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Finding the Beat—and a Place to Belong

With Endicott’s Modern Band Project, students of all majors and class years are learning new musical skills, while forming connections with each other in the process.
With Endicott’s Modern Band Project, students of all majors and class years are learning new musical skills, while forming connections with each other along the way.
By: Madison Schulman

If you saw Aiden Demuro ’24 playing the drums today, it’s evident that he’s confident behind the instrument. But just a few years ago, the performing arts major wouldn’t be found in the same spot.

Demuro loved music growing up, but he wasn’t very musically involved before arriving at Endicott. A liberal studies major in his first year, he switched to performing arts to pursue his passion for music which he could no longer deny.

He joined the Endicott Percussion Ensemble, where he picked up drumsticks for the first time and started taking lessons.

“Although I’m a little behind some people, in that I started later, if I care about something, and I practice a lot, then I’m able to grow,” said Demuro.

After realizing that he wanted to find an additional and more casual way to practice his skills, he turned to his friends in music groups across campus for ideas.
That’s how Demuro heard about Endicott’s Modern Band Project, a class that he could participate in for fun, as well as for credit. The group gets together once a week to practice various genres of music and prepare for performances throughout the year.

With around 30 students on its roster this year, Gulls rotate and shift through performance groups each week. Students aren’t required to be affiliated with a music program, and many are pursuing non-musical majors and are involved purely for fun, not for academic credit.

“It’s nice to feel connected with other people and that you’re doing the same thing, having a similar goal, playing the song together,” said Demuro. “We feel so synchronized, so coordinated.”

Each song is hand-chosen by the students, with Director David Hinckley providing advice and guidance as needed.

“They are very proactive in saying, ‘Alright, let’s get together a list of the songs, get the setlist together before the show.’ We can go over it with everybody and make sure everybody's comfortable with the songs that we’re doing,” said Hinckley.

Songs are frequently changed and added to their set lists, ranging in genres from classic 80s rock to musical theater, reflecting the wide-ranging musical tastes of the students.

“It’s ultimately just a fun creative release, a very safe space. There’s no judgment going on,” said Hinckley, who graduated from Berklee College of Music and has been a guitarist, composer, and music educator for decades. “It's a confidence-building thing for them to know that they can just say, ‘Yeah, I’ll try this out. You know, I might fail at it. But I might succeed beyond my wildest expectations.’”

With Endicott’s Modern Band Project, students of all majors and class years are learning new musical skills, while forming connections with each other along the way.

Digital media journalism major Amrita Kumar ’25 is one of those students.

She first started singing when she was five years old, taking Indian vocal lessons up until high school. When she first came to campus, Kumar was nervous about finding her sense of belonging and wanted to replicate the memorable musical experiences from high school.

But after seeing the Modern Band Project perform, she joined the group in the second semester of her first year at Endicott.

“When I first arrived, I expected to be super nervous, super intimidated. But I had never felt more safe and more comfortable walking into a room, everyone greeted me with a smile,  everyone introduced themselves,” said Kumar.

Coming from a musical family, Kumar had always wanted to learn new instruments in addition to her singing. In one jam session with the Modern Band Project, you’ll see her going from guitar to bass and even the drums.

“I feel like anything you want to try you have the opportunity to,” she said. “A lot of schools and places don’t have that.”

Hospitality major and music minor Lilly Kyle ’25 said she noticed her musical and personal skills improving throughout her time with the group. Kyle came in playing the piano and has expanded to singing.

She recounted a performance last year where it was her initial time singing in front of a crowd.

“I was so nervous, terrified. But I knew that I had a lot of people supporting me—whether it was from Modern Band, or people from the VPAC, or just all of my friends,” said Kyle. “I just really love that support. I think I got it a lot during that.”

The group tends to hang out outside of their weekly meeting, noted Kyle. They’ve all become great friends and they’ve learned new perspectives about music and other topics in the process.

“I have close friends who sometimes the only thing I talk about is music with them,” she said. “That’s some of the best conversations ever, those go on for hours. I do think from what I’m seeing, it brings people together.”
With concerts under their belt too, Gulls are getting the performance experience and confidence needed before pursuing the music industry post-graduation.
“Time management, being open to new opportunities, and being able to work with other people are all skills that you’re going to have to use in the real world, especially in the music world,” said Demuro. “This is something that you should take part in.”