Musicians@Ryerson: Where music comes to grow

[I]t’s the Wednesday before reading week, which means Ryerson students are right in the thick of midterms.

But that hasn’t stopped people from coming out to the weekly open mike night at the Ram in the Rye, hosted by Musicians@Ryerson.

The Ram was still bustling with activity, as servers weaved in and out between groups and more people trickled in from the cold. Every table near the makeshift stage, consisting of nothing but a djembe and a microphone on a stand, was taken.

Musicians@Ryerson is a student group, officially affiliated with the Ryerson Students’ Union. It began two years ago when drummer Eli Vandersluis, now a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, felt that there was nothing offered for the musically inclined students at Ryerson except a few liberal studies courses.

“Musicians like to congregate,” he said. “There was a high demand for this group and it filled that void.”

This led Vandersluis and several other students to found Musicians@Ryerson, so that twice a week musicians could meet, form bands, discuss music and host music-related events.

Vandersluis is now president of Musicians@Ryerson, which has grown exponentially in size over the last two years. Around 650 people are in the Facebook group, and members share their original songs or covers.

Third-year industrial engineering student Juan Udarbe joined when the group first started and is now the finance chair. As both a bassist and guitarist, he says the group helps him in many ways.

“In high school, I hung out in the music classroom. In engineering, you don’t have that,” Udarbe said. “I was so grateful to find other musicians in university. The group gives me something to look forward to every week.”

Previously, far less students would show up up to Musicians@Ryerson’s open mike nights and other events. But since the student group has increased their visibility at Ryerson by organizing more events, there has been a far healthier turnout at gatherings.

Rebecca Ortiz, second-year film student and vice president of the group, says she loves seeing people enjoy music and the group is the perfect place for that.

“There are always new opportunities to play, go to events, learn new things, make new friends,” Ortiz said, before excusing herself to perform with Vandersluis on the djembe and Udarbe on acoustic guitar.

“I grew up loving music and people who love music,” Udarbe said. “Engineering is just too much sometimes and being with like-minded people helps me. It keeps me sane.”

Photo by Emma Cosgrove