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.