For those of you out of the loop, the Barn is the retired squash court next to the Sprout Garden. Its only resemblance to a legitimate barn is its fading red paint job. Ever since its conversion into a space for music, the Barn has been home to MOBROC, short for Musicians Organized for Band Rights on Campus, which uses the space to provide bands with a practice spot and a concert venue. Last semester, after Campus Safety shut down a Barn show for exceeding capacity and underage drinking, the Office of Student Engagement decided to temporarily close the Barn as a performance venue, leaving its future in ambiguity. In an effort to prevent this from repeating, the College now employs a bouncer who is stationed at the door for every Barn show. According to Jermaine Doris ’19, who attended the meeting at which the Barn’s new regulations were determined, the bouncer’s purpose is to ensure that the Barn’s capacity does not exceed 35 people, its maximum as determined by the New London Fire Marshal.
Despite the Barn’s new regulations and troubled past, we do not intend to judge or antagonize those on any side of Barn debates. Rather, we aim to express the Barn’s importance as an institution in the Connecticut College community.
The Barn gives interested musical students two incredibly valuable resources: a space for practice and a venue for performance. Joining a band or practicing with musicians is a struggle in itself, and having the proper gear or space to jam is often impossible. The school administration not only donated the space but has outfitted it as a creative hub for musicians. From the amps, drum set, and ancient piano in the corner to the ubiquitous graffiti on the walls engraved with the names of bands, beginners, and graduates scrawled high across their surfaces, the Barn’s ambiance fosters collaborative artistic creation and provides a living reflection of the rich legacy of student creative expression at the College. This gift cannot be understated, as the wealth of music and culture the Barn offers is made possible by the Barn’s very existence.
Casual jams and focused rehearsals are only half of what most bands aim to accomplish. Bands are formed to be listened to and enjoyed by their audiences. Here again, the Barn has been vital. There are traditionally few places where students here at Connecticut College have the opportunity to play outside of the official music program. The Barn allows for bands and other interested students to perform. In years past, the venue has provided a space for acoustic sets, DJ’s, and bands of all genres for the Conn student body. In times when more and more students are venturing to the bar scene to find their kicks, Barn shows have offered a sharp rebuttal to the growing idea that a good time could only be found outside of main campus.
Yet, last year the Office of Student Engagement closed the Barn as a performance venue, citing concern over fire code violations. This decision shut down opportunities for bands, some of which had not yet performed at the Barn, to be heard and damaged the live music tradition at Conn at large. Which begs the question: why kill the vibe, my humble Camels? As we have stressed in this essay, live music is a communal activity that requires musicians and an audience. This fact is not lost on the administration; our very own head of school, President Bergeron, dedicated her academic career to the study of music, understanding the value in this specific medium of art.
There is real musical talent at Connecticut College. We have a chance to make a name for the school and an opportunity to keep Conn’s traditions alive. Yet, the Barn needs the support of students and the administration alike to survive this semester. It is now open again as a practice space and concert venue, but is still very much under the administration’s microscope. Students: support the scene, come to live shows, start a band, or draw something rad on the barn. It is only through your continued interest in live music that we will be heard. And dear administration, if the Barn is not large enough a venue to support the crowds the college bands are attracting, where can we play? At the end of the day, all we want to do is be heard.