The University of Chicago is no music conservatory, but you can still be serious about music—if you are willing to do it on your own time. The campus is teeming with musical groups and organizations run both
by students and by the University itself.
On the University side, the Music Department runs several groups enlisting musicians with a wide range of skill levels, interests, and instruments. Classical programs dominate and include multiple orchestras, choruses, and chamber music ensembles.
The music department also offers a few alternative ensembles, including the Jazz X-tet and the Central Javanese Gamelan. The gamelan ensemble consists of a group of Indonesian holy percussion instruments that produce a rain-like sound. With only one show each year, Central Javanese Gamelan is not to be missed. If you’re intrigued, check out chicagogamelan.org for details about the free classes offered every Tuesday between October 12 and November 16.
There are plenty of other opportunities to hear music on campus. The Major Activities Board (MAB) brings a big-name band or performer to campus every quarter, and in the spring quarter more than one is usually featured at the highly anticipated Summer Breeze festival. Recent acts include Cake, Nas, Spoon, and Dirty Projectors.
Students are in charge of every aspect of the shows MAB puts on.
“For people on the Board, it’s definitely a lot of business,” MAB member and fourth-year Marie Joh said. “For set up, early in the day, we start at 7:30 in the morning, and that’s like a straight shift, we work all day.” The work has perks though; a few lucky MAB members get to pick up the artists at the airport.
Any student can participate in the planning by e-mailing suggestions to the Board. “Everybody on the Board got an Excel spreadsheet with all the suggestions that have been presented to us. The board members look over it, and when we make our own list, we keep in mind what other people have suggested to us,” Joh said. To get involved, visit mab1.uchicago.edu.
No article about music on campus could be complete without mentioning the student group that broadcasts it on the radio: WHPK. If you want people to listen to what you tell them to, WHPK is the place to be, and if you want to hear your classmates on the air, tune in to 88.5 FM. Visit whpk.org to pick up the stream, or to find out how to apply for a show.
DJs come from the student body, the Hyde Park community, and some from the rest of Chicago. “It’s one of the few things on campus that combines [students and community members] to provide music selections and different points of view that you normally don’t hear on the mainstream radio,” former WHPK station manager and fourth-year Naiara Testai said.
Besides broadcasting music 24 hours a day, WHPK also brings in Chicago bands to play live sets in a show called Pure Hype every Friday night.
And finally, if a cappella groups with catchy monikers really are your thing, you’ll have your pick on campus: Choose from Ransom Notes, Unaccompanied Women, and Rhythm and Jews.