College student band performing

Listening Closely: Music on Campus with Asa Hoffman

Written by Asa Hoffman

When I came to Hillsdale almost three decades—I mean years, but you know what I’m saying—ago, I was not sure how I would fit in. My high school experience was fraught with a lot of social difficulties, so I was looking forward to college as a way to forge good friendships. I put myself behind the eight ball a bit by transferring in spring semester, which meant many people had already formed their friend groups. After a rough first semester, I was discouraged and unsure if I would be able to make meaningful connections with people. Fortunately, I had forgotten just how powerful music could be in bringing together friends.

I was blessed my sophomore year to play guitar in a band called The Village Idiots, and the shows we played are some of my favorite experiences from college. Whether it was ripping on a solo in Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” or providing the backing for Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” I had the time of my life. As much as it was fun just to play those songs with other students, the most rewarding part by far was the crowd of Hillsdalians singing along to every word at our shows. While playing good music is a fine pursuit in itself, sharing it with your peers is what really makes it a wholesome endeavor.

Through music I met many wonderful people and found that community I was so eager to find upon coming to Hillsdale. One of my favorite aspects of this was that the connections I made with people were unique to each concert. Playing at the tailgate party before the homecoming game was an amazing experience because we got to be the soundtrack for festivities among many generations of the Hillsdale family. On the other hand, moments like the one at Centralhallapalooza where people I did not even know were screaming my name were pretty great as well.

I have been able to watch and be part of so many phenomenal groups that play a broad range of musical styles, including singer-songwriter, classic rock, and Australian punk. This goes to show that our unique interests are part of what make life such a worthwhile journey. Even a nervous performer singing and playing guitar can be a fulfilling event for both musician and audience because it brings them together in a way that a passing conversation would not be able to.

The music played by student bands is sometimes viewed as unrefined and simplistic, missing the mark for the excellence expected of Hillsdale students. While I would never argue that a song like Neon Trees’s love anthem “Everybody Talks” is a masterpiece akin to the repertoire of Beethoven, it is nevertheless an important piece of art. No, it does not offer unique insight on human nature, nor does it contain any novel melodic or harmonic flair, but it also does not seek to do those things; rather, it is a cultural centerpiece around which young people, like those at Hillsdale, can come together in festivity. Just as we need to meditate on the high things, we must also ground ourselves in the vulgar, the everyday, and find joy in it.

Sometimes in our contemplation of the good, true, and beautiful, we forget that the pursuit of these virtues leads to happiness. Whether it is the grind of Hillsdale’s academic rigor or the stresses of daily life, it is easy to stray from joyful living. In moments of distress, music is a timely reminder of the joy we all can know. I am thrilled to be able to share with you my insight on Hillsdale’s music scene and shed light on this part of student life that has been an invigorating force in my college experience. Here on the blog, I will give you the inside scoop on events like Concert on the Quad, Battle of the Bands, and Centralhallapalooza, and I will introduce you to some of the people who make those events so special.

For further reading:

Last Friday Night: Pulling the Curtain on Hillsdale’s Hidden Talents

Classics in the Morning, Classic Rock at Night

Asa Hoffman headshot Asa Hoffman, ’21, is a proud Oregonian who studies politics and music. When he is not working on schoolwork or managing things at the radio station, he is probably formulating his next pretentious take on music. If there is a concert on campus, odds are good that he is playing at it.

Published in November 2020