Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
A guitarist sits in their dorm and tunes their strings. A sliver of sunlight shines through their blinds and exposes dust particles floating around the instrument. This dark, quiet room is about to hear the soft strumming of their new ballad, but nobody else will.
A student is sitting alone at a dining hall table, surrounded by a chorus of white noise, saying nothing, staring straight ahead as they eat, wishing there was something to see.
One needs an audience and the other needs a performance.
The University of Maryland’s dining halls should host live shows from student artists and bands on designated nights. Doing so will expand opportunities for artists to perform on the campus and provide free entertainment for students in dining halls.
As of now, the two parties are only two floors away. Just above the South Campus Dining Hall lies WMUC’s Live Room, which provides a space for artists to practice and record their music. Yet, there’s a way they can get even closer to their audience by collaborating with a staple of student life: dining facilities.
Yahentamitsi’s patronage has boomed since opening, offering a nearly 68,000 square foot culinary sanctuary for perpetually hungry students.
This university’s dining halls occupy massive spaces, and there is no shortage of student performers who could utilize it to enhance the dining experience. The case for putting live entertainment in dining halls is not a new or unfeasible one; we have seen similar arrangements.
South Campus Dining Hall’s karaoke nights provide an unique opportunity on the campus. I once had the honor of belting “Hakuna Matata”’ alongside my friend to a chorus of scattered applause and laughter. These karaoke nights come complete with a stage for students to perform on, screens to queue and read lyrics, and crisp microphones to yell off-key notes into.
Adapting these setups for student performers would not only benefit those seeking to perform for a large audience, but would also open up new promotion opportunities for the school.
On tabletop signs and posters throughout the campus, these performances could be advertised with suave graphics and bold-texted setlists. The shows themselves would also serve as an important step toward notoriety for student performers, who could use them as a place to workshop their sets for a live audience. The university should be fostering student creativity in general, and giving students a space to perform live is one key area in which they can improve.
The university already provides such opportunities for notable artists.
Student Entertainment Events provides on-campus shows from professional artists, which have garnered student acclaim. A desire for live entertainment exists on the campus and student showcases would continue to tap into this market, which has been left largely vacant since the 2020 closure of MilkBoy ArtHouse, a venue that brought big-ticket artists to College Park.
Beyond providing entertainment to students, hosting performances in dining halls and throughout campus will serve to affirm the university’s commitment to student creativity.
We pride ourselves on the alumni who have gone on to find success in creative fields, with creators spanning a wide range of the artistic spectrum including WMUC alum and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder and former Diamondback cartoonist Jeff Kinney. However, we can only claim their talent if we commit to fostering it here. We must provide these creatives an outlet in any way possible.
For students who desire a quieter dining option, two other halls, in addition to the numerous other dining options on and off campus will be operating normally while one hosts a performance. While the others remain consistent with what we’ve come to expect from our dining halls, one will be glamorous for the night.
The dining hall, on certain nights, could be elevated from just a place to go eat to a premier destination on the campus. Not to mention, it would most likely be free to students and come at little cost to the university.
It may seem unthinkable now that a great musical career could begin in a dining hall, but people have debuted in stranger places before. For a young musician, any performance opportunity could prove fruitful. For a student diner, any show has the potential to make their day.
Student performers and their potential audiences don’t need to exist worlds apart on the same campus.
Joey Barke is a sophomore government and politics and journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com