This is the first post in a short series on live music at PHC. Stay tuned for more stories on harmonicomedies, lobby concerts, acapella groups, the music department, and more.
Circa 2008, Rebecca Gallop and Tia Stockton had an idea. (This was back when the Barbara Hodel Center was brand new and the campus coffee shop was still somewhat of a novelty as far as hang out locations were concerned.)
The concept was simple: set aside two or three evenings a semester for student performances. Location: the coffee shop. Content: you name it---music, original poetry, recitations, anything. What they really wanted was an outlet for showcasing talent outside of the usual PHC spheres. They also wanted a healthy way to entice the “overachiever” crowd to quit studying and spend an evening just getting lost in the music.
“I really loved the informal nature of it … If you loved to sing but weren’t taking chorale or voice, you had a chance to do that; if you wrote an amazing poem and only the few people in your upper [division literature] class heard it, you had a chance to share it with others,” Stockton recalled.
The first few "Coffee Shops" (as they became affectionately dubbed) were a hit. Students would wander into the coffee shop from their respective dorms and sit back as their classmates prepped to go on stage. There were no auditions then, just a simple sign up sheet so Gallop and Stockton could budget time and sound equipment.
Any student knows, PHC has always had its fair share of folk instruments at these kinds of performances (acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, an accordion if the audience is lucky), as well as acapella groups, soloists, and PHC parody songs. Those categories have been a source of consistency through Coffee Shop history.
Legend has it, however, that Stockton’s now-husband Tyler quickly became a fan-favorite at the original Coffee Shops after he began regular readings of classic children’s books: Ferdinand the Bull, Dr. Seuss, Grimms Fairy Tales.
Shortly before graduating, Stockton passed the Coffee Shop baton to Gallop who in turn passed it to other, younger students before she graduated and so on through the years. To date, Harvest Prude and Daniel Fierer (both members of the Class of 2018) were the most recent baton-bearers.
While Stockton mentioned that “in the beginning it was hard to get acts,” this year Prude and Fierer held somewhat competitive auditions, turning down several (talented) students due to time constraints, among other things. For better or for worse, it seems recitations, book-readings, and the like have faded into Coffee Shop history. Music is the name of the game.
Here's to ten excellent years of Coffee Shops at PHC and, if the tradition keeps up the way it has, ten more just like it.
Have more memories about Coffee Shops or other live music performances from PHC history? We'd love to hear them. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comments.
Did you know you can minor in music at Patrick Henry College? Check it out here.