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Off the Beat with Ellie Houghtaling: Purchase Breeds Creators

by Ellie Houghtaling

In the last few months my brother Liam moved cross-country to live in Los Angeles. Raised in New York, music consumed every aspect of his life; it took precedence in middle school, high school, and when he ultimately went to college to study music, he dropped out because he felt he wasn’t producing enough. He navigated his desires from beat making to music production to being part of a number of bands. He played festivals and small gigs and had articles written about both kinds of performances. In short, he had hit a lot of milestones as a local musician, but in the last few years Liam decided that New York wasn’t where he could fulfill his dreams and he, like many young artists, flew out like a migrant bird to achieve them on the West Coast.

Since he left I’ve been a bit more alone. Yet in some twisted irony, that loneliness has not driven me to contact him more often. Nonetheless, a couple weeks ago I prioritized talking to him – for the first time in a while – and he shared something with me that was completely unexpected coming from an experience in Los Angeles, and made me feel like he wasn’t that far away after all.

Amongst other things, Liam told me that he had been hanging out with an acquaintance who insisted they attend a concert in Echo Park, a neighborhood known for its indie music scene. The acquaintance led the both of them to see lo-fi band Lvl Up, a group my brother knew very little about at the time. While talking about the background of Lvl Up, this acquaintance expressed to Liam that “they emerged out of the Purchase scene” in 2011. Liam was taken aback by this, as he had no idea that the name of this college had such reach. By revealing that his sister attends Purchase he was able to gain access to meet the band. While this cool turn of events provided him access to an unanticipated musical encounter, what was most revelatory was that Purchase’s name holds significant clout— even as far as LA. Liam surely didn’t appreciate the school’s name until that moment, long after he had left the area, and unfortunately I feel that’s the case for a lot of attending students as well.

Purchase is an absolute breeding ground for creativity. We joke that the best thing to emerge out of the school is a nicotine addiction, but most if not all of the departments operating under the school’s umbrella of study are able to pump out success stories. Our alumni list is top notch and the school as a whole competes with some of the most exclusive or renowned schools in the country, such as NYU for film or CalArts for theatre.

Besides the academic success, however, the Stood is a unique institution that doesn’t particularly exist at other schools. Other colleges may have performance spaces but they are rarely entirely student run or serve multiple purposes— such as an exclusive practicing space like the Dino Room, a space for continual artistic representation like the Forum Art Space, a location for club and theater events like the Cinema, and two large performance spaces. The access that the students have at this school provides others turns Purchase into the birthplace of a lot of talent. Our events Fall Fest and Culture Shock are signifiers of artists who will be mainstream in just a few short years. Take Mitski as an example, who graduated the school in only 2014, performed Culture Shock in 2017, and just last month was listed by Billboard as No.5 on their Emerging Artists Chart.

Purchase and its students know how to churn talent, make stars – the rest of the world seems to know it, so it’s about time we gave ourselves some credit and acknowledge it ourselves.



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