Inside Dartmouth's colorful music scene

by Marie-Capucine Pineau-Valencienne | 1/11/17 4:50am

A pre-med and a trumpet player. A soccer player and an a cappella singer. These are just a few of the students involved with music at Dartmouth.

For a college known to attract an exceptionally sporty student body, the music scene on campus is surprisingly vibrant. Not only is the music scene alive and well, but many groups on campus have reached levels of quasi-stardom. By day, they are regular Dartmouth students, going to class and seemingly involved in ten different clubs on campus, but by night, they transition to bonafide musical sensations attracting crowds of students.

“People just really do get rowdy for a cappella music,” said Sean Haughey ’17, musical director for the Dartmouth Cords, an all-male a cappella group.

Haughey loves performing at fraternities and sororities because of the number of students the shows attract.

“At almost every show there [is] someone shouting for one [of] their friends in the group, making it a fun environment to perform in,” Haughey said.

Dartmouth boasts an impressive array of a cappella flavors for musically inclined students to choose from. There are nine groups, ranging from single-sex to co-ed, from socially-minded to Christian.

Many members of the a cappella groups imagined they would pursue musically-oriented activities during their college years. Coming to college, Stephanie Everett ’19 knew she wanted to join the ranks of the Dartmouth Decibelles, the College’s first all-female a cappella group, when she heard the ensemble perform at one of her brother’s graduation events before her freshman fall. Everett, who is now a proud member of the Decibelles and also on the women’s soccer team, calls the a cappella group her “favorite group [she’s] a part of on campus.”

Most of the students interviewed were also involved in a multitude of other campus activities. Take Brendan Barth ’17 for example: he is a member of the student band Half the City, plays in Dartmouth’s jazz ensemble Barbary Coast, is a pre-health mentor and was a member of the men’s soccer team. He now calls himself a “NARP” following the soccer season’s conclusion last fall. Haughey is another example of this overactive approach to campus life — he is the musical director of the Cords, a player on three club sports teams and a member of both the improv comedy group Dog Day Players and the campus freestyle rap group D-Style.

There are also independent student bands which perform regularly throughout campus, such as SHARK or Half the City. Joining a student band was “exciting because you can do more of what you want to do,” Barth explained.

And much like the wildly popular a cappella groups on campus, bands attract crowds of concert hungry students to their shows, playing originals as well as covers of popular songs by a diverse set of musicians, from Bruno Mars to Maroon 5 to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Stunned himself, Barth said, “Our band, Half the City, has like, a following!”

Although their music differs, Dartmouth musical groups share a steadfast sense of community within their musical family. Ben Rutan ’17, the musical director of the all-male a cappella group Dartmouth Aires, explained that he felt the Aires was his “closest group of friends on campus.” Echoing Rutan, Haughey credited the friendships he made through the Cords as being far more rewarding than the music itself.

“Twenty of my closest friends are the guys in the group,” Haughey said. “I really do mean it, they’re twenty guys I wouldn’t trade for anyone.”

Whether students play for the music itself, the rush of performing or the friendships they make, one thing is certain about making student music at Dartmouth: it’s not easy.

“It’s hard and it’s a lot of work, but its a lot of fun because we all just love singing,” Everett said.

Dartmouth would be a vastly different place without the various student musicians and eclectic music groups that color our New England campus. In an effort to survive the at times colorless winter, we hope that they just keep singing.