The Gustavian Weekly

Spotlight on: Music in the Courtyard | The Gustavian Weekly

By Anh Tran - Staff Writer | November 30, 2018 | Variety

The Courtyard Café has been popular among Gusties not only as a place to grab coffee, to have little chat with friends, or to do homework, but also as a regular venue for musical performances.

The Gustavus Music Collective and the Gustavus Jazz Combos hold their concerts in the Courtyard Café on Tuesday and Friday nights, respectively.

Unlike larger conducted ensembles, both of these musical groups consist of student musicians who perform in less formal contexts and closer to the audience.

According to their statement of purpose, the Gustavus Music Collective is “a group of individuals who [love music and] are willing to [organize and participate in] musical performances, other than those [taken] for credit, and are … eager to [engage in musical activities] on and off campus.”

The Gustavus Music Collective is an official student organization at Gustavus Adolphus College. Their president this semester is Senior Psychology Major Jayna Davis. Davis also minors in music and has been part of the Music Collective over her last three years at Gustavus Adolphus College.

According to Davis, the Gustavus Music Collective works as a management organization of independent student artists. They recruit student artists and connect them with opportunities to perform.

“We want to create an outlet for them to perform and share [their work]. Different from bands or choirs where you are given the music to learn, [the Music Collective] is the space for musicians to perform their own creative works and also their creative covers of other people’s songs and modern popular music and whatever they want.” Davis said.

The Open Mic Night hosted by the Collective frequently takes place in the Courtyard. It is their flagship event, as well as their starting point for “creating outlets” for artists who would love to share their creative works.

In a typical Open Mic Night, artists from the Collective come and share their works. Songwriters sing or play their songs, poets read their poems, and singers sing covers of their favorite artists.

The Open Mic Night this last Tuesday has showcased original and cover songs from independent singers, songwriters, and music producers who are or are not members of the Music Collective. Due to their free spirit, the Open Mic Night welcomes artists to come in and perform prior to the event without notice.

Picking the Courtyard Café as the venue for the Open Mic Nights, the Gustavus Collective hopes to create a relaxed and “chill” atmosphere for everyone to feel free to express themselves through music and to enjoy the music.

“[The Courtyard Café] creates a chill atmosphere. For a lot of people who are interested in the Music Collective, they have never performed in front of a lot of people before, so it’s a great opportunity to give people their first performance experience. The Courtyard is an intimate space where people can hang out, chat, drink some coffee, so it’s low pressure and it’s a nice atmosphere for some acoustic music,” Davis said.

Like the Gustavus Music Collective, the Open Mic Nights are “open to anyone,” at all levels of experience. Artists who would like to join the Music Collective or to perform in Open Mic Nights do not have to have previous experience in performing.

This group is “for people who are curious about performing or want to be creative about their music and express themselves through music,” and the Courtyard Café provides them “a great atmosphere for people who come to enjoy the music.”

With “lower pressure, lower stake, lower commitment,” the Gustavus Music Collective hopes their Open Mic Nights provide many more unestablished artists with opportunities to present to the public their first performances.

Unlike the Music Collective artists who are totally independent in their creative works, the Jazz Combos are coach ensembles.

“The combos are coached ensembles, rather than conducted groups…meaning that I offer feedback and guidance while they count themselves off and communicate in the spur of the moment,” Dr. Dave Stamps, Director of Jazz Studies and Coach of the Jazz Combos, said.

Dr. Stamps introduced the Jazz Combos as “small jazz chamber groups made up of three or four horns and a rhythm section. They play a mix of standard jazz “tunes” and original compositions and arrangements. The Jazz Combos are about a third of the rise of the larger Gustavus and Adolphus Jazz Ensembles and focus more on improvisation.”

Unlike larger jazz ensembles at Gustavus Adolphus College, the Jazz Combos focus more on the free spirit and the momentous and improvisational attitude of jazz music. They aim to create the jazz experience closest to the jazz experienced in “real-world” contexts, which also explains their reason for picking Courtyard as the venue for their concert this Friday.

“The Courtyard Cafe is a great venue for the combos because it is similar to a “real world” situation. Most professional jazz chamber groups perform in coffee shops, clubs, and smaller venues. It is also centrally located on campus and allows for the students to be heard by a larger percentage of the student body in a casual setting.” Dr. Stamps said.

Other than being a suitable venue for a jazz group, the Courtyard Café also helps promote jazz, a genre popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This genre has evolved a lot yet still retains its free spirit which centers on improvisation. Hopefully, performed in such a popular venue as the Courtyard Café, jazz will attract more attention from the campus community.

Gusties interested in casual musical performances should check out the Gustavus Music Collective and the Gustavus Jazz Combos for their (future) concerts, which are all open and free to the public.

There will be another Open Mic Night by the Gustavus Music Collective in December. They will put out the dates soon so those interested should keep an eye out. The Music Collective are always looking for new members and performers, so Gusties who are interested in joining the group or performing in their Open Mic Night in December are welcome to reach out.