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Campus musicians find outlets for talent

Sam Stryker | Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Notre Dame has provided Nick Gunty with special opportunities to display his musical talent, the junior, who plays the guitar, said.

“Every once in a while something comes around, like the Sudan peace rally last Saturday,” Gunty said. “I got to play for that. That was probably the most special or most ‘Notre Dame’ thing I’ve done.”

Junior Will Thwaites said the University has also allowed for unique performance opportunities for his musical group, A Face For Radio. The group consists of Thwaites, juniors Kyle Collins, Michael George and Collin Chudwick and sophomores Danny Cruser and John Mandrakas.

“We opened for White Panda when they were in town, which went really well. It was really fun to get up there before a really big act,” he said. “They had about 500 kids in the audience, not all of them super psyched for our music but it was definitely cool to have a crowd that big.”

Thwaites said he is lucky to have found other music students who enjoy playing and performing in their free time.

“The biggest thing here is there is a lot of untapped talent. There’s a ton of kids who were really talented musicians in high school that really don’t have the opportunity to pursue music here because they’re dominated by their education,” he said. “A lot of the musical initiatives on campus are very formal.”

Gunty, who describes his music style as indie folk rock, said he has worked hard to not only play live on campus, but in local establishments. He also said he is looking to expand where he performs.

“Fiddler’s Hearth [in South Bend] has an open mic every week. That gives you a lot of frequency,” Gunty said. “Lately I’ve been reaching out to places a little more extended like Indianapolis, Three Oaks in Michigan and Chicago.”

Thwaites said his musical endeavors are more of a hobby.

“It’s definitely not my number one pursuit,” he said. “I’m working hard at school, and this is something I do on the side.”

Thwaites said he sometimes struggles to strike a balance between academics and music. But he said musical success brings him greater joy.

“Since I have been doing this, I’ve been trying to find this dynamic between the two because every time I get my school work down, my music suffers and every time I get into a flow musically, my grades turn into C’s,” Thwaites said. “The thing I come back to is every time I finish a good music thing, I’m on cloud nine and every time I do well in school, it doesn’t feel any different than before.”

Though he considers his music a full-time pursuit, Gunty said his classes have made it difficult to commit to his music.

“It definitely is a full time thing. Particularly sophomore year, I spent a lot of time — probably half and half — between music and school,” he said. “It’s easy to do that freshman and sophomore year when you don’t have a lot of work to do.”

Gunty said he plans to pursue a career in music.

“To really figure out if you can make it, you have to live in a place that really lives it,” he said. “I definitely have a plan to move to Chicago or maybe Los Angeles after school to give it a full-time try.”

Thwaites said he sees his music as more of an outlet for his creativity than any sort of potential vocation, but he said he would give a musical career a try if the opportunity presented itself.

“It’s definitely not my number one goal in doing it,” he said. “I do it just for the fun of it. I do it because it’s a nice way to express myself creatively.”

Thwaites said he focused mainly on rap freshman and sophomore year. His YouTube video, “Daisy’s Lullaby (The Great Gatsby Rap)” has over 97,000 views. Thwaites said the success of his song has spilled over into classrooms across the country.

“I’ve had a lot of different English teachers get in touch with me. One in particular who works at a Title One school where a lot of her kids haven’t read books before,” he said. “She reached out to me to help her plan to get these juniors in high school to finish their first book, being ‘The Great Gatsby.'”

Gunty, who already has an album available on iTunes, said he doesn’t plan on halting his musical pursuits as he studies abroad in the spring in Toledo, Spain.

“By the end of next semester, I want to have another short one recorded, like a five song EP,” he said.

Thwaites said despite a busy fall semester, A Face For Radio is looking to release new material in the near future.

He said he has always been active in singing in local choirs from a young age, but an assignment for his senior English class where he sang about his classroom experiences sparked his interest as a live artist.

“It was the first time I had gotten on stage in front of a group of people,” he said. “Once I got a taste of it I didn’t want to turn back.”