After a few songs, all but Drange’s father cleared the stage.

He sat down at the piano, and instead of speaking, he played a song he wrote for his son a few weeks after his death.

“This is my song for you,” he sang. “No need for mountain cathedrals, no need for the Taj Mahal, a simple song is what I need and this is my song for you.”

Next, the whole stage was filled with members from The Upstairs Neighbours, and another band that Drange had belonged to, Jiving Board.

The music came from the heart and filled the entire theater with warmth. Each musician performed with as much dedication as Drange had every day of his life.

“That was the thing about Aaron: no matter what the weather was outside, no matter what was going on, except for if he was going to do farm work over the summer, he would always wear a button-up shirt, jeans, shirt tucked in, belt, Vans and a tie,” Hedriana said.

Phillip said: “And the reason he did that is so he would always be ready to play. That’s what he told me. He was always ready to play. He always carried this binder around with him with a bunch of songs just ready to go.”


Aside from the music, one thing that was heard loud and clear at the memorial concert was how much of a genuine, caring person Drange was.

“Something Aaron told me when we were first hanging out was that no matter how he feels about someone, doesn’t matter who the person is, he’ll try his hardest never, ever to say a bad thing about them and always try to see the good in everybody regardless of who they are,” Hedriana said.

“He always tried to get along with everybody and see the best in people,” Phillip said. “He always went out of his way to help people that others might brush aside.”

The concert ended with kind words from Steve Schibsted, Bidwell Presbyterian Church head pastor. Drange sang in the church choir every Sunday morning.

“I don’t know too many college students doing anything at 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday,” he said.

Schibsted reminded the audience of a belief that he and Drange both shared: life does not end here; life here on Earth is not all there is.

Emma Wood-Wright can be reached at [email protected] or @emmawoodwright on Twitter.

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Memorial expresses love for student musician through song