Musicians, don’t fret, new private band room opens

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Livvy Bennett on vocals and Dylan Hill on drums from the band Mamalarky perform on Thorne Patio at Occidental College. Feb. 23, 2019.

A new practice space is available for anyone, ranging from serious bands to friends wanting to jam, according to Matan Birnbaum (sophomore) and Clare Kennerly (first year), who are in charge of running the room. The room will be open in Norris Hall for students to practice their instruments alone or in groups.

“I think it should be ready by Friday [Feb. 17],” Kennerly said. “After you fill out the interest form detailing what plans you have and what you’re going to be using the space for, we’ll contact you and host a training session.”

According to Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the college Amos Himmelstein, the space was originally an unused storage area that was then identified as a possible spot for the practice room.

“It was students through the music department, students from student affairs, students through admission and prospective students asking for a band rehearsal space,” Himmelstein said.

Himmelstein said the construction and installation of sound baffles and a small stage was outsourced to a contractor. Further work on the room came from a joint collaboration between Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS), Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLICE) and Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) according to Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Isaiah Thomas.

“The space will be locally managed by KOXY, as they have deep experience with the management of student media spaces on campus,” said Thomas. “As this is a new initiative, KOXY, SLICE and REHS will meet periodically to review the usage of the space, and make any necessary modifications to best support the overall use of the space, as well as to ensure that the use of the space does not pose a disturbance to the E. Norris residential community.”

Birnbaum said he and Kennerly are in the process of setting up the final touches, including a drumset and audio equipment. According to Birnbaum, when he first arrived at Occidental he recognized that there was no official space for bands to practice. As a musician himself, he sought to change that.

“In Spring of last year I started to pester the music department,” Birnbaum said. “I guess they raised enough money to be able to build a space.”

Birnbaum said he maintained correspondence over the summer with the team that secured the funds for the room, and was tasked with figuring out who would run the room since the music department wasn’t going to be in charge of its administration.

“We’re doing a partnership with KOXY radio to kind of manage the practice room so it can be accessible to all students,” Kennerly said.

According to Birnbaum, the partnership was Kennerly’s idea, and so far KOXY is poised to oversee the operation of the room for the foreseeable future. Kennerly works for KOXY and had the ability to set up the partnership.

“It was such a complicated process, and I think REHS and SLICE both have a lot going on,” Birnbaum said. “It was really hard to keep things moving, so it was very nice to have KOXY just be like, ‘we’ll just take this and deal with it.’”

Birnbaum said it’s nice to have all of the student music programs under one umbrella with KOXY facilitating band practices that are separate from Occidental’s music department. He said he thinks there can be a community built from the advent of a new practicing space.

“Musicians will meet each other inevitably,” said Birnbaum. “Sometime this semester we’re going to be doing a mixer just to get people to meet each other.”

According to Birnbaum and Kennerly, after students fill out the interest form they will be informed on the process to gain access to the room.

“In order to gain access to the room you’ll need to do a training session with Matan and also fill out a terms of use agreement,” Kennerly said.

Kennerly said after that there is a calendar on KOXY’s website, or one that can be accessed by emailing her or Birnbaum. Kennerly and Birnbaum said the training session will likely be this coming Wednesday or Thursday, Feb. 15 and 16.

“Interested students will participate in an orientation led by KOXY staff on usage of the space and equipment, and upon agreeing to the terms and conditions of the space, will be provided access as well as a time slot for use,” Thomas said.

Birnbaum and Kennerly said they are working to get the room open and ready for use as soon as possible, and they hope that it will see widespread use among Occidental’s musicians.

“When I got here [my first year] I realized there was no official space that students were allowed to practice with drums and amps,” Birnbaum said. “I’m just really hoping to make a place to practice now where there wasn’t before.”

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