As annual debates over educational and social superiority resurface between Stanford and Cal college students amid the thrill of the Large Recreation, the tradition surrounding pupil bands and musicians on the two universities suggests the Bay’s infamous collegiate rivals have extra in widespread than meets the attention — or the ear, for that matter.
Whereas the Bay Space’s prime universities entice their justifiable share of pc science whizzes and electrical engineers, Stanford and Berkeley additionally boast an equally vibrant neighborhood of musicians, together with many which can be classically skilled.
Stanford bed room pop artist EASHA (Easha Nandyala ’24) is understood for her discography of “manufactured melancholy.” She discovered her voice whereas coaching in basic Indian repertoire and now has a social media following of 57,000 on Instagram. Equally, lead singer and founding father of Berkeley’s different indie group The Pansies, Bella Sonen ’27, skilled in classical opera and cello earlier than turning her abilities over to the cathartic influences of boygenius and Adrianne Lenker.
In accordance with Sidd Wali ’25, saxophonist for Stanford’s “dad rock of each era” band, Common Consumption, the convenience with which college students transition from classical repertoire to pop is a testomony to the technical prowess plentiful on The Farm.
“When you’ve gotten so many gifted musicians who know learn how to play so nicely, it’s straightforward to change them right into a pop setting,” Wali stated. “I feel that’s why we’re seeing so many individuals pop up — there’s a lot expertise right here that wasn’t utilized earlier than.”
Ty Hosein ’26, lead singer of Stanford’s jazz pop and neo soul group Six of Spades, feels that pupil talents have gone under-utilized as an unlucky aspect impact of Stanford’s post-pandemic insurance policies, which implicitly discouraged the formation of bands within the transition again on campus.
“It was onerous to get gigs getting back from the pandemic, so folks had been taking part in totally free,” Hosein stated. “It’s nice they received to play, however cultivating a tradition of taking part in totally free — for publicity — isn’t what you need as an artist.”
Creating pupil bands will be robust in a barren musical neighborhood. At Stanford, some bands established their preliminary presences exterior of pupil social scenes.
When Common Consumption was began in 2022, “there wasn’t a lot of a band ecosystem,” Wali stated. “There weren’t many events to play at, so it didn’t make sense. We had been taking part in loads of gigs totally free.”
Regardless of early setbacks, curiosity within the student-run music neighborhood appears to be choosing up velocity as college students have the possibility to attend extra pupil band performances. Such was the case with Six of Spades’s headline present at this 12 months’s Admit Weekend, Spade Rade. In accordance with Six of Spades drummer Sid Yu ’26, the occasion impressed a gaggle of present frosh jazz musicians to kind their very own band. Seeing new sparks ignite in underclassmen brings achievement to a few of the early post-pandemic pioneers.
“Lots of new bands are popping up,” Wali stated. “Now there’s a robust band ecosystem, which is what we needed. We had been a part of the unique wave. It’s cool to see it paying off.”
Throughout the Bay, Berkeley’s band tradition stays comparatively small and informal, which could be a power, in keeping with Jillian Flynn. Flynn is the lead singer of The Sizzling Teas, Cal’s one-stop store for Mariah Carey hits and neo-nineties bliss.
“There are only a few bands on campus, and most of them find yourself taking part in for Greek life. We’ve got loads of DJs right here; reside music isn’t as large compared,” Flynn stated. “I feel it’s cool that there are solely a few bands. We get to carry out with one another. There are much more alternatives to be referred to as upon for reveals.”
Miles Griffin ’27, guitarist for The Pansies, stated they benefit from the intimate, “laid again” music tradition on campus.
Whereas the extremely curated environments of Stanford and Berkeley provide distinctive sources for rising, like-minded artists, additionally they pose distinctive challenges for these with long-term musical aspirations. Forming a band inside a extremely musically proficient pupil physique is barely the tip of the iceberg of hurdles; for one, Nandyala feels that rising grind tradition and world-class lecturers search to “discourage the inventive mindset.”
“Persons are so busy right here. It’s onerous to ingrain the extent of ardour you’ve gotten [for music] onto others once they have drawback units they care about,” Nandyala stated. “There’s one thing about being in a band that goes far the place you want that factor of getting nothing to lose — that factor of ridiculousness — which isn’t actually on campus proper now.”
For Wali, the impermanent nature of Stanford’s band tradition reinforces his appreciation for the artform.
“Pursuing music at Stanford is realizing the entire time that it isn’t end-all-be-all,” Wali stated. Common Consumption has all the time been momentary. The truth that it’s going to finish in some unspecified time in the future makes me get pleasure from each efficiency and rehearsal we now have — it retains me current.”
Jacob Isrow, drummer for Berkeley’s The Sizzling Teas, as an alternative views his dedication to music in the long run, whether or not that be within the type of an official band or by way of different means.
“Music shouldn’t be the sort of factor you surrender. It adjustments types,” Isrow stated. “Folks will discover other ways to maintain it of their lives, however I feel I converse for everybody [in the band] after I say it’s a non-negotiable.”
Whatever the longevity of their pursuits, Stanford and Berkeley bands expressed frustration with the rehearsal amenities and useful resource allocation at their universities. In accordance with Six of Spades keyboardist Kai Charp ’26, pianos which can be out there throughout campus are out of tune. This consists of the tiny upright piano he and his 5 bandmates use to rehearse in considered one of Braun Music Heart’s compact, three-person observe rooms.
Not solely are rehearsal devices minimally maintained; rehearsal areas are additionally onerous to come back throughout, since pupil bands can’t register to make use of them, in keeping with Charp. His trombonist bandmate Andrew Zhang ’26 added that there are two rooms allotted for formally registered pupil music teams.
The Sizzling Teas and different pupil bands at Berkeley don’t obtain monetary compensation from the college, as they don’t seem to be “university-affiliated” organizations. Observe rooms are additionally usually too small to accommodate the sizes of the bands, in keeping with Griffin.
“We’ve purchased all of our personal tools,” Flynn stated. “The college has observe rooms that college students pay to lease. We don’t use these rooms.”
Stanford and the College of California, Berkeley didn’t present remark.
Regardless of the obstacles they face in buying enough rehearsal amenities and assist, Stanford and Berkeley bands preserve the colourful, usually eccentric tradition that surrounds their presence on campus.
The bands implement distinctive traditions to announce their presence and put together for performances on their respective campuses. Miscellaneous taking part in playing cards flashing a six of spades are scattered all through Stanford’s campus. The Sizzling Teas pat their bassist, Francesca Estrada, on the pinnacle for good luck previous to Row performances.
In accordance with the musicians, pupil bands play an integral position in strengthening the broader campus neighborhood. For Wali, watching reside instrumentalists “creates a better neighborhood than listening to a DJ set” as a result of it’s a extra “tangible” and intimate expertise.
“On the finish of the day, unbridled by the biases of being musicians, it’s about pupil life and college students with the ability to get pleasure from reside music,” stated Six of Spades guitarist Jules Jackson ’26. “That requires funding, house for reside music to occur, house for reside music to be rehearsed. It’s attainable with the appropriate sources. You’ll be able to’t neglect it.”
Andrew Zhang ’26 writes for The Every day.