Music at Colgate: A Thriving Scene

Alan Dowling

Music has a major presence on the Colgate campus – anywhere you go you can see the campus studded with earbuds and headphones. Music pervades our lives, influences the way we study and affects the way we socialize. When something’s happening on Broad Street, you can usually hear the music playing from the academic quad. Whatever the music is, from country to dubstep or bassier electronic music to Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” music holds an important place in all of our lives. Perhaps it comes with being young or is necessary at a place with as active a nightlife as Colgate’s. For many Colgate students, however, music ends just there, at the Jug, in earphones or a house on Broad Street. To be quite frank, I think that a lot of Colgate students need tobranch out. 

For some, music goes much farther. Colgate University is home to many very skilled musicians, and most of the students who attend Colgate – for all of their enthusiasm about music – will never hear most of them. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are many on this campus with quite diverse musical tastes, but music permeates this campus to a degree of which we might not always be aware. We as a campus should consume more than merely radio hits and whatever the Jug plays.

To start, let me point out that Colgate University has a radio station, WRCU 90.1 FM. We broadcast it from the basement of the Coop and students who love music so much that they want to sit in a studio for an hour at two in the morning just to say their weekly bit a share a little of what they love. I’ve never been aware of an institutional radio station with such extreme diversity. Listen to it some time and I can almost guarantee that you’ll hear something new. Don’t like it? Try in another hour and you’ll hear something entirely different.

The main crux of my argument, however, is not about the fact that we should listen to more interesting radio. The connection between a listener and a band is never stronger than when you’re seeing a live gig. I should say that I’m not writing this as an advertisement for any band or group at Colgate. I merely write from the perspective of the often-observer and infrequent participant in Colgate’s live music scene. “Colgate’s live music scene” is a phrase that even a few years ago few people would recognize. We have long traditions of skilled performers affiliated with Colgate University: choirs, Jazz bands, orchestras and musical theatre. All of these events and groups are well worth the time it takes to attend one of their events, but they’re not what I’m writing about either. 

Colgate’s attitude towards live musical performances is suppressive. Ten years ago a student -an inspired musician – could come to Colgate University, and unless they joined one of the school’s official bands or an a cappella group, they could spend their entire stint at Colgate without being able to find people to play with. Admittedly, the music scene here has gotten much better, especially since the founding of Broad Street Records, an endorsement group that helps record, support and show Colgate musicians. 

That said, there is a rift in the Colgate University scene when it comes to live music. There is a group of people, musicians, their close friends, Broad Street Records and others who are actively fighting to create a place at Colgate for live music. The weapons of this fight are small concerts, promotional CDs, open microphone nights and especially Gatestock, our music festival which was featured in last week’s edition of this paper. There is some crossover between groups, of course, but for a majority of Colgate students a culture of fretting strings, singing with heart and trying to be heard just does not exist. Most Colgate students will not ever make any attempt to embrace the young, burgeoning live music culture at this institution. They should. Go to an open mic night at the Barge or Donovan’s just to listen. You’ll have time to go out afterwards, I promise. Listen to WRCU when you’re bored. There are musicians at Colgate doing amazing things. For how much we love music here, we owe these musicians a chance.

Contact Alan Dowling at [email protected]