How do musically inclined Kenyon students satisfy their urge to come together and create sound as they emerge from a pandemic? The answer is simple: They form a band.
With live music events making a comeback and the campus welcoming numerous recently formed bands to the stage, the new student band SERENA holds a distinct presence. After their hit debut performance at the Horn Open Mic Night with original song “Back Against the Wall” on Oct. 1, band members Uli Schwendener ’22, Marshall Ghalioungui ’22, Zoë Casdin ’23, Katya Naphtali ’23 and Caleb Rubin ’24 plan to continue creating unique, mood-boosting music.
The concept for SERENA started last spring in a North Campus Apartment during lengthy jam sessions between Ghalioungui and Schwendener. “We were playing a lot of duo jazz … but I think we wanted something that would sound more relatable,” Schwendener said. The duo was looking to create a bigger, fuller sound, or, as Ghalioungui puts it, “something people want to dance to.”
After finding additional instrumentalists and a vocalist, the duo formed SERENA this fall.
SERENA’s multi-layered songs are a reflection of the diverse musical backgrounds of its members, who collectively create a “smorgasbord” of influences and skill sets. The group takes influence from contemporary jazz, with each member involved in a jazz group on campus. However, the band members are hesitant to categorize their music. Their songs transcend musical genres, drawing not only from jazz, but psychedelic rock, funk and experimental music.
In addition to performing on campus, the members plan to continue composing and learning from each other in the process. “I learn so much from just listening to everyone play every single time we practice,” Casdin said. The ability of the band members to not only listen to their own sound, but also to that of the other members is what makes the group so noteworthy. From their performances, it is clear that the band places a heavy emphasis on communication and openness. “Listening to fellow bandmates and also being open and listening to what you’re playing… When it’s done right, it feels rather serene and it’s unbelievable what comes out,” Schwendener said.
Moving forward, SERENA plans to record their original songs at the WKCO studio for release on streaming platforms. The band can be found @serena.sounds on Instagram.