When class is out, most students assume professors go home to their families or spend time planning and grading.
However, some USD professors are in bands. Two professor bands, Beard and Blue Ruins, both showed off their musical stylings at concerts last weekend.
Beard is an alternative-rock band made up of lead guitarist Jacob Kerby, drummer Jeff Wesner, vocalist Joe Raiche and bass player Amy Askew. The four musicians have been playing together for the last three years and just dropped a new album, “Following Crooked Lines,” last month. The Beard concert featured songs from this album, as well as their first album and other new songs.
Jacob Kerby, associate biology professor and guitarist for Beard, said he enjoyed being able to play in town with his friends and family.
“In terms of performing, it’s just fun to play music,” Kerby said. “It’s also fun that other people like it. In terms of the classroom, I have audiences, I perform all the time teaching, but it’s a very different feel. So to create something and have people enjoy it musically is pretty cool.”
Along with Kerby, Wesner is also a biology professor, while Raiche is an English professor and Askew is a school nurse for the Vermillion School District.
Beard performed at a live taping in the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Vermillion studio on Friday night. Although, this was not their first television performance. Beard has also appeared on season six of the “White Wall Sessions,” which aired on CBS.
Wesner said that performing is one of his favorite parts about being in the band.
“I think the thing I like most about performance is the unknown of it,” Wesner said. “You have an audience, you have a show. Maybe you break a string. Maybe you tell a stupid joke or mess up the song. You don’t really know how it’s going to go, and by the end of it, you’ve taken what you are as a band and put it out there. I like that concreteness of a show. Each show has that sort of anticipation of ‘I don’t really know what’s going to happen.’”
Throughout the last three years, Beard has learned to work together to develop their sound. Wesner said the band has thrived since starting out in 2016.
“Writing music is so much easier three years on,” Wesner said. “We know where we want to be in terms of the musical space a lot better than when we started. It’s a lot of fun to have that continuity in the group. We all know each other musically, we can communicate, and it’s a lot of fun and people still want to listen to it. None of us expected that three years ago. We were just going to play a bit and see how it went.”
Beard has another show in March in Yankton. Kerby said he hopes to continue expanding their performances outside of the Vermillion area.
“Our next goal is to play out of Vermillion a little bit and play at some Sioux Falls venues,” Kerby said. “I think part of the beauty of the band is that we’re not trying to be rockstars so don’t really have that pressure or concern. We’re just having fun with it, so I think that lends itself to the creativity of the music and the culture of the band.”
Blue Ruin, another band of USD professors, has been making music since 2015 with a rotating lineup of members. Their band is currently made up of John Dudley on guitar, Zoli Filotas on drums, Heather Love on keyboard, Dave Posthmus on guitar and vocals, Will Schweinle on bass and Skip Willman on guitar and vocals.
They debuted their original music as well as a collection of covers at Varsity Pub last Saturday night.
Skip Willman, associate English professor, plays guitar and is one of the vocalists for Blue Ruin. Willman said he enjoyed getting back on stage and performing in front of an audience again.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been out playing live,” Willman said. “There’s kind of a unique energy that comes from playing in front of live people that we don’t get practicing in my basement, although I love playing music regardless of the circumstances. We write a bunch of originals so it’s fun to share that with other people and get their thoughts on those.”
When Blue Ruin was putting together their set for the show, they included mostly originals, as well as some covers that the audience would recognize.
Comprised of all professors, the members of Blue Ruin have to find time to balance teaching with rehearsing for shows.
“We try to do as much as we can in the three or four hours we get together every Friday or Saturday night,” Willman said. “We have a limited amount of time so we always do what we can. Playing music with the band is therapeutic for all of us. The academic life can be stressful, and music is an all-consuming hobby that delivers us from the grind for a couple of hours. It’s like a weekly therapy session and keeps us sane.”
In addition to being a hobby, Willman said he also enjoys the performance aspect of Blue Ruin and sharing that with the other members of the band.
“When you get five musicians that all bring different things to the table, and put them in an environment where sparks can fly, that’s really interesting,” Willman said. “It’s always fun to be with friends and feel the energy of the crowd.”