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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student Spotlight: Raegan Padula ’24 develops her sound through both machine music and the French horn

Throughout her time at Dartmouth, Padula has developed her work in the classical, contemporary and jazz spheres.

Courtesy of Kaya Çolakoglu

Throughout her time at Dartmouth, music major Raegan Padula ’24 has honed her craft as a skilled composer, french horn player, sound artist, producer and DJ. Through her music-focused coursework and attention to building community, Padula has developed her skills to find her unique sound at Dartmouth.

Before coming to Dartmouth, Padula was practicing as a musician in the Western classical tradition, playing the French horn for seven years before college. Her roots in music composition and performance date back to elementary school, and Padula moved with proficiency through many ensembles in her early career, including middle school wind bands, jazz bands, high school marching bands and the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra. Her passion for music centered around classical performance and the orchestral tradition. 

All of that changed when she took MUS 25, “Sonic Arts I: Machine Music” with professor Ash Fure. This class, and its succeeding course MUS 26, “Sonic Arts II: Sound is Alive,” launched Padula into a newly found confidence and empowerment in her music. She developed new performance practices while utilizing machine and computer music, and in particular she grew interested in the art of DJing, which led her to join the Booth DJ Collective on campus.

In one of her songwriting classes, Padula met Mark Gitau ’23, a former member of Booth, who told her about auditions for the collective. 

“I heard of Booth because there were some people who were involved in it in my music classes,” Padula said. “Even though I was very scared [to join], I was in the right room and met the right people.”

At the time that Padula joined Booth, she was only the second non-male member to become a part of the collective. A year after joining, Padula became involved in the recruitment and musical development of Booth members. According to Padula, as a result of the awareness of her role in the male-dominated space, she sought to change the culture of the organization she came to see as synonymous with DJing at Dartmouth. 

Today, Booth has become a space where DJs of all genres, backgrounds, identities and experiences come together to learn and to teach, find community and unionize around fair and standard wages for DJ sets on campus. 

In her tenure as co-director of Booth, Padula has worked hard to expand the offerings of the space and ensure that new DJ classes are representative of Dartmouth’s student body and informed about greater DJ and electronic music culture. Under Padula and her co-director, Booth has welcomed two classes of DJs with a plurality of identities. Furthermore, Padula has also helped establish financial support for new DJs, as Booth now offers DJ boards to loan to new members. Padula also explained that Booth overall has intentionality in seeking new DJs, diversifying their cohorts in all senses of the word, including identity and music style.

“We need people with a passion for music,” Padula said. “We’re working to empower DJs to work within their genres so we can create musical subcultures at Dartmouth.”

Though in many ways, Padula herself has impacted DJ culture at Dartmouth, she shared stories of another non-male DJ who paved the way for her work. One of these stories revolves around one of her inspirations and closest DJ mentor, Sofie Blahova ’22.

“I would go over to [Blahova’s] apartment once every week or two and practice my transitions while she did her engineering homework,” Padula said. 

This relationship eventually gave Padula the opportunity to DJ live sets and slowly learn to DJ on her own. Blahova would leave Padula to cover her DJ board during small breaks at some of her gigs, mostly at fraternity events. Padula’s relationship with Blahova wasn’t only in skill and trade; Blahova ended up gifting Padula her first DJ board as payment for her apprenticeship and shadowing Blahova on various gigs. 

“I think someone before [Blahova] gave it to her too, so it’s become a heritage item for women in DJing at Dartmouth,” Padula shared.

These days, Padula’s work outside of Booth is largely centered around building community and infrastructure for music-making at Dartmouth. Through an on-campus job as a studio and technical assistant, she has worked closely with the faculty of the Sonic Practice graduate program, formerly the digital musics program, to reimagine many of their spaces at Hallgarten Hall. 

“I built the studio at Hallgarten with Bethany [Younge], which was an amazing opportunity that most undergrads won’t have [and was] due to great luck,” Padula explained.

Furthermore, as a senior member of Panarchy, Padula has taken on the role of co-social chair, facilitating spaces for members and friends to find fun outside of Dartmouth’s mainstream social scene. Her work in Panarchy has been centered around intentional space-making that builds community. She frequently serves as the main DJ for such events and credited fellow members who aided in creating these events.

Back in Sudikoff Hall, home to the music department, Padula also became a member of the Coast Jazz Orchestra in Fall 2022, working closely with conductor Taylor Ho Bynum to reintroduce her passion for French horn into her artistry. Her self-taught passion for mixing and producing music has led her to many unique collaborations with fellow musicians and artists in addition to her solo and compositional work. This dedication to the craft is what has pushed her to pursue music at Dartmouth and is what motivates her to continue to do so after graduation.

“The world might not want you to follow your dream, but I have to — if I do anything else, I’ll be very sad,” Padula said.

Ramsey Ash

Ramsey Ash ’24 is a quantitative social science and music double major from Huntington, West Virginia. In addition to writing for the Arts section, Ramsey is involved in The Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, the Dartmouth Clarinet Choir, is co-president of Musical Empowerment at Dartmouth and is a Hopkins Center Fellow.