The HWS Music Scene

By Wren Andrews ’21

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Welcome to the Geneva Music Series – a column focused on illuminating the musical venues, artists, histories, and opportunities across Geneva, both on and off campus. For this issue, we interviewed Dylan Bennett, who gave us a unique perspective on music at HWS – as a member of one of HWS’ student bands, St. Clair, and a general musical advocate.

The Herald (TH): What are your thoughts on the idea of a Geneva Music Series in the Herald?

Dylan Bennett (DB): I think it’s a cool idea to do a column, or a series of articles, that look at a lot of different things with music as a general thematic connector. In the four years that I’ve been here, I think music has become a bigger presence – there definitely wasn’t really a lot going on my freshman year, which was kind of a bummer. I learned from the seniors my first year that it ebbs and flows, and it’s really determined by a motivation to actually make things happen: I wouldn’t say this is a particularly musical school – or even a particularly musical city – but there’s always going to be small groups of people who are determined to make things happen. And what I’ve found from my own experiences is: you get all those people together, and things can happen.

Right now, I’m at a point where I’m happy with what I’ve done here, and I’m looking toward people I know who will be here for more years to make sure that the momentum doesn’t start over again. My first year, four years ago, was kind of a lull period. Things weren’t really continued over from the previous year, or from the previous few years, and I’ve spent my four years restarting clubs, and getting people together, approaching venues. There’s always at least one band on campus, and now I know there’s at least four, actually: St. Clair, Disoriented, Austin Kennie’s band, and the HWS Jazz Band. I also think FLX Live has helped in terms of the presence of music in Geneva, and having music be a social event that happens regularly – but at the same time, there’s something nice about having the music belong to students and their initiative. Like, [my band has] played at FLX Live, and we’ve played Lake Drum. But we played at a house once – it didn’t go so well because we got the police called on us – but that was the most fun, playing at somebody’s house, where it’s friends organizing it, friends inviting friends, and having it be a fun social setting.

In a sense, that’s my ultimate goal [for the music scene here]. But at the same time, it’s tough, because we got the police called on us, and that was the only house that we were able to find that was willing to have live music at a party. We’ve reached out to fraternities, and we’ve reached out to other off-campus houses, but nothing has really come through. There is a counterbalance at large between a majority of the population at the school, who I think has a general apathy towards music, and then there’s a third or so of the students who counter that with being really proactive. But it ultimately can fall either way. The lulls happen when people graduate, when clubs give up, and when things don’t come to fruition. I’m really trying to motivate younger people that I know to continue this momentum. So, I’m glad the Herald is helping with that and just generally spreading the word about music here.

“…there’s always going to be small groups of people who are determined to make [music] things happen. And what I’ve found from my own experiences is: you get all those people together, and things can happen.”

TH: Thank you! That was the kind of the whole idea behind the series, to turn what you called the apathetic majority into more of the people who care, and are proactive about music here – keep up the momentum, like you said. I think it’s really important to talk about, because music is always present but not always known. This being said, how do you feel about school-sponsored music events? Do they contribute to the music scene on campus that you envision?

DB: So, I think a lot of school-sponsored music events are focused on artists who have name recognition and one big song. I think they’re trying to make it a big thing when, I think, it would arguably be more successful if it was scaled down, and focused less on there being a big name-brand artist. I think [having Izzy perform this year] was a really good idea – they could honestly have an entire Welcome Back Concert full of student bands if they wanted to, and there are definitely events where they try to get student bands to play. My band played at the senior toast last year – but we played for an hour and a half for an event that lasted around two songs, and halfway through the set someone from backstage asked us if we could play more songs that people knew… That’s not how bands work! We had prepared a set in advance, and we’re kind of a punk, contemporary rock band. So, since we were supposed to fill a whole hour and a half, we played everything we knew, and most of what we knew wasn’t really stuff that a lot of people probably were expecting to hear. So, yeah, it was kind of a weird event. Honestly, I’m always a little apprehensive about school-organized music events. I just think that there’s a weird bureaucratic process, and it has to please the most amount of people at the same time while also not appealing to anyone in particular. I think at this point, that’s why I’m like, if I want something to happen on campus that’s musical, my friends and I just need to take it upon ourselves to make something happen. If we get campus approval, that’s great, but we played off-campus at somebody’s house because we wanted to do something that we don’t need permission to do.

In my eyes, music is an alternative to the dominant social scenes on campus, which are predominantly sports teams, fraternities, and going downtown. A lot of first-year students can’t even attend those kinds of events. We want to show that there have to be social alternatives for people who don’t want to participate in that kind of socializing. I also really want to try to help younger students start the process of getting the school to realize that other forms of socializing and social life are important – music can be a really good avenue for that! Because everyone loves music! Hopefully it’ll provide people who might not feel like they have a space on campus something to do in a welcoming and fun environment regardless of whether they’re a musician or not. That’s the kind of music scene I’d like to see.

TH: Me too. What advice do you have for people who want to see that sort of music scene happen on our campus?

DB: Always work together, definitely. Don’t do anything on your own, because you won’t get anything done on your own. I’ve learned the hard way. And I would say one of the most important things is get a theme house as soon as possible, and use that as a kind of base of operations. ResEd is very apprehensive and very resistant to the idea of a music theme house – there was one once, I lived in it, my junior year first semester before I went abroad. Then I applied when I was abroad to do a theme house that would be sort of like an arts and music DIY event planning house, and the idea was to populate it with some kind of event every weekend.

That was just my idea – basically, I would say, get a space of operations, because this campus has a very limited amount of those. It’s important to fight for a theme house, and fight for the kind of validity that a space brings. Because ResEd, and the school, and CAB – they don’t always understand how important having an actual space – that is always accessible – is for music to actually happen. The process of finding somewhere to practice is so difficult for bands. That can literally kill bands here. You have to pay to be able to get into the drum room in the Gearan Center, and that’s $350 per semester – and that’s only if you’re doing drum lessons specifically. If in the band doesn’t pay for that, there’s nowhere to practice. You can’t practice in your dorm room, you’ll get yelled at. The barn is always locked. So, yeah – get a space. If it can be a theme house, even better. Otherwise, somehow try to convince the school to be flexible with space, and allow a space for music.

Keep clubs alive, but don’t be afraid to change them if they’re not working. The problem I found, for the first three years I was here, is clubs were just dying and starting and dying and starting. You have to keep a steady name, and a steady amount of activity, for people to know about clubs and know what each club focuses on.

And don’t be afraid of getting in trouble. At the end of the day, there won’t be music on campus if you consign to being told “no” once – and you’ll be told “no” a lot. You just kind of have to be willing to get reprimanded, and keep trying, because eventually, someone will let you do what you want to do. And go downtown. Play downtown. There are plenty of bars that are willing to let a band be there. Don’t be afraid to literally walk up to the bartender and be like, “hey, can my band play here in a few weeks?” Because they won’t say no – they’ll more than likely say, “uh, I need to talk to whoever,” and they’ll give you a phone number, and then you call or text or email them. And go to shows. When bands have shows, go to shows – especially if they’re campus bands – because it’s a sign of support that shows that people appreciate what they’re doing, and that will make it happen again. Even if you’re not there the whole time, be seen for the sake of being seen. Because it’s a music scene. It’s not bands – bands come and go – a music scene is audience and band together, reciprocating that relationship. And I think that’s what I’m realizing more and more. Like we’ve been a band since my sophomore year, but it hasn’t really felt like a music scene until this year, because now we’re finally good enough where people like to come see us. My circle of friends has grown, and people have seen me play, and seen us play, and it’s gotten to that critical mass – now people might recognize our name maybe – that would be nice – but at the very least, they’re like, “oh, there’s a band at Lake Drum,” or whatever, so people will show up. It’s not going to happen right away. We all have to start somewhere.

Our school likes to promote living lives of consequence, and catering to well-rounded students, but in reality, with anything students want to do here, there are so many barriers. There are so many people on the way that are going to say “no,” or “it’s not realistic,” or “it can’t happen,” that it’s defeating at a certain point. But I think it’s gotten to a point where there are enough musicians on campus that people are just pulling each other up, like, “we’re not gonna let them win!” At the end of the day, we will play somewhere. Music isn’t going away.

TH: You’re right, it’s not. It’s all about that determination and motivation that we were talking about earlier. Are there any events coming up that students can attend in order to support and promote music at HWS?

DB: Yes, actually! I’m in the Arts and Design Collective, and last semester, in conjunction with HWS Live, we put on a Barn Bash. It was an informal social event in the barn and we had art hanging up, we had the jazz band, we had Disoriented, we had Austin’s band, we had my band, and we had our friend who graduated last semester, Robert George, his band from Buffalo came, too.

We want to do it again this semester, and this time we want to try to push an equal distribution of art and music. Last semester it was a little heavy on the music – that’s never a bad thing! – but we want to push more people to share their art. Any band will take the opportunity to play, but I think it feels more like a personal spotlight to be like, “put up your art!” Because people look at it and people talk about it. We’re trying to make it a less formal environment and have people be encouraged to bring whatever they want and we want to open it up even to poetry reading and standup and things like that. We want to have it be like a real variety show. We’re in the very beginning process of planning that for this semester – so keep an eye out. We’ll start promoting it soon, but first we’ll be sending out calls for like content. So, if you have something you want to highlight, like a performance you want to do, or a band, or art, this is the space, this is the time. We had a really good turnout last time, and we’re excited to do it again! We’re trying to get the ballroom in 380 S. Main St. reserved for it. But yeah, we’ll start promoting it soon.

TH: That sounds awesome! Where should people reach out if they want to be part of the Barn Bash?

DB: They can send me an email! My email address is dylan.bennett@hws.edu – and I’ll respond to them and CC the rest of the Arts and Design Collective.

TH: Great! Anything else you’d like the Herald’s readers to know?

DB: Listen to WHWS! That’s another one of my peeves. WHWS has a really bad auto-mix when there’s no DJs on. The DJs are great – try to listen to your friends when they DJ because they’ll play good music – but yeah, I understand if you don’t listen to it when there’s no DJs on. Usually it’s like … I don’t even know. More often than not it’s … I have no idea how the music gets on there. It’s so random. I don’t understand how it happens.

TH: Yeah – WHWS is always playing on my car radio. I always thought WHWS was really cool; a couple of my friends have been involved with the radio station and I always wanted to get involved.

DB: And you should! Like, ideally music on campus means bands, radio, and a general musical culture – those things should be synonymous with each other. That’s one of the things we talk about a lot: how can we use the radio station; how can we use the clubs? [WHWS is] so underutilized. More students should be DJs. It’s so easy – you literally find an hour in your schedule that’s free, go to the radio station, and plug in your laptop. You play what you want to play. As long as it’s not explicit before 9 p.m., you’re fine. It’s the crazy easiest thing, I don’t understand why more people don’t do it!  You can have all your friends come, you can have, like, a radio show. It’s so much fun, I love doing the radio station … and then, the more people do the radio, the less time the radio has to do its auto-play!

TH: Hahaha, very true! Well, Dylan, thank you so much for sharing all this with us. It was so nice to meet you, and I’m excited to have more correspondence in the future.

DB: Yeah, and thank you! I’m glad you’re writing this stuff – it’ll be pretty cool to see it in the Herald! I think music is a really good topic to look at, and I think [the Herald is] a really good platform for it. I’m excited to be involved and to see more of the series!

Thank you, Dylan, for your insight on music in Geneva. We look forward to interviewing more musicians and artists on campus and accumulating a broad perspective on music in Geneva in order to most effectively highlight and promote our music scene. If you are a musician and are interested in being interviewed or writing for the Herald, please email us at herald@hws.edu with your ideas.

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