What’s the difference between lecturing and performing in a rock band? Whatever it may be, according to Chair of the Economics Department Gil Skillman, faculty members are hardly fazed by it.
“It’s not really strange to play in front of our students, though maybe that’s just because we’ve gotten used to it,” Skillman said. “We’ve always found that the student audiences on campus get more into the music than typical audiences off-campus—more dancing, interaction, and overall energy.”
The faculty band scene on campus started with the Irrationals, which included Vice President for Finance and Administration, John Meerts, Joanne Agostinelli, who is now retired from ITS, Physical Plant Senior Project Coordinator, Brandi Hood, and Skillman.
But faculty bands are hardly bound to convention. The Irrationals split into the Mojo Bandits with Skillman, Hood, and Dean Louise Brown’s husband Paul Horton; and an acoustic band called the Remainders, made up of the remaining Irrationals. While in the Mojo Bandits, Skillman was invited to join Busted Roses, which included Professor of mathematics and computer science, Eric Aaron, Brown, Horton, and Director of the College of the Environment, Barry Chernoff.
“[Busted Roses] really did draw on a wide range of influences that was reflected in our music: in addition to rock we also did blues, soul, cajun, Irish, New Orleans, country, and some original music by Barry and by me,” Skillman said.
A year ago Busted Roses split into a primarily acoustic ensemble called the Clover Street Band—you may have caught them at Fallapalooza—that includes Chernoff, Professor of sociology Rob Rosenthal, Dean Brown and her husband; and an electric band called the Combustors, of which Skillman is the only Wesleyan member, although Chernoff and other Wesleyan members sit in with them from time to time.
“Professor Chernoff and I are also in a string band called (this week, anyway) the Mattabesset String Collective, along with Prof. [Mark] Eisner of Government, Kevin Wiliarty from ITS, and Rebecca McCallum from Olin library,” said Skillman.
Chernoff plays guitar, Skillman plays dobro, Eisner plays mandolin, Wiliarty plays acoustic bass guitar, and McCallum plays fiddle. They will be playing at Pumpkin Fest this weekend for the second year running.
Faculty members have been inspired by Wesleyan’s music scene and President Michael Roth has even deemed his experienced with bands on campus, “heavenly.”
Although Roth conceded that his fellow musicians are more musically talented, that has not stopped him from playing with jazz groups, rock bands, and “a mean tambourine with pep band.”