Middlebury Musicians United Makes a Music Scene

By Noah Stone

The music scene here at the College is leaving its underground home for the center stage, as Middlebury Musicians United (also known as MMU) provides a new venue for campus performers.

MMU’s main goal is to bring student music to the Middlebury community. They currently manage a rehersal space in the facilities building and a recordining studio in the Stephen A. Freeman International Center.

In MMU’s latest initiative to promote campus musicians, they launched an event called Wednesday Night Open-Mic Night (WOMP) — taking place every week at the Gamut Room.  Students sit on couches throughout the cozy space, eating  warm crepes, making small talks as they wait in anticipation for performers to step onto the stage like Nellie Pierce ’16.5 — who wowed the crowd last Wednesday in WOMP’s inaugural night.

“When I first came to campus there wasn’t a music scene,” Mitchell Parrish ‘14, the head of MMU, said. “Three years ago, there were only a few student bands on campus.”

As a sophomore, Parrish formed Thank God For Mississippi, an Appalachian jam band, which has become a prominent group on campus the last few years. Over the past several semesters, the student run, underground music scene at the College has grown tremendously, with the formation of bands like Stoop Kid, Boat Taxi, Iron Eyes Cody, Will Cuneo’s Band and Alpenglow.

MMU is at the center of much of this recent activity, as a network for connecting student musicians.

“MMU is the Facebook for music,” Parrish said. “It puts bands together.”

MMU’s primary initiative is to unite students who play instruments and encourage them to make music. The group is responsible for coordinating the two band rooms on campus, as well as many student performances.

The practice room under the smokestack of the Biomass plant contains a drum set, a PA system, amplifiers for instruments and lockers for students to store their equipment. The room is almost always occupied on weekday nights. With a simple go-link click, (“go/practice”), students can schedule to play music whenever the room is free.

The second space, a recording studio under the Freeman International Center, has a more substantial amount of equipment, with a great drum-set, more microphones, amplifiers and a separate room with a computer for mastering music. This space (accessed through “go/record”) has been used to record and produce many student bands, such as Iron Eyes Cody and Thank God For Mississippi.

Though these two facilities, supervised and managed by MMU, are crucial spaces to bring student musicians together, more can be done to encourage and increase participation by all students in the musical activity that often goes under-recognized on campus. Students like Parrish see opportunities such as WOMP, which will be happening every Wednesday night this semester, as the next step – a way of bringing musicians and listeners together in an informal setting.

“People love the idea of getting together to watch live music,” Rob Shaw ’16 of Iron Eyes Cody said. “People are very quick to engage with that. People want to be in that communal setting where they can drop their boundaries and share in a musical experience.”

Clearly, the student music scene has grown in the last couple years on campus. With the growth of student bands and opportunities for listening that WOMP provides, in the next semester the College will hopefully begin to see more musicians like Pierce, who had never performed for an audience until last Wednesday.