Rock and Roll ‘Neers

Cameron+Hankinson%2C+senior%2C+sings+into+the+microphone+during+the+ensemble+practice.+

Sophia Beckmann

Cameron Hankinson, senior, sings into the microphone during the ensemble practice.

One teenager wanted to go the extra mile in music. Strumming the strings of his guitar was a fun hobby and all, but having been a musician, Cameron Hankinson, senior, asked himself, how can I fine tune the experience? He decided there was no better way than to make a musical ensemble. 

“Music is a very compelling piece of art and its sound brings people together,” Hankinson said. “So when it came to the idea of making a group, especially with people I know, I just thought why not make some super dope tunes together?”

Hankinson first became interested in music at age 6 when he heard the Beatles playing on the radio in his grandparents car. Hankinson said the sound of all their classic melodies sparked his taste in music. 

“[The Beatles] were definitely a kickstart to my love of artists in general,” Hankinson said. “After hearing John Lennon, and then hearing my older brother first playing the guitar, music became a bigger part of my life.”

Hankinson played the trumpet in the Nipher Middle School band until eighth grade, and until recently, Hankinson said he wasn’t committed to playing any instruments. Then came COVID and quarantine. 

I just thought why not make some super dope tunes together?”

— Cameron Hankinson

“During that period, I really started to play the guitar more, since [I had] so much more free time during the day,” Hankinson said. “[Playing the guitar] was great because it helped keep me from getting bored out of my mind at times.”

As much as Hankinson said he enjoyed playing the guitar alone, the idea of creating a group to him was undoubtedly more appealing to him from the start. Hankinson said group musical settings make the creative process of a song more exciting and lead to unexpected changes that make the music better. 

“[It’s good] knowing the amount of people who are involved in music,” Hankinson said.  “[Based on] how recently playing the guitar has become more a part of my life as a hobby, the idea was a no-brainer for me.” 

Every band starts with the first step: recruitment. Last summer, Trey Rolfes, senior, became the first member of the group when Cameron invited him.

William Chen, sophomore, presses the keys on the piano during the song. Photo by Sophia Beckmann.

“Out of the blue, Cameron texted me offering to join his band,” Rolfes said. “I didn’t think I had much else going on at the time, so I thought ‘Why not?”

Similar to Hankinson, Rolfes said he relishes the group atmosphere of an ensemble. With multiple years of playing the bass in the Kirkwood orchestra, Rolfes was intrigued to participate to further enhance his skills and to have fun with friends. 

Trey Rolfes, senior, became the first member of the group when Cameron invited him. Photo by Sophia Beckmann.

“My time in the program has definitely had an overall positive impact on my knowledge of music,” Rolfes said. “During our long sessions as a group, previous experience can also help me constantly tune and change the song, and how to tell what notes sound better than others in certain areas.”

Violinist Jacob Rodriguez Damsgaard, senior, was invited into the group by Rolfes, and said being in the ensemble helps expand his passion for music that stemmed from experience in the orchestra. Rodriguez also said he has never stopped appreciating hearing the mix of instruments, especially ones he might not have heard before in the orchestra.

Rodriguez enjoys being a part of the group’s lengthy practices. Although Rodriguez said being in a music group of friends can be less organized, the practice setup didn’t make the squad any less enjoyable. 

“I obviously love and appreciate everything the orchestra has done for me, and that’s why I’m still in it,” Rodriguez said. “[The group’s style of practicing] makes the process less organized but very fun because we’re always changing how [our music sounds].”

The album will include seven or eight songs, featuring Rodriguez, Rolfes, himself, Lucy Burns, senior, pictured above, Charlie Lilis and William Chen, sophomores and more. Photo by Sophia Beckmann.

Hankinson said the finished product of this ensemble will be a full album released on Spotify. The album will include seven or eight songs, featuring Rodriguez, Rolfes, himself, Lucy Burns, senior, Charlie Lilis and William Chen, sophomores and more. Hankinson created the album as a part of his English Literature and Composition senior project, which requires him to relate the album to a person who is “the other,” in society –“the other” being someone who is perceived by society as different in some fundamental way. 

“I wanted to tie the albums and songs as a whole, back into the theme of coming together,” Hankinson said. “As people, we really need to band together, especially right now in the times we’re in, and I don’t think there’s a much better way of doing that than through the power of music.”