Jay Weinberg of Against Me! Stevens Testimonial

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Blog post provided by Jay Weinberg
Photo credits to Ryan Russell & Allison Skiff

As I enter the final weeks of my sixth semester at Stevens, I’ve been thinking about the past several years, and how important they’ve been – academically, professionally, and personally.  Since 2008, I’ve been working on a list of extracurricular activities that require a lot of attention outside of the classroom.  School has always been an important part of my life, and, through my experiences at Stevens, it has helped me focus on these interests that are far removed from my studies.

I fell in love with music at an early age.  It has always been my strongest passion.  I began playing drums when I was 14 years old, and quickly developed an interest in the collaborative process of creating and performing. From the personal expression, to the then-fantastical concept of touring, I was infatuated with everything that the music world had to offer.

Photo credit to Ryan Russell

When I was 17, I began taking classes at Stevens.  A few months into my first semester, I began performing on a much larger scale than I was used to, with Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band.  I went straight from playing once-a-month local punk rock shows (which I still love), to playing several shows a week, across the United States and Europe.  It was a serious shock, to interrupt a comfortable routine of taking courses and establishing
relationships with classmates, in such a dramatic way.  Still, I knew it was the right thing for me to do.

However, I did not want to drop out of school entirely.  It was just getting exciting, I was meeting new people, and I was enjoying my classes – I didn’t want to just stop because I had this opportunity.  I asked my professors and deans if there were ways to make my touring schedule coexist with my academic obligations.  Instead of giving me binary “either attend class and receive credit, or don’t” options, they wanted to work with me, to find ways of doing both.  At that moment, I knew that Stevens was a unique place – a school that truly understood my passion for music, and dedication to my studies.  They expressed genuine interest in allowing me to make the most of this period of my life. It probably didn’t hurt that I was touring with a band that was bigger than something I had started in my garage.

Ever since, I’ve spent the majority of my time away from campus, playing music.  Whether it was with one group or another, I’ve kept a steady schedule of almost constant touring, for the past four years.  With the exception of one semester during which I took a break (since I knew I’d be touring overseas for a few months), I’ve been writing essays, submitting homework, reading Wall Street Journals (hopefully Dr. Calhoun is reading this), and taking exams from a van or bus on the road.

I tell people about my experiences at Stevens quite often.  In the groups with which I typically travel, it’s uncommon to find people that are in the same boat – taking classes, and playing in full-time bands.  You come across it once in a while, but, on a whole, it’s unusual.  I’ve always enjoyed the juxtaposition of a supposed “normal” school life against an “abnormal” touring life.  I enjoy learning lessons in classrooms, but I also love receiving the education that one can only get by traveling with bands.  How else would I know where my favorite coffee shop in Trier, Germany is?  Or that eggs in Australia are called “bum nuts?”  Or that Rancid is really good at wiffle ball?  OK, there are far better examples of things that I’ve learned on the road, but as I’ve heard from Henry Rollins, “books are cool, but knowledge without mileage doesn’t mean anything.”  To me, it’s so important to combine what I’ve learned in school with what I learn on tour. I believe that the best things one can walk away from school with aren’t specific lectures, or how to balance chemistry equations, but the thought processes he or she collects during that period of time.

Photo credit to Allison Skiff

Stevens’ professors teach these to their students, in spades.  That’s one of my favorite things about this school.  They don’t preach lectures and build walls between themselves and their pupils, but rather encourage undergraduates to think outside the box, and to approach solving problems in unconventional ways.  These thought processes train students to find solutions that aren’t right under their noses.  With faculty members who are completely open to conversation, Stevens has created an environment that thrives off of collaboration.  How can that not positively affect one’s post-college work life?  I’ve found that, no matter where you want to end up, Stevens will help you find the tools to create the life that you want.  We can all be winners, guys!
Balancing my schoolwork with my interests in the arts has not come easy.  But, with the help of the Stevens community, my professors, and especially Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Ann Murphy, I’ve been able to seamlessly integrate everything I’ve ever wanted to do into one project.  And, my case is just one of many.  I’m confident that Stevens is the only institution that could dedicate so much to help one student pursue his or her dreams.  No one gets lost in the shuffle, and it’s truly inspiring.


Jay Weinberg is a Stevens Undergraduate student, a visual artist, and currently plays drums in rock band Against Me! 
For more information:
Email: jweinberg0@gmail.com
Twitter: @jayweinbergdrum
www.jayweinberg.tumblr.com/
www.againstme.net

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2 responses »

  1. Wow, some heady stuff here. First, let me say since Sabrina invited me to chime in that I think we need to be very cfareul not to be prescriptive here. This is a conversation about issues that have been hammered on many an anvil and won’t get solved anytime soon. Second, it’s important to understand that I have always written on a very basic/pragmatic level (not an academic level) about the need for photographers to be intentional ie, to know what they want to say, and how they want to say it given their intended audience and limited tools. I think that a mindful approach to photography will put photographers in a place where meaningful photography, as opposed to accidental one-offs, happens more frequently.The rest gets more complicated. Intent is a slippy thing to grasp, particularily when the question is raised about the interpretation of the audience intended or otherwise. Once your work is out there it can be interpreted in a million ways and still bring meaning to those who interpret it in a way we as authors never intended. It still falls to us to create intentionally, even if there is a chance of diverging interpretations. That’s where art differs from propaganda (among other things)As Chris pointed out there is a risk of making your art so free of ambiguity in service of your vision that it becomes more like propaganda; I’m not advocating that. In fact I think the best work allows for some ambiguity but that ambiguity isn’t there because the artist is a hack and creating without awareness of her intent, it’s there because the subject itself is presented in layers, with some mystery. We could go very far down this path and I don’t have the big words to address something I don’t think even needs such fine-bladed dissection. It’s art, not biology, and the answers will prove to be ellusive they always have. But to go back to a metaphor and talk about the camera as a tool in the same way as spoken language is a tool I think knowing what you want to say and to whom you want to say it gives the best shot at expression, regardless of how those words are later interpreted by an audience removed from us by distances of culture, or time, etc. Anything less and we may as well espouse the idea that every random frame taken by a monkey on Automatic qualifies as expression or art. Some photographs if expression or communication is the point are stronger than others and it’s often the awareness of intent and choosing the best visual language tools for the job that makes it so. Among other things.Hope this clarifies. Apologies if I repeated things others mentioned, I really didn’t read the entire thread as much as I’d have liked to. Photography is an aesthetic pursuit, the technology is only the means. As such we need to know what we want the image to look like before we choose the tools to make it so.

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