Music and Grad school in Richmond, VA
February 20, 2007 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2 part Richmond, VA question. First, anyone out there graduate from VCU Psychology grad program? Second, how is the music scene in Richmond for someone without a band who plays original acoustic music?

How was your experience at VCU? How were the professors in the program? Do you feel your experience there was worthwhile?

My boyfriend plays original acoustic music but he thinks there is no place for him musically in Richmond and that there is no music scene there at all. Any insider tips?

Thanks Everyone!
posted by MayNicholas to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may want to post at the RVA livejournal page, for an idea on what the current acoustic scene may offer. In general, Richmond is big enough that you can get an audiance but small enough that you won't get lost if you're good (in whatever genre). Plus we're close to other cities for setting up out-of-town shows.
posted by john m at 1:31 PM on February 20, 2007

For your first question, you might try asking at the RVA Livejournal community or the VCU community. (on preview: john beat me to it.)

For your second, Richmond doesn't have a local music scene. I mean, there are all these popular local bands that hundreds of people come out to see every time they play a gig in Richmond, but that is totally not a music scene, because Richmond sucks.*

* I'm not snarking at you or your boyfriend; Richmond is just a town that enjoys self-loathing. Bitching about the lack of local music scene is a favorite local pasttime. Any evidence of a local music scene must be willfully ignored, or we'll all run out of dinner conversation.

That said, there are a lot of venues in Richmond to play music in, a lot of talented musicians hanging around looking for a chance to jam, and a lot of people who go out to shows and support local bands. A few successful accoustic (or acoustic-ish) acts have gotten started here, including Susan Greenbaum, Heath Haynes & the Crying Shame, and the Rachel Leyco Band. Venues known for featuring acoustic acts include Poe's Pub and Ashland Coffee & Tea. I just went to an "Indie Rock Extravaganza" a few weeks ago at Rocks that featured several acoustic acts. Nobody's gonna roll out a red carpet for another guy with a guitar, but it's not hard to get a gig in this town.
posted by junkbox at 1:52 PM on February 20, 2007

While Richmond might not have a specific "scene," there are plenty of appreciators and aficionados in the area (music *and* art), and as pointed out above, you just need to figure out how to get your paths to cross. (Which really isn't too had if you hang out at some of the places junkbox listed.)

The Richmond arts community (as well as many other Virginia locales) has always felt "old" to me. By old, I don't mean "dated," but rather historic and rooted. Familial almost. Although it's a big city, everybody seems to know everybody within fewer degrees of separation than other places I've lived. Which is either coincidental or directly related to the general history, tradition and genealogy of the area.

Richmond has had its share of nationally-known artists. And I imagine they've played an important role in the local scene by generating eagerness among other artists and proving that it's possible to make it "big." But what I've always found special about Richmond is the high concentration of people who either made it big for a split-second, chose not to take the next step towards fame, or simply never got the opportunity for whatever reason. These people have returned to the community where they contribute their experience and insight.

Cracker was a pretty well-known band that came out of Richmond, for example -- and that's great and cool and everything. But more that simply earning fame, they built their recording studio and now use their experience and connections to help new talent. Agents of Good Roots was also a very popular national group that eventually dissolved -- but all the guys were very talented musicians and have returned to the pool of Richmond talent. (Incidentally, you should have your boyfriend check out and/or email Andrew Winn who fronted AGR -- I believe he got his masters degree in classical guitar from either VCU or Richmond, and (I believe) has taught at the college level since AGR dissolved.) Brian Jones, also of AGR, does a lot of crazy improvisational stuff -- I caught an avant-garde show of his at some tiny bar downtown that blew my mind. He and another AGR alumnus also serve as session musicians for bigger-name acts (Jason Mraz, etc).

And there's countless other examples like these. There may be no "scene," and there may not be a ton of huge name acts from the area, but there's a plethora of "guys behind the guys" -- relationships with which I'm confident would be valuable for any musician.

(For your first question: I studied commerce at VCU for 2 semesters several years ago. I disliked the faculty because they all seemed old-fashioned and out of date -- especially when it came to technology. One project of mine was to build a 1-page website in HTML. I had been freelancing as a web developer for 4 years, so it felt like a big easy A. When the professor gave me a C, I dropped out of VCU.)
posted by Hankins at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

VCU almum take pride in their experience, as a rule, and the school has had a good recent growth spurt. It's heavy with arts programs, so your bf could meet musicians that way. I can't comment specifically about the psychology program.

The music scene is homey, but that means opportunity for new people, not a closed loop.

Here is another resource for music listings. Go to the calendar section.
posted by rainbaby at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2007

Oh, and GWAR. Not acoustic, but still should be mentioned.
posted by rainbaby at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2007

Also, remember that Richmond is a short drive from Charlottesville, which does have a pretty good music scene.

I grew up in Richmond and love it. Would move back in a second.
posted by 4ster at 8:50 PM on February 20, 2007

I had to send a link to your question to my ex girlfriend as it seemed tailor-made for her to answer. Her response:

What??! No music scene in Richmond??! I'm aghast... Not that our music scene is what it used to be. But for G-d's sake, we are the home of GWAR, AVAIL, Suzanne Vega, and Firehouse. Ok, forget I mentioned Firehouse. But really, we have music everywhere all the time. We have big acts come through at the colesium and the Landmark Theatre, free outdoor shows in the summer at Innsbrook After Hours and Brown's Island, and band or solo musicians of every genre in almost any bar or restaurant you walk into. We are no Austin, but we are certainly not a musical wasteland.
And if we don't have what you want, DC is only 2 hours away. Overall, Richmond is a small, friendly, fun city that is heavily invested in the arts. All kinds of arts. We have a monthly poetry slam, the First Friday Arts Walk (all of the galleries open up at night), and one of the better art museums in the US. And since VCU has a stellar arts and music school, musicians abound.

As for the school of psych, it is great - really competitive but one of the best programs in the country. The professors are really knowledgeable and well-published. Because it also has access to the VCU medical campus and its school of psychiatry (including its libraries), there are some amazing research opportunities. Most of the professors' offices are in old Victorian mansions that have been purchased by the university - a very nice atmosphere for a research lab - but the classroom buildings are all modern and, mostly, pretty plush.

The woman knows of what she speaks.
posted by mjbraun at 7:23 AM on February 21, 2007

Oh, plus Fighting Gravity, formerly Boy-Oh-Boy.
posted by rainbaby at 6:09 PM on February 21, 2007

For what it's worth, BrICK is Richmond's terrific alt-weekly. Small, but really good.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2007

(And "small" is in comparison to DC's City Paper, which is hardly a fair comparison.)
posted by Alt F4 at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone. Loads of great information!
posted by MayNicholas at 11:20 AM on February 25, 2007

« Older Help my wife consider her career change options.   |   What solids other than water float on their liquid... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.