Music is a big part of this campus — you can hear it strolling the halls of a dorm or each Friday when Heemstra Radio plays the tunes every student needs at the end of a long week. So why are we seeing a decline in campus bands wanting to play?
Music is so beneficial to living well.
“Some days it’s the only thing that can save me from my level of stress or anxiety,” said Will Norris, a singer/songwriter. Countless studies have shown that listening to music while doing homework or using music as a way of expressing emotion are two of the healthiest ways of dealing with the pressures of life.
“I think people work themselves so hard at this school,” said Norris. “That’s good and that’s fruitful, but I also think that people should invest in art. It’s something that can help create that space that students really, really need. We’re so busy.”
Here is where one of the largest preventers of campus music comes into play: Where has all the time gone? Student schedules are hectic and often overbooked. Music, especially the writing and performing aspects, often aren’t considered a priority. It’s much easier to listen to a favorite band while cranking out a six-page paper than it is to take a study break and play a cover of them.
Practice time is consuming as well. Students who are part of the music department or proficient on an instrument know how much effort, blood, sweat and tears go into mastering the craft of playing or singing.
“Playing, figuring out music, being a band, takes a lot of energy and a willingness to make quality music,” said Clarissa Oehler, one half of the beloved duo This Much. “My dad would practice guitar for hours on end each day in college, but the time isn’t available now.”
The Midwest isn’t a place attributed with a certain music genre. In California, mainstream pop and alternative rock thrive, New York has Broadway and street corner jazz and Tennessee is infused with a mixture of bluegrass and soul. But here in the farm belt, where are the musical roots? Does living in this area affect the amount of music played or groups performing?
“There is a cultural element,” said John Hubers, a Northwestern religion professor and member of the band The Usual Suspects. “And that is, people from this area are very reticent about putting themselves forward. There’s nothing people here fear more than feeling foolish. It’s much better now, but sometimes I want to say to them, ‘Let go’.”
Being part of a Christian campus can even get in the way of students expressing their style of music.
“There are those who might say, ‘I really want to play music with other people, but we have to play the right kind of music,’” Hubers said. “There’s a lot of music that’s thoughtful even if it’s not written by Christians.”
Even if it’s just a group of ukuleles in a dorm room getting together for a jam session, it’s investing time in music that really matters.
“Singing with Sean specifically, or if you’re singing with someone you care about, you can build a connection,” Oehlers said.
“I was told once that if you have a gift for writing music, then you’re doing everyone else a disservice in not sharing it,” Norris said.
With so many musical talents at NW, we need to bring the bands back.