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SUNYStock is Keeping Campus Culture Alive

By Dayna Blanchard


APLO performing at SUNYStock (photo by Rin Vatovci)


It was a freezing cold November night, but the Stood was immediately warm and welcoming. As usual, LED lights painted the dance floor red and people weaved through the crowd to find their friends.


This night was different though. There were cameras and videographers everywhere getting ready to film the event. The sound crew distantly whispered “it’s go time,” as a host walked onto the stage.


“We want this film to be, like, a time capsule for Purchase’s art culture at this moment in time,” said TJ McMaster, who helped organize the event called SUNYStock.


SUNYStock, which took place in mid November, was a fully-filmed live music event. McMaster and Ethan Famodu organized the event to bring artist from different SUNY campuses together for one grand genre-flowing performance.The concert featured several talented acts such as Kaia Dedek, Luna Starr, Hudson King, Side B, Car Becomes Airplane, Vanessa Camacho, Bird Week, and APLO.

“Last year, in the spring semester, Sunday Dinner did their senior project using this black box theater,” explained Famodu. Sunday Dinner is another Purchase band. “It was live and it was all their songs. I was saying, ‘that’s so cool! I wanna do that too, but I wanna make a movie out of it.”


He mentioned “The Last Waltz” (1997), a documentary concert film by Martin Martin Scorsese, as a source of inspiration. McMaster echoed this sentiment.


“We watched that movie and I wanted to make a music festival out of it,” he said. Gray Scott, the video director, gave him the idea to incorporate the film and community aspect. Scott stood inside the tech booth throughout the entire event monitoring glowing screens.


“It’s integral that we keep spaces for people to come together and make music,” said Scott while checking the monitors. “I hate these kinds of things, but I love doing video. Interesting stories and music inspire me. It’s an honor to be able to be a part of their journey.”


The passion behind the event was obvious as crew members hurriedly ran around the Stood all night. Still, there were some difficulties in put such a large scale event together.


“Well, money is always hard,” said McMaster while keeping a careful, almost paranoid vigilance of his walkie-talkie. “The funding was difficult. The advertising was also difficult, but the most difficult thing was the communication; organizing this with how many people are actually working on it.”


But aside from the difficulty of getting a bunch of busy college students to put anything together, the Purchase administration made things difficult as well. McMaster explained that the school made it difficult to advertise the event. They tore down most of the SUNYStock posters that were put up around campus.


Still, a larger than average amount of people came to the Stood for the event that night. Between sets, a group of friends huddled together outside the door. Eli Shane, a senior studio composition major, shared a bit about the music scene on campus and his hopes, and worries, for its continued excellence.


“I really value the Purchase live music scene,” said Shane. “It’s one of the reasons that I came to the school, but when I was here my sophomore year after COVID, I felt like the crowds here pre-COVID were more supportive. Over the past year, I feel like people just don’t have that same enthusiasm.”


While numbers have certainly dwindled, there is still a passionate fan base of live and local music lovers whose interests deserve to be nurtured on campus. The administration might make some things hard, but there are staff whose help is invaluable. McMaster mentioned professors Peter Dannenberf and Silas Brown, who helped the group get the cameras used to film SUNYStock, as well as Rebecca Havilland for all her support.


In order to keep events like these alive, students need to keep showing interest and support for the work that goes into them. If jazz, slow rock, crooning bedroom pop, and genre-roving indie music doesn’t bring you to beautiful events like SUNYStock, maybe a dedication to keeping the scene alive will.


SUNYStock was not just a senior project and one-off weekend music event. It comes after a long line of student-led events that helped make Purchase what it is today; and the video will be immortalized as an archive of the campus’ creative spirit frozen in time for years to come.


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