In a musty rental house basement, student bands make “faces melt and grandmas cry,” a musician claimed.

The subculture of Keene State College associated musicians and their friends gather in whatever location they can scrape up to freely enjoy each other’s talent and the community it has formed.

Three KSC students and their bands performed at an out of town benefit concert for The Arts Center in Sharon, N.H., on Saturday, Oct. 11. The “Night of Music at the Arts Center” event raised money for community art classes regulated by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

“This was the third fundraiser for The Art Center since 2012,” commented Ryan Mullahy, the orchestrator of the benefit show, resident of Peterborough, N.H. and guitarist of the band Veil.

Veil, created by Mullahy and drummer, KSC junior Nicky Jadaszewski, contributed a bit of their niche, “instrumental space rock” sound to the show.

Mullahy described the purpose of the benefit concert as an opportunity to “have fun and welcome all types of music for a good cause.”

In forming a band with a KSC student, Mullahy found it was helpful that Jadaszewski had opportunities to meet other musicians to collaborate and play gigs together.

Jadaszewski explained, “We want to influence people to hold up a music community with a lot of integrity.”

She said that she loves the kinship she feels when connecting with her audience and fellow KSC musicians.

Olivia Schiaffo / Equinox Staff

Olivia Schiaffo / Equinox Staff

One example of a successful collaboration with another KSC musician is with junior Chris Wardlaw, guitar performance major and solo artist PALEHORSES. Wardlaw also performed at The Arts Center benefit concert this weekend. The avant garde classical guitarist met Jadaszewski when the two were in their first year at KSC and they have since played shows together.

Recent KSC graduate Nick Votruba, bassist of the Keene-based band Jake McKelvie and the Countertops, explained, “No matter how good you think you are, there’s always something you can do better by watching other musicians.”

Jake McKelvie and the Countertops, described as “goofy, crunchy pop,” also played in the Sharon Arts fundraiser. Keene resident Jake McKelvie, KSC junior Matt Bacon and Votruba are well acquainted with Veil and PALEHORSES.

“The Countertops are really doing something for the community,” Wardlaw asserted. At a recent show, “All eighty audience members knew all of the words and sang them emphatically. They’re the only band around here that has a solid fan base that listens to their record… It’s important for music to inspire people.”

“Keene was our start. It gave us a good place to test the waters of society with our rock and the water felt great,” Votruba said.

“Everyone in Keene has always been nice to us and it’s cool to have a relationship with the people we play for on a regular basis. At first we had a good response while playing the first few shows for some of Nick’s [Votruba] KSC classmates and that was encouraging for us to expand and tour. If Keene hadn’t been so nice, we wouldn’t have been so eager to show other people our music,” McKelvie, the Countertops vocalist, explained, “I’m happy to be part of it here, even though I am not a student.”

Being a full time student and a musician is more straining, but worth it, Bacon added.

“It’s busy. School and shows and work is a lot to do but we meet a lot of people which is pretty awesome. I love it and make room for it in my schedule.”

The drummer joined McKelvie and Votruba in 2012 as a first-year at KSC.

McKelvie said he had conflicting opinions about the Keene student music scene.

“It’s really great to play these basement shows, but I have never understood why people want to see the same bands every weekend playing in the same places. I wish there was a little more variety, such as touring bands, which a music venue would be conducive for.”

Since the 2012 closing of Keene’s primary local music venue, The Starving Artist, local house shows and ones on the college campus seem to be the limiting under-21 options for year-round student band concerts.

Some musicians implied that although music is an asset valued in Keene’s community, many KSC student audience members treat student band basement performances as a frat-party alternative.

“We can’t control people,” McKelvie pointed out, referring to when house show audiences become boorish.

“They’re not real shows, they’re parties,” Wardlaw said.

In short, Wardlaw explained that basements are not ideal venues for performers seeking a professional performance atmosphere.

These student musicians are not alone in believing that music is a crucial tool that can bridge college students to the greater Keene community.

Even Keene State College President Anne Huot agreed.

“Walking down Appian Way and hearing a student jam on a guitar or play a horn lifts my spirits,” Huot claimed. Music and art forms in a social, on campus setting is what the KSC President described as, “Part of the liberal arts college experience and we need more of it, within the boundaries of the college’s capacity.”

Student musicians who want their music to be received by a well-mannered audience need a regulated space that would keep the show’s ambience cultivated, rather than an environment that allows a house concert to evolve into an uninspired college blowout.

Wardlaw argued, “All we need is an eighteen-plus venue for one-hundred to one-hundred-and-fifty people. No alcohol would be served, just a big room with basic equipment in the center of town with a smart, dedicated person running it.”

Wardlaw added that an all-inclusive, strictly artistic venue is the quintessential aspect needed for a perfected student music setting. Students and town residents alike could share this enriching space.

KSC voice professor Diane Cushing, director of the Greater Keene Pops Choir, said she has seen how influential music is in fostering relationships between students and town residents. She said she’d love to see more of this in the future.

“Someone needs to be an instigator but students are very busy,” Cushing explained.

Yet these musical outlet opportunities for student talent showcasing on campus seem to be worth the risk of overloaded schedules.

According to KSC Junior Alicia Berry, the Concert Coordinator of the Student Activities Council, in the past, students could sign up to perform for “The Pumpkin Lobotomy, the annual Coffee House and talent shows in the Night Owl Cafe.”

Berry said she understood that student music could be implemented more as campus events. “This year I am more confident in creating and actualizing ideas … There is so much talent here on campus and in addition to bringing talent from elsewhere, we should showcase more of the KSC talent already here.”

“I’m glad to have my name out there because I don’t know all of the student bands and I am always looking for something new,” Berry stated, “Everybody knows someone who can do something … Musicians need to reach out to make this opportunity a reality,” Berry commented.

In an informal poll on Appian Way, only two out of the 15 students asked had heard of some KSC student band names when listed. Only one student knew of WKNH 91.3, Keene State College’s student radio station. As McKelvie articulated, “More people should try to put in the slightest bit of effort to listen to and know what’s going on musically around town and on campus because a little goes a long way. Keep your eyes peeled.”


Olivia Schiaffo can be contacted at

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