The music at Lawrence has changed a lot in my four years covering it, and at this point in time, most artists would benefit from a reminder and reflection of its stages in the past years. Although the scene has undoubtedly changed since before my arrival, I believe Lawrence is at a standstill where it is lacking one of its most distinct qualities – a music scene that embraces all sorts of creativity, and a prominence of it. There are still plenty of good components now – probably more than many colleges have – but experiencing all the art that existed when I was a first year was something that inspired me greatly. I hope others can have that opportunity.
Throughout my time here, I have had the honor and privilege to share my thoughts on about 70 student and faculty performances and releases, 50 albums, 20 visiting artists and 10 non-Lawrence reviews and reflections. My first column, Musical Endeavors Outside The Conservatory, ran for part of my sophomore year before changing to Meditations on Music, allowing me to cover music beyond campus bands. I have experienced the music scene’s evolution, seen friends that I covered during their undergrad continue their art, heard longstanding bands grow, immersed myself in the rich folk and improvisation communities in Appleton, been able to write about an unfathomable wide variety of art and can wholeheartedly say I learned from each event.
The music that resonated with me, that brought me to tears, that filled me with pride, that pulled me in and showed me why I do what I do, that inspired me to write and to play – all of it has left an impact on me, shaping the way I hear music in any context, before or after each experience.
I have witnessed the music scene here expand, dissolve and lie stagnant in waves. Before I get too sentimental, it is important to share the main purpose of this final column – the preservation, birth and rebirth of music on campus.
My freshman year, there were one or two shows nearly every weekend, with a few bands playing at each. The music ranged from hip-hop to singer-songwriter to grindcore and beyond. There were many venues to play at, and listeners all across campus were exposed on a regular basis to art unknown to them. There were shortcomings, as the bands were mostly made up of Con students, but overall, the scene was cherished. This was a fairly unique thing for a college and one of my favorite aspects of Lawrence the first two years here.
Unfortunately, venues were and are continuing to be torn down, students with solid bands graduated, groups disappeared and the scene was thrown into a cycle of being bummed about a lack of venues and letting the Lawrence business diminish music outside of credited ensembles. I do not think the current students are unmotivated to create bands – I have seen some pop up the past two years – but there is a lack of a certain spirit that was present during my beginnings here. Nowadays, many students do not know what was once here. Aside from my class and the junior class who caught the tail end of it, most have just heard stories, if that. It has become somewhat of a myth, but I will do my best to let those stories live on.
I want to use this column to light a fire. There is no way to sum up everything I have heard on campus, but digging back into my writing and other arts and entertainment articles will give you a glimpse of the ever-changing scene – and you should not be disheartened by it but excited! There is so much talent here, and I know so many people are capable of creating groups that can really take off at Lawrence and beyond, but sometimes a little kick needs to happen. This is not just for Con students. College students, disregard the barrier that is too often put up and continue making your music and sharing it. I have heard and seen many of you do so and would love to hear even more.
Find outlets – sure, venues are being taken away, but get creative. Sign out atypical rooms around campus, throw impromptu shows, embrace any way of getting music to an audience. Release recordings – I guarantee people want to hear what you are doing, so show them. Play for fun – just play. Get together with friends or do solo stuff because just creating to create and for the fun of it will bring you to places you sometimes cannot plan to go to.
This is all easier said than done, I know, but look back and then look forward. You are all artists who have something to say. Lawrence can be such a nurturing environment for your music.
I am getting chills knowing this will be the last thing I write for The Lawrentian – a goofy, imperfect, and above all, wonderful publication – and I want to end with my gratitude to all of you. Thank you to my editors: Devin Ross, Lizzy Weekes, McKenzie Fetters, Ali Shuger and Bridget Bartal. Thank you to all of Lawrence’s music; thank you to all of the non-Lawrence music; and thank you to my readers. I have loved writing for all of you and am extremely indebted to you for your support and what you have created.