Student News

Freedom to Explore: Garrett Crusan ’23

Originally from Pennsylvania, Garrett Crusan ’23 has been making music since childhood. They started by playing the piano before moving on to the drums, guitar, and bass. They transferred from the Jazz Studies program at a university in New York City to Bennington in their sophomore year.

Band Surgeon General, including Jaren Gallo ’25, Harry Zucker ’23, Garrett Crusan ’23, and Laila Smith ’25
Surgeon General, including Jaren Gallo ’25, Harry Zucker ’23, Garrett Crusan ’23, and Laila Smith ’25

“Living in the city was a little overwhelming,” Crusan said. “It was a big student body with a lot of pressure in the department.” Plus, they add, “I wanted to do a lot more than just play jazz and play the drums.” 

With new freedom to explore other intellectual interests, Crusan has studied songwriting, poetry, and literature with a little visual arts and photography thrown in. 

They have worked with Music faculty member Senem Pirler on sound design, experimental sound practices, sound recording and mixing, “spacey abstract things for scoring video or combining with visual elements,” they explained. 

“She’s been a great mentor for learning about synthesizers and how to mix audio,” they said.

The switch has allowed them to embrace their indie rock sensibility with their four-person band, Surgeon General. They and their bandmates owe the band’s name to a time crunch imposed during a class with Music Faculty Kitty Brazelton.

“She sent us this email that was like, ‘We need your band names by 5 pm today, so we can put them in the music letter,” Crusan recollects. “The drummer, my good friend Harry, and I, we were just like spitballing all of these names.” When they arrived at Surgeon General, they said, “That one’s fine. That one’s fine.”

In their music, Crusan aims to balance experimentation, including sound design elements, with listenability. 

That has been a big thing for me here,” they explain. “To bridge the gap between experimentation and accessibility for myself, being able to experiment as far out as I want while still maintaining something that I would want to listen to. 

The other major lesson has been about collaboration. For their senior show, Crusan gathered their three other band mates and some ensemble members, including those on synthesizer, strings, and piano, to arrange songs together. Lighting designers, set designers, sound techs and others got involved, too, to create an experience beyond any that they could have imagined. 

“The whole idea of the show is that I came in with a very general idea of what things might look like, and I try my best to give any member of the band or any member of the crew complete creative control over their piece,” Crusan said. “It felt wrong to call it my senior show, because everybody wrote their own part and designed their own thing out of their mind, not mine.”

They are grateful for the range and diversity of talent they have found among the faculty and fellow students. 

Everyone here is so good at so many things. It is mind blowing to me, coming from a place that was so hyper focused on being really good at one thing, to come to a place where everyone is wearing all of these different hats and trading all of these parts and roles. It is just really cool.

They continued, “It is equally challenging and inspiring to be surrounded by such endlessly creative people. Every day I wake up, and I think, ‘Woah.’ I feel this pressing need to make things. Being in a community where everyone feels that way is super great.” 

Crusan’s culminating senior work was a live album. Apart from the collaborative experience of making the show itself, the album uses “music and loudness and performance as a way to deal with or transcend really difficult emotions like grief and loss,” Crusan said. 

Their Plan includes mixing and mastering the live recording and eventually releasing it. Friends documented the rehearsal process and the show itself digitally and on tape. In addition to the live album, they plan to make a concert film. 

“It’s just a look into what college bands are like and what they do and what that whole process is like,” Crusan said. 

They hope to continue making music, as many Bennington graduates before them have. 

“There’s really great music that comes out of here. There’s like electro pop bands and indie bands and rock bands that come out of Bennington,” they said.  “If I can do that after I graduate and maintain myself somehow, I will be really happy.”  

To learn more about studying music at Bennington, visit the music page. For information about becoming a student at Bennington, visit