The desk lamp on the floor cast a warm, hazy light over the unmanned keyboard, drum set and guitar. The crowd had squeezed into this Henle living room and was buzzing with anticipation for what was to come. Conversations of artists and past gigs faded away as the New North Collective took to the stage.

Roaring cheers followed the introductions of each of its members: Sean Berman (SFS ’19) on saxophone, Julian Tamers (COL ’21) on guitar, Tommy Batterman (COL ’22) on drums and James Khoury (SFS ’20) on keys. Berman established the first song’s melody on his sax, and when the whole band joined in, the lively jazz track electrified the room.
When Tamers strummed the melody of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino and Batterman hit the beats in unison, the audience went wild. The crowd swayed, vibing with the familiar song, re-energized by its jazz rendition.
The New North Collective  intertwines jazz with funk and soul to create engaging, rhythmic tracks. The audience that night was engaged, wide-eyed and acutely aware of the vibrations of live music. The sense of unity was undeniable: Every person there appeared completely lost in the moment.
While bands like the New North Collective can rock apartments, their access to formal venues is significantly more limited. Because music is not well-supported at Georgetown University, student musicians have to make due with limited space and struggle to promote their work.
Nowhere To Go
The university has no shortage of performing areas: McNair Auditorium in New North seats up to 140 people, while the Davis Performing Arts Center is home to the Gonda Theatre and Devine Studio Theatre. Every visiting prospective Georgetown student has seen the a capella performances and enticing speeches at the imposing Gaston Hall in Healy Hall. Yet musicians are not always able to get access to these places.
The only musical events held in Gaston Hall this semester are the D.C. A Capella festival, the Georgetown University Orchestra and Concert Choir, and the Messiah Sing-Along, according to Georgetown’s event calendar. Although the GU Orchestra and Concert Choir and the Messiah Sing-Along feature instrumentalists in the orchestra, most of the performers are faculty or adult professionals, not Georgetown students.
Tamers, the guitar player for the New North Collective, feels that there are not many opportunities for instrumentalists to play at these venues.
 “I feel like music, or at least instrumental music, is not that recognized. It would be great if instrumental music could perform at Gaston, too,” Tamers said.
Even “Guild of Bands,” a class that students can sign up for, requires students to have a band to audition with before they can gain access to recording resources.
“How do you even practice with a band when you have to audition to use the practice space?” Tamers said.

Overcoming Difficulties

As a result of limited space, the student-led music scene at Georgetown is quite literally underground.
“The basement of New North is where all of the music happens, and if you go down, there are exposed pipes and it seems very forgotten, but that’s where I practice with my friends every day,” Tamers said.
While practice space can be found below Georgetown’s surface, creatives have carved out performing space on the top floors of the Leavey Center.
Uncommon Grounds — the Leavey Center location of Students of Georgetown, Inc., more commonly known as the Corp, in the university bookstore — seeks to provide another location for students who are not necessarily well-established musicians to express themselves by hosting weekly open mic nights.
Drew Bell (COL ’19), the director of Uncommon Grounds, said the cafe hopes to foster creative expression inclusive to all students.
“With open mic nights, Uncommon Grounds hopes to provide a space for students to express their creativity and provide opportunities for all students, regardless of major, to perform,” Bell said in an interview with The Hoya.
Even if students do not have time to pick up an instrument or produce songs, anyone who loves music can go see band gigs. University-sponsored productions can be found on the Georgetown Events Page or the Department of Performing Arts website, while less official events are often posted in the Facebook group Georgetown University Collective of Creative Individuals, or GUCCI.
Politics Preceding Music 
Besides the lack of space to practice, musicians on campus often struggle to build an audience.
Bell believes students can find music outlets on campus but must set aside time and put forth an active effort to do so.
“I think that the problem lies in getting students to know about these types of events,” Bell said. “With Georgetown’s culture of being involved in as many things as possible, it can be difficult to find the time to attend musical events on campus.”
Even when people can carve out a spot in their schedule, those who wish to get involved or promote the various bands at Georgetown have no idea where to look.
“It’s tricky to get involved in music on this campus,” Tamers said.
Stone Morales (MSB ’21), a songwriter and guitarist, agreed with Tamers that finding the right people and resources is tough. Morales explained that being a good musician requires dedication and can be difficult to balance with academics.
“Producing music is incredibly time-intensive, and if you are involved in every step of the process, you’re going to have to make major trade-offs with other activities,” Morales said.
Student groups such as the Georgetown University Student Association, the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service and the Georgetown
International Relations Club are much more popular and prevalent on campus than musical groups.
Rachelle Bonja (SFS ’20), a singer for the Jazz Ensemble at Georgetown, which features undergraduate and graduate student musicians, agreed music is not well-supported at Georgetown.

“The student body, or just the university, focuses much more on governmental groups and stuff like that. Which is cool, but at the same time there should be something for everyone,” Bonja said in an interview with The Hoya.

Although music is not prominent on Georgetown’s campus, those who do play are dedicated and prolific. Tamers alone is in several music groups, including the New North Collective, a duo with Lana Nauphal (COL, ‘19) and the Jazz Ensemble.
“I should formalize this whole funk jazz thing because it’s really kind of hype music, and it’s actually really accessible,” Tamers said. “Part of the problem with jazz is that it can be niche and pretentious.”
By reinventing popular contemporary songs like “Redbone,” groups — including the New North Collective — aim to break this stigma and make jazz music more exciting to young listeners. However, Tamers’ favorite event might be Cabaret, a 42-year-old tradition where the best Georgetown musicians perform rock and popular songs.
“[Cabaret is] a concert of about 25 absolute bangers,” Tamers said. “It’s the most exciting, hype thing you’ll go to. Last year we sold out U Street Music Hall, and the whole thing is completely student run.”
Cabaret is just one example of Georgetown’s dynamic underground music circle. Despite limited venue space and lack of awareness, musicians like the members of the New North Collective and Stone Morales are working to bring student music to the forefront of campus life.
“The music scene is present, beautiful and vibrant,” Bonja said. “I wish I had found it earlier.”
For students who want to know more, follow GUCCI on Facebook, follow @thenewnorthcollective and @jstonemorales on Instagram, follow Nymphéa on Soundcloud, and look out for events like Cabaret, the Friday Music Series and the Spring Concert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *