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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Tiny Dorm Concerts put self-gov in music

HUNG VUONG. Ronan Brooks, Artis Curiskis and Erhaan Ahmad, all ’18, turned a joke into a campus-wide music forum.

It’s a Saturday night, an hour before Harris. Many Grinnellians, rather than getting ready to go out, stand in respectful silence, waiting for their classmate to finish tuning her guitar. On Saturday, Sept. 3 in Food House, a crowd of students found a worthwhile pregame alternative: something called a Tiny Dorm concert.

This wasn’t the first such phenomena. Tiny Dorm is a student-run concert program started spring semester of 2016 by Erhaan Ahmad, Ronan Brooks and Artis Curiskis, all ’18, as a “student concert, for students, by students, in a student’s space,” as Brooks described.

The idea actually came out of a joke, which ended up being so successful the trio decided to keep the program running, closing out spring semester with six Tiny Dorm shows.

“What if we threw a spoof of NPR Tiny Desk in our dorm?” Curiskis said.

The idea expanded into a way to broaden the music community on campus. They set a goal to move Tiny Dorms around on all three areas of campus and off-campus.

“We never made it to East Campus [last year] though!” Curiskis said. “We’d really, really love to.”

With Ahmad off-campus for the semester, Curiskis and Brooks have stepped up as a two-man team running the program, with Curiskis in charge of outreach, set lists and locations, and Brooks setting up show and audio functions.

Saturday’s show was opened by Emmett Sandberg ’18 with a couple of folk-style songs. Next, The Wellness, a five-person student band, played a set. Finally, Squirrel Flower, the name under which Ella Williams ’19 performs, closed the show.

For Sandberg, the Tiny Dorm concert was his debut show — the first time he’s performed in front of Grinnellians, and only the second time he has ever performed in front of an audience.

“[The supportive nature] of Grinnellians is nice, because you don’t feel that much pressure as a performer, which helps you connect with the crowd and perform better,” Sandberg said. “It’s a very real concert; they have a sound check and two really cool people setting everything up, [and those people] know what they’re doing.”

The Wellness was up next. The band — a five-person ensemble consisting of Nathan Calvin ’18, Jacob Getzoff ’18, Justin Leuba ’18, Michael Owusu ’17 and Corey Simmonds ’17 — was formed last semester by Owusu and Simmonds.

Simmonds describes their sound as “somewhere between funk, rock and RnB [with] blues in there.”

Getzoff, Leuba and Owusu are FreeSound managers this year, and Simmonds is Concerts Chair, so The Wellness was particularly struck by the initiative Brooks and Curiskis have taken in establishing Tiny Dorm.

“As FreeSound managers,” Owusu commented, “[Artis and Ronan’s dedication] is all that we’ve ever wanted. They are breaking an expectation that it’s someone else’s responsibility to host a show.”

Ella Williams, or Squirrel Flower, really enjoyed this edition of Tiny Dorm. She was especially appreciative of an audience-member who took the initiative, when she was asking for financial support for her upcoming EP, to take off their hat and pass it around to collect money.

“I made like 30 dollars, which makes a difference. It was so heartwarming to see because it’s free music, and it’s more of a community than musicians playing to make money, but when people are in need, [others] help them, and that’s incredible; that’s Self-Gov,” Williams said.

When asked what sets Tiny Dorm apart from alternative music outlets on campus, everyone agreed: Self-Gov.

“Artis and Ronan are two pillars of the music community, and they’re leading and demonstrating [Self-Govw] by example,” Leuba said.

Sandberg agreed that Tiny Dorm has helped foster a collaboration between the music scene on campus and what many students have been focused on lately, self-gov.

“Tiny Dorm was set up with the idea that through self-governance, we can make amazing music happen. We’re going to put on concerts in these tiny spaces that people call home, and we’re going to be respectful. Tiny Dorm is different because it’s not a public space; it’s someone’s space,” Sandberg said.

At the end of the day, Tiny Dorm has created another unique and fun forum for students to share their music and their talent on campus.

“Tiny Dorm [encourages] people — who are or aren’t musical — to host a show in their own space,” Owusu said. “[They become] involved in the student music community and what they want the music on their campus to be.”

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