By Behdad Mahichi
Not long ago, Ryerson’s music scene was all but non-existent. Students’ talent was hidden, scattered throughout computer labs and lecture halls.
“Musicians are artists and artists like to congregate. We needed an outlet for musicians to meet and share,” says Eli Vandersluis.
So, two years ago, Vandersluis founded the Musicians@Ryerson group. It’s since taken off. On Monday, Nov. 4, the group celebrated reaching the 500-member mark with a semi-formal party — and a big 500 spelt out with strawberries on a chocolate cake — in the Thomas Lounge.
The night kicked off with anti-folk, alternative country music from Death by Lincoln, followed by the student band DiverseCity, and finished with beats by DJ Merrick Anderson.
“Life without music is colourless. It’s unimaginable,” says first-year engineering student Mahan Ebadian Bahari. “It puts you in the zone, and takes you to a whole other world. When you’re in a program like mine, it’s sometimes the only stress reliever.”
Last year’s winner of the best new student group at Ryerson, and the runner-up for two more awards, Musicians@Ryerson is growing quickly — and it plans to continue that trend.
“I’m not one to say ‘I made a group. Awesome. The end,’” says Vandersluis. “Everyday we are growing and developing as a music outlet.”
Vandersluis spent his first two years at Ryerson searching for a way to express his creative side. The group organized by the Ryerson Students’ Union at the time was largely inactive and held no events. Upon its closure, Vandersluis created a new group, which began online. On the group’s Facebook page, students share their music — videos or soundtracks, originals or covers. The group’s website also offers a Ryerson musician directory, where artists can search for bandmates.
“We provide an opportunity for musicians to share, learn, improve and support,” says Vandersluis. “It’s about teamwork when it comes to music. That’s why many students form bands after having the chance to meet others with the same musical interests.”
Every Tuesday at 2 p.m., the group hosts an open mic at the Ram in the Rye. “We’ve got plenty of guitarists, keyboardists and vocalists,” says performance chair Mark Parrott. “Western-style music dominates, but we’re all about diversity. We try to promote all sorts of sub-genres.”
Musicians@Ryerson also strives to give its members a chance to work with professionals. Jazz musicians Ron Davis and Mike Downes, for example, spoke to the group’s members in one particular session.
Next for the group is an event partnered with the Chinese Students’ Association called Darkness: Music for Dreams. Stripped of all lighting, the performance will leave the audience listening to the music in complete darkness. The goal is to raise awareness for the visually impaired. All proceeds will be donated to the Canadian National Institute of the Blind.
Darkness: Music for Dreams takes places in the Oakham Lounge on Tuesday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m.