MAX FERTIK ’19
Today I woke up to the metal crunching sounds of construction that seems to be constantly occurring on the Trinity College campus. The first time that I visited campus actually, I remember the same sounds and husky workers trudging around what is now the Mather Cafeteria. Construction seems to always be happening here, but I guess I can’t complain, except when the whole school goes dark for days or we mysteriously receive warning to cover our noses on a certain parts of campus. This construction though will eventually lead to something (at least I think so), and it isn’t a Starbucks.
For all of those who came to Trinity with a significant musical background, as you have most definitely already heard, the school is finally expanding its ever so tiny music department. Once and for all, the beautiful activity and lifestyle of music is for the first time receiving a home of its own. Practice spaces for Chamber Ensembles, Jazz Ensemble, Samba Ensemble, Concert Choir and individual practice and an intimate 80-person performance hall will exist within this new building coming soon to campus. I, for one, am excited. Finally, I can practice drums without walking all the way across campus and many other South Campus musicians can bask with me in the glory of such a due improvement to the somewhat deficient music program here.
I do not criticize the faculty or the students within the Music Department in any way. I would just like to state how much better the campus will be with a more significant and well-known musical presence. Boasting almost 60 music classes (including all of the ensembles) but commonly only offering a fraction of that, the program is severely lacking considering how important music is to “the arts.” I can level, though, with a small department. Especially with the very cozy 2200 undergraduate population, it is not uncommon that a given major is not enormous or even consists of less than 10 people. So there really is nothing wrong with a small major. In fact I could see students finding a great sense of community within such a major and a significantly greater connection with their professors and peers. But even considering this, the music department does not currently have the proper involvement or the breadth that I would prefer in a liberal arts college.
The practice rooms are extremely scarce, the equipment is pretty out of date, and the classes offered seem to decrease in number every semester. But hopefully that is about to change.
A lot of this lack of development comes from the fact that most incoming freshmen do not think of Trinity as a school with a strong music program. When they think Trinity, they think: ECON, POLY-SCI, ENGLISH, VINEYARD VINES, KILLER PARTIES.
Personally, I came to Trinity for the incredible environment that I found, the perfect size and excellent writing program stood out in the group of schools that interested me. Music had to compromise a little despite how integral it was to my life. I didn’t come for the music but what I found here was actually quite intriguing. Despite some obvious pieces that lacked on the academic side, the Trinity music scene is actually extremely unique.
For one, there is a music scene here at Trinity; you just have to keep your eyes open. The Mill, on lower Vernon Street, is the holy land and nucleus of this scene. Not only does this beautiful, rustic, brick house encompass the deep culture of music but it radiates opportunities for music creators, producers, and listeners alike. Inside this temple, records, posters and graffiti adorn the walls of the three floors while a functional recording studio, a giant mural of Andy Warhol and a majestic blue wall painting of Ben Franklin exist, awaiting your presence. There is so much incredible music to be experienced there as The Mill is not only an easy outlet for Trinity bands to perform but also an easy and free way for students to see up-and-coming young bands as they tour the area. Here, the real, gritty, authentic music scene dwells and spreads its rays outwards. But by no means is this the only place where music lives on campus. Elsewhere, a more ethnic and worldly source of music comes from the annual Samba Fest that happens every Spring.
This enormous event, that now is put on in downtown Hartford, was originally started by our very own Eric Galm here on the steps of the Austin Arts Center. He flies in many Brazilian musicians every year to Hartford and puts on an array of cultural events that are passionate and charged with an incredible South American rhythmic energy. Galm’s samba ensemble, that meets every week, also plays in this festival and is another unique outlet for people interested in world music. I see it as a huge asset but many people still do not know much about this music culture of the school, which I believe should change. Music majors even have the opportunity to major in Ethnomusicology or in American Popular Music, which I find to be pretty unusual when it comes to musical studies.
If only the school had an academically organized orchestra because I would, without a doubt be all over the idea. But again, there isn’t the drive within the population to build this scene. Trinity needs to build this program to incoming freshman and attract more talented artists to attend. It would take a while but it would work.
From personal experience, the small but tight music program is adequate. The Jazz Ensemble is very small but it gives me the opportunity to improvise with some like-minded students and keep my chops from high school intact. I have not taken any classes in the department, but my peers comment that the professors are just “musically nerdy” enough to be cool, and, from my experience, though relatively few, the musical staff is extremely well versed in what they do. There are two bands on campus that I play in (one of my own creation, one that recruited me), which I find to contribute to the best musical source on campus– the underground scene. For now, those of us who stay up at night, wishing for a more relevant music department, won’t have to wait too much longer.
Soon rickety-cracks of construction will transform organically into the sweet sounds of piano and strings. It will not be long before the Trinity College music scene takes a small and hugely expensive step into being seen as a school with a significant musical presence. I do not underestimate the extremely unique way in which our college has created a music scene, but we can do more. I hope for an expansive musical future here at Trin.