By Bailey Blaker
A growing number of student musicians are taking the reins, recording and mixing their own tracks — but will the lack of performance spaces on campus lead to a decline in this trend?
Amanda Goodman ’18, a singer-songwriter who has opened for musical acts at the Horn Gallery, is learning the ins and outs of music production from the sound technicians at WKCO.
The experience has changed the way Goodman views the artistic value of music.
Being part of the production process has allowed Goodman to bring a level of mindfulness and strategy to her music. “I think that I started thinking when I write songs, ‘What could the end product look like?’ rather than, like, ‘Oh, this is what I’m feeling, I’m just going to write this,’” she said. “I think more like, ‘Could there be drums or guitar here? What am I looking for?’ It’s made it harder to write songs, because I’ll have more expectations for what I want it to be like.”
The studio at WKCO is open to students willing to work with sound technicians to learn about proper recording techniques. According to Teddy Farkas ’16, co-general managers of WKCO, many student musicians take advantage of the studio. “The nice thing about the recording studio is that it allows students to come in and record things independently but it also says, ‘There are are these other people around you who want to form bands,’” he said.
Farkas believes the music scene at Kenyon is strong, but it is being hindered by certain restrictions — namely, a lack of available performance spaces.
“I think the school has to do a better job of creating venues for students to play at,” he said. Farkas recalled attending parties during his first and second years at Kenyon featuring student bands in the North Campus Apartments, Acland Apartments and the New Apartments. “It was extremely crowded but it was fun and it gave non-intimidating venues for bands on campus to be able to practice in front of people who wanted to hear them before going to the Horn,” he said. “Now it’s just the Horn.”
The lack of space for student musicians on campus has also affected the availability of facilities within the music department. Professor of Music Benjamin “Doc” Locke — who directs the Chamber Singers, Community Choir and Knox County Symphony — supports the growth in independent musicians on campus, but is aware of the limitations on the school’s ability to accommodate such large interest.
“I think we’ve been managing,” Locke said. “We were surprised when we built Storer Hall. We didn’t realize how much the building itself upped the interest in the music department.” The lack of space for group rehearsals and instrument storage has put stress on the department, but Locke feels it can be alleviated through proper planning. “[We have] to live within our means and schedule our courses and offer ensembles space and instruments to the best of our ability,” he said. “Everybody wants to expand, but there are just limits to what a small school can do.”
For students like Goodman, the challenges that come with self-producing music don’t compare with the benefits. “People are producing their own music and there is this sort of DIY music movement, because the technology is so much more accessible,” she said. “I just thought that was so like liberating, for musicians.”
Zoe Case, Hannah Farr and Devon Musgrave-Johnson contributed reporting.