A Guide to the College Music Scene

(published September 18, 2014)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. Photo: Rolling Stone, Scott Legato/Getty Images
Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. Photo: Rolling Stone, Scott Legato/Getty Images

We all know that Oberlin’s vibrant music scene extends beyond the borders of the conservatory building. Tons of awesome bands that come to the Cat and the Sco, and so many bands had members who went to Oberlin! A few that come to mind are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Deerhoof, Liz Phair, Lucy Wainwright, and many others.

As a first-year, I was super excited to come to Oberlin, and I had only heard incredible things about music in the College. I looked forward to playing bass with people from a multitude of musical backgrounds.

In my experience, a lot of the musical exploration that happens for College students takes place in informal jam sessions, or as independent projects. All are wonderful opportunities, but be aware that the related logistics can be more complex than originally meets the eye.

Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Finding People

Ask people in your dorm and friends of friends if they play an instrument! What kind of music do they like playing? Have they played in a band before? Do they write music? What do they listen to? Coffee-dates at Slow Train with new potential musical partners are wonderful, as are those special brushing-your-teeth-together times.

A note about playing with Conservatory students: They are incredible. (Obviously.) Playing with them is a dream. But do not assume (as I once did—and we all know, that means you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”) that they’ll be able and make the time to play with you, just because they also love playing music. Conservatory students are just as busy as College students are with their readings or labs. Instead of that time in the Compsci lab, they spend a lot of time practicing, playing in ensembles, or performing in shows. Some of these things will inevitably conflict with your free time.

Amps and cords

Bring them—the more portable, the better!


If your musical endeavors require drums, start looking for a drummer NOW. Be aware that very few drummers actually bring their entire set to school if they’re not in the Conservatory.

Finding a space

If you’re looking for somewhere to work independently or in a small acoustic-y group, there are practice rooms in a few dorms—for example, in Burton basement, and on the first floor of Kahn.

Conservatory-wise, this gets a little complicated. If you’re practicing individually, you can rehearse in any of the practice rooms on the second and third floors of Robertson.

Rock bands and other larger College-specific bands also rehearse on the fourth floor of

Wilder, and if you get there early enough in a semester, you can permanently reserve a storage closet as well (what a godsend—you’ll never have to lug your heavy things like amps around again!). Just FYI: you need to reserve a room about a week in advance at the Wilder front desk.


There are several great places to look for gigs:

Cover band showcase! WOBC hosts a cover band showcase each semester, where you and your group can play 3 or 4 songs by a favorite group of choice. Check WOBC for more information.

Classifieds! Lots of people from around the area post here looking for individual musicians or groups to play small parties and such.

Co-ops and parties! Sometimes live bands play at parties. Ask around—you never know who’s looking for bands!

Other student organizations! Hillel and others host various parties, and sometimes they’re looking for live music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s