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Rocking Out with Student Bands

Community thrives in UC San Diego’s student music scene.

A seated cellist plays in a spotlight with a guitarist standing on her left and a bassist standing on her right.
Cellist Azalea Segura-Mora (fourth year, Sixth) plays at the 2024 Battle of the Bands at UC San Diego with guitarist Kyle Gibbs (fourth year, Seventh), left, and bassist Ada Ngozi (fourth year, Revelle), right. Photo: Sarah He

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The music scene at UC San Diego is one of a kind. While students tackle the academic rigors of a top-rated research institution, student bands bring the campus to life. And community develops where campus landmarks and green spaces are transformed into exciting live music venues.

In February, The Loft — a performance space created in 2009 in the Price Center — hosted the 2024 Battle of the Bands. At this competition, the audience selects a winner to perform at a spring concert that streams on longtime student radio station KSDT. “I like to think of us as one giant family with each band rooting for each other,” says undergraduate student Ada Ngozi (fourth year, Revelle) from the band Alegrías. During this year’s four-hour Battle of the Bands, voices were lost (both onstage and off) as fans celebrated the variety of music that each band performed before The Diz was crowned the evening's winner.

The Diz, and other bands like HFEMH and Alegrías, are just some of the student bands creating community on and off campus.   

The Diz 

The Diz describes their sound as “spankadelic,” a maximalist approach within the bubble of indie rock, as evidenced by their song “Bad Decisions.” Their music is cinematic and could form the soundtrack for the climax of a teen angst movie. It is a sound they have cultivated throughout their career as a band, gaining experience in various pockets in and around UC San Diego: acoustic open mics; events at the nearby Torrey Pines Gliderport; and even at the two-night concert, Horizon, held at the campus’s new Epstein Family Amphitheater. This growth from intimate performances to larger showcases has imbued the band with the confidence to break into San Diego’s local music scene.

“Different spaces demand different things. When you’re out in the wild, beyond the familiarity of campus, there is never going to be consistency, and playing around UCSD helped us become more flexible,” says fourth year Sky Feick (Revelle). For their set in the General Store Co-op, also known as the G-store, a small campus venue boxed by shelving units and furniture, they geared their performance to be more intimate and acoustic. But during their performance at the Epstein Family Amphitheater, they were bold, rowdy and high-energy. The band has mastered the art of shape-shifting, effortlessly becoming whatever the space allows them to be.

By now, audiences in and around campus are familiar with The Diz: Feick’s searing vocals as the lead singer, third year Elise Burcham’s (Muir) tear on the drums, and Will Bennett’s and graduate student Ian Frankel’s deft strumming on guitar and bass. Feick, Bennett and Frankel interchangeably play the guitar and bass. 

Wherever The Diz takes the stage, the crowd knows they are minutes away from being given permission to go wild. At Battle of the Bands, their high energy set produced a pit of sweat-happy students jumping around and into one another, rippling outward until everyone was moving. This energy is exactly what the band name means.

“The Diz is a feeling that comes wherever we go,” Frankel says. Communities are formed around them because of the excitement and buzz that they create. Their name on a poster is enough to get students to flock to a performance, eager to sing along and dance. 

A band plays in the spotlight on stage.
The Diz was named winner of the 2024 Battle of the Bands. The group includes from left to right, Ian Frankel on guitar (graduate student), Elise Burcham on drums (third year, Muir), Sky Feick on guitar (fourth year, Revelle), and William Bennett on bass. Photo: Sarah He


A meeting with noisy downstairs neighbors sparked a friendship between third year Sophia Gawle (Marshall), third year Kaitlyn Miguel (Marshall) and third year Betsy Ambrogio (Marshall). Best friends and roommates, Gawle and Miguel often played late into the night. Upstairs neighbor Ambrogio eventually knocked on their door, guitar in hand, and asked if she could jam with them. The talented trifecta soon formed an indie-inspired folk band HFEMH (pronounced aich-femme-aich). 

HFEMH is typically guitar based, with the occasional tambourine. As of late they are toying with the idea of incorporating a steel tongue drum Gawle received as a Christmas gift. However, the instruments are secondary to the band’s vocal harmonies. 

For the three of them, the band is a sacred place. And when they take the stage, they do so as one unit, each member as vital as the next. When they write and rehearse, it is nothing more than best friends being vulnerable with one another. When they perform, they are inviting you into this space that they treasure more than anything else.

Three women stand in a green field with buildings in the background.
UC San Diego Marshall College students (from left to right), Sophia Gawle, third year; Kaitlyn Miguel, third year; and Betsy Ambrogio, third year, play in the campus band HFEMH. Photo: Steve Ambrogio


Alegrías, Spanish for “joy,” showcases a delightful quartet. (Take a listen to their song “Friend Crush.”) This band’s name is an acknowledgment of the fact that there is an abundance of happiness to be found within the group: as bandmates, as friends and as champions of one another. And for the audience, to hear Alegrías perform is to be transported to a space filled with infectious joy. 

Cellist Azalea Segura-Mora (fourth year, Sixth), bassist Ngozi, guitarist Kyle Gibbs (fourth year, Seventh), and drummer Daniel Hernandez (fourth year, Warren) make up Alegrías. Their music is influenced by R&B, Latin and even jazz, but their sound cannot be contained in just one genre. Instead of hiding their unique backgrounds and musical influences, the four members incorporate everything. This constant exploration results in a sound unlike anyone else's.

Alegrías has quickly attracted attention. In 2022, having been together only two months, they were invited to perform in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest

“To be recognized for what we had accomplished in so little time made us really secure in this band,” Segura-Mora says. As an added bonus, the band members met actor Will Ferrell, who was at the Tiny Desk Contest to support his son, who was also competing.

These three groups are a small sample of a rich campus music scene that is engaging and diverse. Whether you attend a live concert or listen online, tuning in to our student bands will offer a moment of bliss, transporting you to a space of pure joy. 

Jonathan Shlesinger is a third year student in Revelle College and a student writer for UC San Diego Magazine.

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