The Pink Jalapeno Poppers, a deep-track Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band, snuck into the jazz studio in the Howard Music Building late one Sunday night to rehearse for the 2015 Battle of the Bands. I was the band’s singer. Inspired by the brash vul­garity of the Chili Peppers, we removed our shirts to rehearse some of their more obscure songs. It was what the Chili Peppers would have wanted us to do. After striking the final chord of a ren­dition of “All Around the World”, Chris McCourry, the head of the jazz program, barged into the studio red-faced and yelling. We were not allowed to rehearse there. He wanted to know how we got into his studio.

Pulling on our shirts quickly, we grabbed our amps and high-tailed it out of the room as he con­tinued to berate us. It was a true rock-and-roll moment. And although we were proud of it, getting kicked out of rehearsal indi­cated a larger problem within the Hillsdale music culture. There is no place for rock and roll within the walls of Howard Music Building or any­where else on campus. In a department which per­forms or orga­nizes nearly 100 clas­sical and jazz con­certs each year and speaks proudly of its nearly 33,000 square feet of rehearsal space, there is no place for raw attitude and high decibels.

Despite the clas­sical ten­dencies of the music department, rock and roll is an essential element in an well-rounded musical edu­cation which should engage with both ancient and con­tem­porary forms. Pro­fessor of classics Eric Hutchinson agreed: “I’m glad you’re studying rock and roll instead of this the­ology stuff. That won’t do you any good until you’re at least 30.” Despite the high-collar pur­suits of a scholarly life, pro­fessor of eco­nomics. Ivan Pon­gracic is a well-known surf-rock gui­tarist. He, along with Dr. James Brandon and John Miller, team-taught a course focused on the lyrics of the heavy-metal band Iron Maiden for the Col­le­giate Scholars program.Though the­ology and clas­sical music clearly play a tra­di­tional role in the liberal arts, rock and roll has its place in edu­cation as well.

Each year, six or more bands perform at the Battle of the Bands and the CHP Showdown. They always struggle with the same issue: there is nowhere to rock out. The question is never “Where do you want to rehearse?” it is always “Can we rehearse at all?”

Junior Dean Sin­clair, who has played drums for 10 dif­ferent student bands, expressed his own frus­tra­tions with the lack of rehearsal space.“When Student Activ­ities Board hosts an event, we want to play and we don’t have the resources nec­es­sarily. I can always play alone in the drum room, but if you want to jam with guys outside of the department, it’s hard to col­lab­orate,” he said.

Student Bands perform at the SAB-spon­sored Welcome Party, CHP Showdown, and Cen­tral­Hal­la­Palooza, as well as the Phi Mu Alpha-spon­sored Battle of the Bands and Coffee House events. SAB wants student bands to perform this sort of music at college events, but they do not offer bands the support they need to rehearse properly, which would not require much. Student bands need only a space with elec­trical outlets, a sound system, and a drum set. There is no need for grand pianos, just a place with an unlocked door where bands can col­lab­orate to create artful, deeply felt music without any issues.

The college has two notable prop­erties, the Don­ny­brook and the Boardwalk, that sit vacant as they wait to be demol­ished by the college. The Don­ny­brook served as rehearsal space for many bands over the years, and the living room of the Boardwalk has tall ceilings which handle amplified sound beau­ti­fully. Before the college sends a backhoe to tear down the buildings, they could act as valuable rehearsal space for the time being as the College searches for a more per­manent solution.

Hillsdale College boasts a unique culture of student rock bands which enhance student life. Although student bands perform for free, they often draw larger crowds than the pro­fes­sional acts hired by the SAB. Despite rig­orous aca­demic com­mit­ments, stu­dents bands still yearn to help stu­dents rock out. Hillsdale College should rec­ognize these bands as a cul­tural insti­tution, and give them the rehearsal space they need and deserve.


Mr. Naida is a junior studying English and French.