Live Music Strikes a Chord for Retrievers

Published: May 24, 2024

UMBC's 1969 Folk Music Club
Singer, Gerard Way looking into a mirror putting on eyeliner.
Singer Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance at the UMBC Fieldhouse (currently known as the RAC) on October 21, 2005. Photo by Kenneth Cappello.

It may be coincidental that UMBC was founded in the midst of rock n’ roll’s most revolutionary years, but early Retrievers certainly made sure to create spaces to bring live music to the campus, in intimate settings and on much bigger stages.

Since then, iconic bands and artists such as Frank Zappa, the Goo Goo Dolls, Alanis Morissette, All-American Rejects, the Strokes, Brand New, Foo Fighters, Yellowcard, All Time Low, My Chemical Romance, and more, have all played shows for UMBC’s students. But while UMBC has a rich history of hosting renowned artists, they have always had a soft spot for local music and student artists too.

On September 21, 1968, the Collage, an on-campus weekend coffee house, was first opened. The Collage was one of the first notable instances of live music on campus, often drawing in a large crowd, especially on Saturday nights, and was the go-to place to check out the best student performers, as well as local performers from the surrounding Baltimore area. With music, poetry readings, and films, it was a perfect social and artistic atmosphere for its students.

Although the Collage is no more, today, UMBC still supports its local and student musicians with the many events held on and off campus, and through the creative spaces it provides. The Students Events Board (seb) frequently hosts open mic nights where students can sing, play an instrument, and present poetry or spoken word. In recent years, (seb) seems to have drawn on a similar ethos to the Collage, with its Coffee House: Open Mic Night Edition.

Audience members watching a performance inside a coffee house.
Audience members at the Collage in 1969.
Two men on stage singing into a microphone. One playing tambourine, the other playing the guitar.
Two performers, Lewis and Dolgoff, on stage at
the Collage in 1969.

Yearly events like Quadmania and campus radio station WMBC’s and the Retriever Music Society’s (RMS) music festival often provide a chance for student artists to play for an audience, and the support and turnout for these events shows how tuned in Retrievers still are to good music.

WMBC’s recent revitalization has played a big role in organizing live music events and booking student and local bands for on-campus shows. ​​WMBC’s station manager Sean Jilek ’25, computer science, says, “We have so much great music being made on campus and we really want to highlight that when we can. This year we made it a goal to have a UMBC band headline the festival, which is why we had Fly By the Seat. The station has been blown away with the turnout for the concerts we have hosted on campus.” 

Additionally, off-campus, OCA Mocha, the UMBC student-founded coffee shop, provides a venue for UMBC’s student musicians, including jam sessions hosted by RMS, classical music from UMBC’s Cello Group, and performances by UMBC’s jazz groups. 

While the Collage may now be gone, after all these years it is apparent that UMBC has expanded its creative spaces, and is still passionate about fostering these venues for its students. Jilek says, “I think this last semester has shown that small shows are something that people are interested in seeing on campus.”

Two students on stage playing music. One standing towards the front playing bass guitar, and the other one in the background playing the drums. Stage lights shine overhead.
Fly By The Seat playing at WMBC & RMS’s 2024 Spring Music Festival. Photo by Erin Bennett.

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