Last Thursday night, Portland’s State Theatre came alive—velvety bass slipped through the cracks of the drums as an enthusiastic crowd danced, bathed in a violet light. In name, this was Digable Planets’ 30th Anniversary Tour, celebrating the Brooklyn hip-hop trio’s release of their debut album, “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)” in 1993.
This summer, Celtic and fiddle student band YONC hopped across the East Coast to promote its new album entitled “The Yalbum.” The band finished recording the project in July and promptly went on tour in the Bronx, N.Y., Providence, R.I., Boston and Portland.
Bowdoin Chorus and Oratorio Chorale bring composer Snider in residency for choirs’ final performance together
Editor’s Note May 6, 2023 at 5:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article referred to Oratorio Chorale as Portland-based. This article has been updated as the Chorale works throughout Maine and has a long history in Brunswick.
Despite the nearly two decades that have passed since his graduation, the Bowdoin that Matt LeJoie ’05 inhabited as a student wasn’t all that different from the one of today. He was a DJ on WBOR, played in a student band on the weekends and even wrote a couple of articles for the Orient.
On January 9, 2022, French television broadcast a live news interview with renowned Belgian singer Paul van Haver, better known as Stromae. During the last few minutes of the broadcast, Stromae answered the final question of the interview, which was directed towards his struggles with depression, by singing his latest song “L’enfer.” A year later and 3,398 miles away in Brunswick, Associate Professor of History and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Simon Fraser University Roxanne Panchasi hosted a talk at the College discussing the significance of the moment.
Bowdoin Concert Band and Chorus conducted a variety of performances over the years, and for both groups, Bowdoin students aren’t the only ones performing. The band and chorus are medleys of students, alumni, high school students and all sorts of other community members.
Professor of Music Tracy McMullen’s journey into jazz was neither direct nor without resistance. Raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, McMullen’s introduction to jazz came from a high school stage band visiting her elementary school. “For me, it’s definitely mysterious how I had this love of jazz,” McMullen said.
The decades following The Animals’ smash hit brought with them a host of “House of the Rising Sun” reincarnates, the song’s narrative thrust never succumbing to marketplace inertia. By the dawn of the seventies, slipstreams opened for sprawling innovations over a deep-seated tradition.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a gangster,” poet and musical artist Weatherspoon ’25 said, reflecting on their childhood in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. “I wanted to sell drugs and shoot people. [I was a] product of the environment … Life happened to me really early.
Let the arpeggiated A minor chord sound! We have arrived at the most recognizable iteration of the song in question. British pop-rock outfit The Animals sent “House of the Rising Sun,” our meager folk tune, to the top of the UK singles chart in 1964 with an arrangement that, in keeping with the folk idiom, was not their own handiwork.
If you were to poll members of Bowdoin’s music community on who among their peers they want to play with most, one name would appear with greater frequency than the rest: Danny Little ’22. The second-semester senior started his musical career young, playing classical piano.
For over twenty years, Finestkind Vinyl Haven has offered the Brunswick community a more immersive way to listen to music. Located off Maine Street, the store sells ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, classic rock, straight-ahead jazz, funk soul, world music and psych vinyl.
By the mid-1940’s, “House of the Rising Sun” had existed for decades as a folk standard, but when Huddie Ledbetter (a.k.a. Leadbelly), a giant of the Mississippi Delta Blues and 12-stringed guitar virtuoso, picked up the track, the song’s acclaim began to approach echelons beyond the merits of canonization.
The Beatles, Nina Simone, Tangerine Dream, Leadbelly, The Supremes, Tracy Chapman, Dolly Parton, Kult, Sinead O’Conner, Jimi Hendrix, Toto and Muse all have one thing in common: they’ve released a cover of the folk-blues tune “The House of the Rising Sun.” As one of the most covered songs of all time, the track serves as an exemplar of the folk tradition—music that is passed down through hearing and playing, not formal tablature.
This past February, Thando Khumalo ’23 released her debut EP, “Normal Day.” The project’s honest guitar riffs and calming vocals garnered recognition across campus. Khumalo recorded the EP in the laundry room of her hometown house in Oxford, Massachusetts.
This week, Bowdoin’s student-run radio station, WBOR, broadcast more than 40 radio shows over the FM radio waves to the Brunswick community. With the start of the semester underway, the station’s presence on campus has been felt in force during the past two weeks.
Editor’s Note, September 9, 2022 at 12 p.m.: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the band. The correct spelling is Night Hawk, not Nighthawk. While most Bowdoin students returned to a campus marked by pre-pandemic normalcy this fall, Colter Adams ’24 and Peyton Semjen ’24 took the semester off to explore their musical passions with their new band, Night Hawk.
“Grampa and Gramma called the outdoors ‘a garden of natural healing,’” reads the Grampa’s Garden Website. From the moment you open the door to Grampa’s Garden Sensory Adventure Spa on Maine Street, it’s clear this place is unique.
Most of my memories are musical. When I reflect on stories from childhood, vivid images are punctuated by songs. My parents’ black-and-white tiled kitchen (before they renovated) is filled with the sounds of Delta blues, a favorite of my dad’s since back when he hosted his own college radio show.
In 1980s Japan, during a time of rapid urbanization and technological advancement, a new genre of music sprouted from the era’s bustling, neon streets. Pioneered by Yokohama-born composer and historian Hiroshi Yoshimura, the artistic movement, known as “kankyo ongaku,” or “environment music,” began to spread across the nation.
On the night of April 2, Jack Magee’s Pub hosted four student musical groups in the annual Battle of the Bands to decide the opener for Bowdoin Spring Concert headliner, rapper IDK. In the contest’s first running after three years, The Irish step dance performing group BEYONCE (Bowdoin Éireann [Ireland] Ye Olde Neo-Celtic Ensemble), and punk/emo outfit Moosecat won first and second place, respectively, both earning an opening spot at the concert.
Last Friday, rapper IDK headlined the Spring Concert in Morrell Gymnasium with a raucous reception from students. The two winners of the previous week’s Battle of the Bands contest, screamo band Moosecat and Irish band BEYONCE, opened the show.
Gliding through the noon-blue heat of the Florida interstate, my brother in the driver’s seat asks me to play a song. I’ve never heard of his request before, but trusting his judgment, I search it up on my phone and add it to the queue.
“King Creole” was the name of a mythic Cajun guitarist known for his command of various styles of rock and roll, made famous by the 1958 film named after him starring Elvis Presley. It is also the name of the bouncing intro track from Dawn Richard’s encyclopedic 2021 album, “Second Line.” Like the original “King Creole,” “Second Line” boasts Richard’s mastery of multiple genres.
Over the past two weeks, Bowdoin’s campus has seen the culminating performances of many of the College’s instrumental groups—from chamber music groups, to jazz ensembles, to the Middle Eastern Ensemble and the Bowdoin Orchestra, the latter of which concluded this series of concerts on December 7 and 8.
This past Saturday, The Non-Prophets established themselves in the Bowdoin student band scene with a debut performance at Reed House’s Fall Fest. The night also included performances by En Jamb and Mistaken for Strangers. The Non-Prophets’ formation comes on the heels of a campus-wide return to in-person, creative pursuits.
After a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic, the Bowdoin Chamber Choir will resume rehearsals and performances for the 2021-2022 academic year. Lecturer in Music Jeffrey Christmas will serve as the group’s new faculty organizer following the retirement of previous organizer Professor of Music Emeritus Robert Greenlee.
Jose Melo ’23 mixed his first beat on his school-issued laptop when he was 13 years old. Today, when he is not doing laboratory work or taking classes for his integrative biology major, Melo sells his dorm-studio-born beats to local artists in his hometown and the greater Boston area.
After a long year without the chance to sing in person, the Bowdoin Meddiebempsters, Bowdoin’s oldest a cappella group, are back on stage. When COVID-19 cases surged last March, the Meddiebempsters had just started their annual tour and were prepared to sing at colleges and venues all over the northeast.
As the spring 2021 semester begins to come to a close, Finn Woodruff ’21 is polishing and completing his senior music performance project—a collection of original fiddle songs influenced by his experience playing bluegrass, jazz and folk music.
Although COVID-19 has prevented Bowdoin from holding Ivies weekend, several student bands have been working to ensure that students will be able to attend distanced, outdoor concerts as the semester comes to a close. The College’s outdoor concert series began on Saturday with a performance by student band Lady and the Tramps on the steps of Baxter House.
This spring, Oratorio Chorale—a midcoast Maine-based choral community—will continue holding music workshops in an entirely virtual format. While the Chorale traditionally holds these workshops in person, Artistic Director Emily Isaacson still sees the value in providing community members with opportunities to further or begin their education in music.
Since the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, Emily Ha ’21 has been pursuing a senior honors project in choral conducting—an effort that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has required far more planning, research and distance between singers than it would have in a more normal semester.
When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic separated Isabel Thomas ’20 from her musical engagements at Bowdoin, she had to assess how seriously she wanted to keep pursuing singing. A year later, she has grown her confidence as a solo artist, creating an Instagram account for her songs and gaining recognition from some of her favorite artists.
While Bowdoin jazz ensembles might not be able to perform synchronously, the dedication of Anthony Gabory, visiting lecturer in the department of music and leader of the ensembles, has provided musicians with another way of staying connected.
Singer and songwriter John Lane ’21 released “Turn Up Country,” a pop-country single, earlier this month. This is Lane’s second officially-released song, and it was written, recorded and produced remotely due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a normal academic year, Bowdoin’s six a cappella groups would have finished recruitment several weeks ago. The week-long process, which typically takes place in late September, consists of a first round of auditions, a second round of callbacks and the “draft,” where the A Cappella Council meets to express interest in singers and then issue bids to them.
Singer and songwriter Ariana Smith ’21 released “Nostalgia,” an acoustic single, earlier this month. “Nostalgia” is Smith’s second of two produced songs—both of which she released after Bowdoin’s campus switched to remote learning due to the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
When the initial surge of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States led to the shutdown of public spaces nationwide, one of the first things that Brunswick-based singer/songwriter Pete Kilpatrick did was purchase recording equipment with hopes to continue making music.
On April 13, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which brings together students and musicians from over 30 countries and 40 states, announced that it will cancel this year’s in-person masterclasses and performances due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Frank Mauceri, senior lecturer in music and coach of Bowdoin’s jazz combos, loves to play music with students. His other, more unconventional combo-partner, however, is his computer. Mauceri merges music with computer science, using machine learning and machine listening to improvise and play songs.
Tiken Jah Fakoly, born Doumbia Moussa, is an internationally renowned Ivorian reggae singer from Odienné, a town in the northwestern region of the Ivory Coast. Heavily inspired by Alpha Blondy, another Ivorian reggae star from the 1980s, Fakoly began his musical career at the age of 18, secretly composing songs that he hid from his strict Muslim family.
Produced, edited and filmed by Marcus Ribeiro ’23 John “Galush” Galusha ’20, of the Bowdoin Meddiebempsters, dominates the beatboxing scene on campus. In addition to double majoring in music and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, he has competed in multiple beatboxing championships nationwide.
With a shimmering silver and gold beaded curtain framing the stage, audience members of all ages will be transported back in time to the glitz of Broadway in the roaring 20’s. The vehicle is the music of composer extraordinaire Cole Porter, performed by the students in the Musical Theater Performance class instructed by Professor of Theater Davis Robinson.
While many students step into Gibson Hall each semester, very few know the inner workings of Bowdoin’s music department. Despite occasional setbacks, new efforts are being made to revive music programs and recruit students through a greater attention to musical abilities during the admissions process.
I should leave out the story about Maggie Rogers’ rise to fame through a viral video with Pharrell because it is clear by now that she deserves it. It is true that the Maryland singer/songwriter was a student at NYU just two years ago, making eclectic songs that fused her folky roots with Eurohouse influences acquired from a semester abroad, and that one day Pharrell showed up to class, instantly raved about Rogers’ work, and abruptly sent Rogers and her song “Alaska” into a firestorm of attention via YouTube.
The “quad squad” may sound like an unusual moniker for a music group, but this is far from the only surprise offered by the Bowdoin’s Department of Music’s chamber ensemble program. Each semester, dozens partake in a variety of independent, student-driven chamber groups.
Take a peek into the Bowdoin Children’s Center, and you might see a student plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, the notes sweetly melodic, a mother with a sleeping infant strapped to her chest and a toddler at her side, swaying to the music, listening with curiosity and wonder.
You can see the glow of yellow light and the shadows of passing figures through the windows. You leap up a few steps and pull open the front door to be greeted by a rap song from Spotify’s Top 50 hits playing over someone’s parents’ speakers and, subsequently, you inhale an odd fog of beer, body odor and half-assed Febreze.
Hip-Hop, rhythm and blues, jazz, reggae—many kinds of popular music have roots in Africa. Last night, the West African Music Ensemble brought to life the connection between drumming, dancing and singing during their performance “The Path and the River.” Distinct at Bowdoin in its non-Western approach to music, the ensemble is directed by Adjunct Lecturer in Music Jordan Benissan—a master drummer of Ewe people of West Africa, esteemed for complex cross-rhythms.
Jaden Dixon ’21 is an artist and producer from Davenport, FL. He recently released his first EP, “Moving Forward,” as well as his first music video for the track, “Wait Up.” Jaden’s music is featured on all major streaming platforms.
Sitting in 24 College Street, the atmosphere is electric. Alana Morrison ’20, a model-turned-singer, taps the microphone, and it echoes throughout the room. Other members of Alana’s team test background beats from the computer set up in front of rows of empty chairs.
Remember when Kobe Bryant tweeted about “Carter V season?” Neither do we. It was part of a promotional campaign back in 2014, when “Tha Carter V” was originally set to release that May. Lil Wayne promised the album three more times in 2014, all in vain due to legal battles with Cash Money Records.
Noname doesn’t need your labels. In the years since her breakout mixtape Telefone, she’s been called “the anti-Cardi B” and “the female Kendrick” by fans eagerly awaiting a second project. While her soft spokenness suggests the former and her lyricial knack the latter, she detests both of these backhanded compliments, telling the Fader, “I’m just Fatimah.” Some already know Fatimah (better known by her stage name Noname) from her stand out features on Chance the Rapper’s early material, or her solo work as Noname on Telefone, a brilliantly warm tape about love, loss and joy in her home Chicago.
My 17th birthday was on a Friday. I woke up to some lovely cards from my family, happy birthday messages from friends and a couple posts on Facebook. I went to school. Around early afternoon, an hour or so before classes let out, I received a text from a friend of mine: “Dude listen to this shit now, it’s insane.” I went into the bathroom, turned my earbuds up, and listened to “HEAT” by Brockhampton (which I soon discovered had no relationship to the Hamptons), off of an album called SATURATION.
Ariana Smith ’21 and Flora Hamilton ’21, members of the Bowdoin jazz program, are creative partners in writing and performing original music on campus. Smith is a singer-songwriter, and Hamilton is a jazz pianist. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Although the student band Gingersnap is relatively new to the Bowdoin music scene, it is already leaving its mark on campus. Last week, the group won first place for its performance at Battle of the Bands—only its second performance together—and earned the spot as the opening act for D.R.A.M.
Nicole Tjin A Djie ’21: What got you started with music? Daniel Mayer ’21: My dad and my brother were both musicians, so I got started on piano really early. I didn’t really like it so I started playing my dad’s guitar and I picked that up really easily.
This year, the Bowdoin College Concert Band will reach a new milestone: its director, John Morneau, will have led the group for 30 consecutive years. “It’s just what I like to do. I just haven’t felt the need for time off,” said Morneau.
Every rap fan has dreamed it: “What if ______ and ______ made an album together?” But there’s something about the idea of the collab album that just reeks of disappointment. After years of rumors and teases, that Kendrick Lamar/J.
Jhene Aiko – “Jukai” (September 22) Jhene Aiko seems to finally be hitting her stride as one of R&B’s truly unique artists. The cool, unmistakable radiance of her voice has always been there, but on her latest album, “Trip,” Aiko has the production to back it up.
Sam Kyzivat ’18 is a music major with a concentration in theory and composition who also studies Chinese. He composes and performs his own music and participates in the Meddiebempsters and jazz ensemble. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Delta Sigma/Delta Upsilon practice rooms in Smith Union had been empty prior to last year. They were funded and stocked with equipment in 2009.
Comprised of all first-years, student band 20/20 arrived with a bang when they became one of the youngest bands ever to win Battle of the Bands, winning a $500 cash prize and the chance to open for the Smallpools Ivies kick-off concert.