Students Give Informal Underground Concerts


Mike Plotz

A small audience gathers to hear a student play guitar as part of a weekly open mic in Burton Hall basement. Conservatory first-year Garrick Olsen hosts the informal concert series every Thursday.

Brianna Di Monda

Burton Hall doesn’t possess a traditional performance space, but this hasn’t stopped Conservatory firstyear Garrick Olsen from organizing concerts in the basement of Burton every Thursday evening. These informal concerts are meant to provide students with a low-stress environment in which to share their music, free from the traditionally high-pressure atmosphere of the concert hall.

Olsen began performing solo concerts in Burton during the first week of the school year as a way for him to become more comfortable performing in front of an audience. Soon after, however, he invited other students to join him at the suggestion of his friend, Conservatory first-year Milo Talwani. Since the initial concert, attendance has risen from a modest two or three students to about 20, and musicians of all years and styles are welcome to perform. To date, Olsen has welcomed students performing jazz, folk, freestyle rap, classical piano, electronic music, and even a punk rock band, Your Older Sister’s Girlfriend, to appear in the basement performances.

“I just wanted to share music with people on a regular basis,” Olsen said. “To have that regular concert that people could just go to and hear new, good music is cool because there are a lot of good musicians here.” Talwani was the first “guest artist” to perform at Olsen’s weekly concerts and has played there three times since. He originally suggested opening up the concerts to Olsen because he wanted to provide a space for people to perform in a stress free setting.
“It seemed pretty natural to me to open it up because there’s something cool about being able to provide a space for people to perform,” Talwani said. “It’s nice to be working towards building a community and helping support people [sharing] their music.”

The location and informality is designed to allow people to experiment with what they showcase and to provide a safe space for musicians of varying performance levels.

“The real draw for me about the concerts is that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to perform nonclassical music in a regular, formalized setting,” Talwani said. “You can get on the occasional house show here, but this is a regularly occurring thing that is easily accessible. … It’s nice to be working towards building a community and helping support people.”

Talwani noted that the choice of venue adds to the informal nature of the concerts. “There’s something really cool about playing in the basement because, quite frankly, it’s not a good concert venue,” he said. “The acoustics aren’t good, you don’t have a lot of control over the lighting and there aren’t seats that are pointed towards you. It’s more informal and more DIY than performing at a house.”

College first-year Brielle Hutchison also cited the relaxed environment as a strong draw for students. “It’s cool to see people perform in such a relaxed setting,” Hutchison said. “I feel like everyone can do more out-there things at these performances because there are just fewer expectations here than even at house shows, where there are generally already no expectations.”

Olsen does not currently have a plan for expanding or continuing the concerts in future years, but said that he wants to keep organizing them for at least the remainder of this academic year. “I haven’t thought too far in advance, but I’m definitely keeping it up through this year because I like it so much,” Olsen said. “I don’t know if I’d change the venue my sophomore year or anything. I do like the space right now because it’s rather informal and comfortable.”

Interested students can usually contact Olsen directly if they want to play at the concerts. So far, Olsen has known all of the performers prior to their Burton debut, but he’s happy to expand the concerts beyond his friends. “Usually I contact people to play, but people also ask me if they can play at them as well. … I usually know them beforehand, at least on a first-name basis,” Olsen said.

The next basement concert is set for Thursday, Nov. 13, and may feature a screamo band tentatively titled Screams Will Never Die But You Will.