Student News

A Sky Full of Stars

Senior projects in music

At 7:00 pm on a chilly late February evening, thirteen seniors studying music gathered in the Jennings Music Building under the direction of music faculty member Joseph Alpar. It’s one of the first sessions of a class meant to help students produce their advanced work. Many aim to produce a concert in May. 

As the students introduced themselves and their work, it became clear that they are neither solo musicians or members of discrete bands but rather like a sky full of stars. Many combine with classmates and students outside the class or outside of Bennington to form constellations of performers. For instance, a solo artist gathers musicians to play with. Those same musicians might lead their own band or play in one or more others. 

“I think something that’s really cool about the Bennington music community is how willing a lot of talented instrumentalists are to hop around and play for different people,” said Greta Jensen ’24.  “In my experience, it feels a little less like separate bands than one big venn diagram.” 

Some of the bands are formalized with set rehearsal schedules and gigs, while others are more relaxed. 

“I have a casual band that I am in with my classmate Surabhee here,” said Milo Lis ’24, as they motion to Surabhee Arjunwadkar ’24 sitting next to them. Someone approached them about playing a lesbian-themed concert.  “We emailed a bunch of people and said, do you want to play with us? And it was great.” 

The students have varied levels of experience, too. Some are taking their first crack at songwriting. Arjunwadkar said, “I study voice, mostly classical, and composition, but I would really like to—Pray for me!—write songs and make my own music.” 

Others are already posting music online, playing gigs regularly, and producing albums. Blair Jasper, for instance, writes for their solo songwriting and recording project Bark Dog. They have music on Spotify and released a new album i’ll eat you, i love you, which came out this week and is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp. Izzy Gibson ’24, known musically as Enzo Alto, has nearly 2,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. 

Image of I'll Eat You I Love You album cover
The cover of i'll eat you, i love you, an album by Bark Dog, Blair Jasper '24's solo songwriting and recording project released this week

The multidisciplinary character of the Bennington College education shines through in their work. Jasper studies visual arts in addition to music. “I took my projection classes and songwriting classes and classes where I got to mix my own work.” They will be using all of the elements of their education in their senior work. They are planning to project video onto a “complex and immersive installation of layers of polyethylene sheeting and a solid hanging acrylic sculpture completely surrounding the stage that I’ll be mapping my projections of video art onto, as well as my band.” 

Rather than using non-music concepts in his music work, Gibson is more likely to use music to illustrate his points in non-music classes. 

“The freedom to do that is what makes Bennington special,” said Alpar. 

Marina Fleming added, “Bennington music classes and my independent work started out completely separate when I was a freshman and slowly built their way to being tied together. That’s part of the Plan process. Bennington wants you to experiment with a bunch of different things before you create, which was frustrating as a freshman, but now I get it, and I am grateful for it.” 

For Lis, the Bennington process travels through their music but also beyond it. “The classes give me tools to improve and engage with music and with people. The emphasis on community and creating together is exciting. That pillar of the Bennington education is why we have so many good bands on campus. It makes us better musicians, and it makes us better people.”