Now Six Years Old, Feveband Continues to Thrive

Meghan Farnsworth and Will Rubenstein

The student-driven musical collective known as Feveband has been an Oberlin staple since 2006. It serves as an experimental ground where musicians of both the College and Conservatory unite and push themselves in directions where musical academia has not taken hold. It has been handed down as a tradition to new generations of Oberlin musicians, and while its participants may change annually, its values, musical experimentation, student drive and originality remain.

The original Feveband, led by saxophonist Noah Bernstein-Hanley OC ’06, also featured guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, OC ‘10 bassist Christopher Mees, OC ’09, and drummer Alex Ritz. At first, the musicians featured the music of a different composer each week, but soon began to highlight their own original compositions along with the works of multiple artists during one performance.

Serious and committed participation helped this group thrive. When Bernstein-Hanley, OC ’06 left the group in 2008, pianist Sullivan Fortner, OC ’08, took his place, and Bhatia became the band’s leader in 2009. The group has already produced some notable alumni: Fortner is now touring with the Roy Hargrove Quintet in Europe and the United States, and Bhatia has already recorded and produced his own album, Yes It Will. (Former Feveband bassist Jack Hill, OC ’10, is also featured on the album.)

For Bhatia, Feveband was a launchpad for Yes It Will. His compositions on the album were originally for Feveband and involve a great deal of post-production. In Yes It Will, he follows the same values that Feveband highlights — experimentation, originality and creativity — by taking pieces of his compositions and layering them in a way that defies mediocrity.

“Feveband provided the opportunity to regularly learn and arrange repertoire by everyone from John Coltrane to Joanna Newsom,” Bhatia said. “I was able to grow alongside a talented and driven group of artists, several of whom I still collaborate with to this day.”

Feveband is named for its main performance venue, the Feve, which serves as an open atmosphere for any audience member — college student, professor or local community member — to enjoy the music.

“Many people started out coming to the shows to have drinks and socialize with friends, and would eventually experience a connection with the music,” Bhatia said.

Its members now include conservatory students senior William Miller on trumpet, sophomore Shea Pierre piano, sophomore Dan Pappalardo on bass and senior Peter Manheim on drums.

Audiences are almost always avidly and respectfully listening to the musicians and the music. “My time as a member of Feveband gave me confidence that it is possible to reach all kinds of people with experimental music, as long as you let them interact with it on their own terms,” Bhatia said. “And, its infrastructure has all of the necessary ingredients to foster the careers of young artists with a vision.”

Feveband will be performing at 9:30 p.m. this Sunday at the Feve.