Chico Unplugged rocks out with three winners


Michaela Harris

First place Chico Unplugged winner Aaron Gee performs his original song ¨I´ll Be Fine¨ at Madison Bear Garden

The annual singer-songwriter competition Chico Unplugged finished its first round on April 5. It featured 11 artists performing various styles ranging from reggae to pop to rap.

The event is open to everyone in the Chico area to showcase their music, including local musicians who are managed by Chico State’s School of the Arts (SOTA) Productions. Unplugged gives local musicians the opportunity to share their talent with the Chico community. In past events, only one winner was decided, but three were chosen for this year’s competition.

First place winner Aaron Gee sang an original song “I’ll Be Fine.” Gee delivered jazz-inspired vocals over an acoustic backing track. Judges Benny Pando, Cody Naab and Darby McConnel noted his smooth voice and natural musical talent as deciding factors for his victory. He won a free recording session with Chico State’s Audio Engineering Society.

“It takes a lot of guts to come up here and do what we do,” Gee said.

Guitarist Eric Sunny Herrera and pianist Sierra Buck tied for second place. They will receive separate recording sessions from Chico’s up-and-coming music studio, The Kitchen. Unplugged was Buck’s first time performing in front of a live audience. Her ballad “Her Ocean” was met with a roaring applause from the crowd.

Buck sings ¨Her Ocean¨ for the first time before a live audience.

Herrera played an acoustic rock song titled “To See My Baby.” The audience was captivated by his stage presence and were left singing along with an extended encore of the chorus.

As a grassroots music production organization, SOTA students are tasked with offering platforms for new musicians to thrive.

“It’s more than just dropping music and doing whatever,” SOTA student Karla Alvarez said. “Our part is to promote and do what’s best for these artists, and that involves putting on shows like this.”

Herrera plays original song ¨See My Baby.¨

Michael Elias and Cameron Medina are SOTA musicians who have continued to move forward with their careers. Elias performed an original rap about his journey to establish himself in the music industry.

“I’m getting to a point where I actually, personally, believe that I am almost there,” Elias said during his set.

Elias calls the audience to sing the chorus of his rap ¨Almost There.¨

Medina sang his 2021 single “Perfect,” and announced his debut EP “Serendipity” will be released April 8.

While Chico Unplugged is primarily a songwriting competition, SOTA frequently partners with the Boys and Girls Club for this event to raise funds for the Chico chapters. All donations go directly to the children who benefit from the organization.

ISOTA held a raffle to win an acoustic guitar donated by The Music Connection to raise money. Their goal is to raise $600 in both rounds of the competition. The raffle earned over $200, but donations will continue during the second show.

Chico Unplugged will feature a new set of musicians in its second round, performing original songs before a live audience. The event will be hosted on the second floor of Madison Bear Garden on April 12 from 7-9 p.m.

Michaela Harris can be reached at and @MichaelaRH21 on Twitter.