O-Issue 2013: Campus music

From broadcasting to bands, there’s something for all musicians.

By Joy Crane

It’s a good time to be a musician at UChicago. While Philip Glass (A.B. ’56) has long since departed from the Burton-Judson courtyard, music remains central to the University’s cultural and physical landscape. Between the beat of your own drum and the rhythm of other campus productions, we, the footloose, bid you welcome.

Get off the O-Week grid by checking out the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, a free two-day festival that hosts a rich assortment of local and national jazz artists. The festival boasts 11 indoor and outdoor venues throughout the neighborhood and all-day programming. Falling on the last weekend before fall quarter, September 28–29, Jazz Fest bids the summer farewell with just a touch of the blues.

The music department hosts over 14 different ensembles and programs, which collectively put on more than 100 concerts each quarter. Richly varied in historical periods and cultural affiliations, these ensembles range from the prestigious Rockefeller Chapel Choir to the South Asian Vocal Ensemble. The main audition process occurs September 23–30, so tune those violins and clean that horn already.

But you needn’t leave your dorm room to hear some great student-produced beats. WHPK, the campus-wide radio station, pools together University students and community members to build its 160 person staff. Providing a 24-hour stream of high-quality programming, WHPK presents shows in a variety of formats from rock to public affairs to jazz, all strung together under the collective aim of “playing music not commonly heard on the mainstream.” Tune in to 88.5 FM or listen online at whpk.org, where you can also apply to become a student DJ.

The Major Activities Board, an RSO affectionately known as MAB, presents two annual music concerts: the Fall Show and the Summer Breeze Concert. Both highly anticipated events, past concerts have featured the Ramones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Eminem, and, last year, headliners included Sleigh Bells, Nelly, and Smith Westerns. Twenty-dollar tickets are easy on the student budget (beer funds not included).

For the more classically inclined, University of Chicago Presents (UCP) is well poised to satisfy an aficionado’s needs. UCP hosts three concert series per annum, bringing together highly acclaimed soloists and chamber music ensembles in awe-inspiring spaces such as Mandel Hall and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. With student tickets as low as five dollars, these heavily discounted events are a lot of refined bang for your buck.

In terms of practice and performance spaces, Logan Center’s musical facilities stand unrivaled. Logan boasts three music ensemble rehearsal rooms, 20 music practice rooms, one piano teaching studio, and an ambitious Performance Hall. The space fosters musical creativity in a variety of hues, from the much beloved Jazz Series, which offers discounted access to world-renowned jazz artist performances throughout the year, to the Logan Cabaret Series, a student-hosted and student-performed cabaret show each fortnight. While situated due south of the Midway, the glassy behemoth may be the new “True North” for all ye aspiring musicians-cum-rock stars.

A final nod (read: head bang) to the “alternative” musical wellsprings on and around campus that rock out without RSO funding or a place on the official campus events calendar. Record store by day, music venue by night, Hyde Park Records on East 53rd Street offers students a sample size of Chicago’s rich musical history (and present) without ever leaving UCPD–patrolled areas. On any given day, Dirt Red Brass Band, a traveling New Orleans–style student band, may jazz up your quad-crossing scramble with its signature sound and playful performance style. And for those who like the dirt under the nails just where it is, basement shows featuring local student bands are a regular fixture in the Hyde Park night scene. Just be sure to keep your ears to the ground; it’s rumbling.