A new student group hopes to bring student musicians to the forefront of the University’s social scene.
Penn Records hopes to function like a university-level record label, working with student musicians to help them find opportunities to perform and access the equipment they need. The organization also connects students interested in forming bands and handles promotional work.
Penn Records President and College sophomore Johnny Vitale said he noticed a dormant live music scene at Penn during his freshman year. He added that his personal background in performing stems from his days growing up in California.
“I started playing guitar when I was 9 years old," he said. "I’m Southern California born and raised and I was attracted to the lo-fi, DIY, garage rock music scene that was occurring in California."
But Vitale said he found that bringing his love of music to Penn wasn’t so straightforward.
“What I experienced very personally was that there was a very high barrier to entry within the live music scene at Penn," Vitale said. "It’s very difficult to access equipment. It’s very difficult to book shows. Going through that myself I realized that I now have this plethora of knowledge that I can help share with other individuals and create the scene and help it grow.”
The group did not initially intend to provide services for all musicians on campus, said Penn Records Marketing Head and Wharton sophomore Worth Gentry.
“It started off kind of thinking, ‘How can we do logistical support for [Vitale's] band Pico?’ and as a result of that we did realize this gap in Penn’s live music scene," Gentry said. "If we’re trying to set up all this infrastructure just to help out this one band, why not make it a service available to the Penn community?”
In its first semester, Penn Records has held two fundraising concerts, where students were invited to an afternoon of live music and presented with an option to chip in and support a charitable cause. The concert in October featured three student bands — Pico, Brew, and Peachy — and called for donations for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
“The unofficial slogan currently is ‘good tunes for a good cause.’ And if we can have these events for people that are enjoying music why not also help the community at large?” Vitale said. The next event, “Student Grooves Vol. III,” is planned for Nov. 10 in collaboration with Jazz & Grooves, a Penn concert-planning group.
College sophomore Michael Pearson works with Penn Records as the group’s event coordinator, but is also part of Peachy, a student band working with Penn Records. His mother’s battle with breast cancer inspired him to organize the concert in October, providing an opportunity for Peachy to perform.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of Penn Records,” he said.
Penn Records also has plans to expand. In addition to sponsoring live music, the group hopes to involve students in the other aspects of the music industry, including recording at studios, releasing albums, and marketing artists.
“We want to show that having a career in a creative industry is possible," Vitale said. "We hope to give them legitimate experience.”
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