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Features Relays Edition

A Music Culture emerges all around Drake University

Munk Rivers is a "yearn-core" Indie band with several Drake student in it. The band, who are on Spotify, played at DUiN ball in early April. Photo by Lily Wasserman | Features Editor

Drake University and its surrounding community have no shortage of venues to choose from. With xBk Live and Lefty’s Live Music right in Dogtown, it’s not hard to find a good show on any given week. Drake is home to many different kinds of people, and some of them have taken to performing.

Levity is a cover band composed of Drake students Ryan Gledhill on guitar, Izzy Marx on drums, Max Green on bass and Caroline Kansa on vocals. They formed in September of 2023 and have been performing at house shows ever since. 

Green said this experience is interesting for him as someone that’s not in the music school. He said that it’s hard to have an understanding of the Drake music scene as he wasn’t connected with students studying music at Drake as a Digital Media Production major.

“It’s fun because we know a lot of people and we can [explore] not just the musical side of things,” Green said.

Levity recently had an interview that was posted to the Drake Broadcasting System (DBS) YouTube channel about how they got started as a band.

“We know people that do great things like in DBS, and we can have them be a part of it in their own way,” Green said.

TGreen and Marx are also a part of another student band called Munk Rivers. Different from Levity, Munk Rivers plays original music, what they refer to as indie yearn-core. Started by DSM local siblings guitarist Tucker and vocalist Charlotte Judkins, who have been playing music together for years, they first met Marx and Green at a house show. After they attended a house show Levity was performing at in November of 2023, the siblings approached Marx and Green and asked them to join their band. Since then, they’ve been partnering with xBk and Drake organizations to play music. According to Green, Tucker takes the lead on booking. 

“It’s a more engaging band because we’re actually doing that creative labor of coming up with our own stuff and trying to put ourselves out there as a band,” Green said.  

It can be tough for Green to balance being a student and a performer. Green said that, right now, if he’s not working on homework or in class, he’s playing music.

“There’s always the pipe dream of getting big and then not having to do anything else, but I really enjoy it and I take it serious [to] a reasonable extent,” Green said. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep my two tracks going off — getting my degree and trying to get the band somewhere.” 

Munk Rivers is now releasing music on all streaming platforms and performing shows in Des Moines and the surrounding area for anyone wanting to listen.

“The goal with Munk Rivers is that we’re going to get big, keep putting stuff out there, keep doing shows. Hopefully people will enjoy it,” Green said. 

Social media and streaming services have made it easier for start-up performers to get their name out there. Drake is also home to a myriad of musicians that work at the University. One of these musicians is Tom Buckmiller, who is the director of the LEAD program, an undergraduate interdisciplinary minor in leadership, education and development, as well as an associate professor of education at Drake. 

Buckmiller also has a long history of playing music, first having started playing guitar at 16 in the late 1980s. Soon after he started learning guitar, he started his first band, Shattered Silence, which played ‘80s music. Afterwards, he went on to play in a variety of other bands, including a band called 100 Mondays, a band comprised of Drake faculty members that played harder rock akin to the Foo Fighters. In his most current band, the Buckmiller Schwager Band, he plays Chicago Blues-based music.

In high school, Buckmiller was a radio DJ, which is where he first discovered blues music. 

“I started playing a guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan on the radio — he was a blues guy. He was the one that got me away from hair metal and into blues,” Buckmiller said. “So I started listening to who influenced him.” 

Through Buckmiller’s time as a musician, he and his bands have played all over, playing around 85 shows a year, mainly in the Midwest area. Over the summer, Buckmiller and his band often  tour places like South Dakota or Wisconsin to play around five shows. In 2021, the Buckmiller Schwagger band won first place in the Iowa Blues Challenge, earning them the opportunity to go to Memphis, Tennessee, to play on Beale Street. 

“For us to play on Beale Street, historically where BB King cut his teeth and where all the greats are and the Lorraine [Motel] just a block away from there and the food and the culture — for us to play on Beale Street was pretty cool,” Buckmiller said.

  As a musician also working for Drake University and having a family, Buckmiller has a lot on his plate. However,  he still finds time for his music, generally playing late at night when his kids are in bed. 

“For me, it’s easy,” Buckmiller said. “I have three big buckets. I have my family and kids, I have my Drake work, which I love and then I have music.” 

Through his years in different educational and administrative positions, Buckmiller said he did not know how he would be perceived in that role as a musician after hours because of stigmas related to music.

Buckmiller said that, early in his career as a Catholic school principal, he stopped being in a band because he wasn’t sure if it was good optics. Later on, as he went to grad school, he started playing again with colleagues and other musicians alike.

“If you’ve got a passion for music, or whatever your passion is, you just gotta do it,” Buckmiller said. “I’m 50 years old —I’m not getting any younger. So I’m going forward, I’m having fun and putting out records.”

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