Cumberland County Music Scene

Staff Writer


Set a scene in your mind, it is the year 2009 and you’re in a music venue in Vineland, NJ. In a crowd of youthful faces, you can see a smile across the room. The face belongs to a young girl. She has not had many reasons to turn around her frown lately but tonight she managed to catch a ride to see her favorite band play her favorite song. She will carry this memory with her forever, because in that moment the world around her was singing directly to her and only her. At Hanger 84, many memories like this were made. The venue however is long gone.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I can recall being able to tell you a list of ten bands, singers, and rappers and where they were going to be performing the next three weekends in advance. This is what is known as a music scene, a connected group of novice and professional musicians and performers creating a community to preserve their work and to grow.
Nowadays, despite its efforts to claim how art-centric it is, Cumberland County no longer has the strong music scene presence it used to, not even a decade ago. To discover why this is happening I inquired help from my friends in the band FRND CRCL (pronounced Friend Circle) from Vineland. Despite being from the area and releasing their first full-length album a couple of months ago, they have hardly ever performed in their home county and I found this strange for a punk garage band from South Jersey.
I sat down with Zac Johnson, the singer and guitarist for the band, to talk about the state of our local music scene. He disclosed to me that even though the band plays what he calls “outdated Pop Punk music with Reggae and Rap influences” he doesn’t have any connections to any similar bands in the area. The lack of camaraderie he says is palpable and a distinct difference from what he remembers of bands a few years ago.
Johnson told me that since the bands forming in May of 2015, they have performed less than ten shows in Cumberland County and he said almost all of those shows were what he called flops. He recalls that most shows in Cumberland made the band feel like they were secondary entertainment. By that he explained that the music was never the center focus, the shows were always at bars or restaurants or events where the people would have been there whether the band was playing or not, and because of this the crowd had a general disinterest in the music. Johnson said that every show felt like they were expected to do covers of “oldies or rock classics” and new or original music was frowned upon. All of these things made the band look elsewhere to perform and to grow as an entertainment presence to moderate success.
It seems recently the art scene Cumberland County brags about only encourages traditional forms of art or cover bands and music, and FRND CRCL is a great recent example of this bias. When I asked Johnson what the county could do to improve the upcoming music in the area he said that “The first thing would be to open an exclusively music based venue again now that the likes of Hanger 84 or the Oak Tavern are no longer in business. Until then, new bands will be forced to look to North Jersey venues such as Stone Pony in Asbury Park, or Hard Rock Café in Atlantic City to make a name for themselves.”
It is now up to Cumberland County and time to see if these types of ideas will ever be implemented in our County again, or if our county will just be local bars hosting cover bands for the next few decades. Only one thing is certain and that is if these local bands are not brought back home to play, my gas money will keep being burnt driving to see where they play next.


Get your hands dirty at Pottery Boot Camp


For anyone who is interested in honing in on their crafting skills, it’s not too late to sign up for spring classes at CCC’s Clay College! Located on High Street in Millville, the Clay College offers noncredit classes to anyone interested, student or not. Annual pottery classes of multiple levels are offered in the spring including: Intro to Pottery, Advanced Pottery for Adults, and Intro to Pottery Wheel. Pottery Boot Camp will be available for the first time this spring. Whatever your skill level is, you will be able to find your niche at the Clay College.

Intro to Pottery classes run from May 23 to June 27 on Monday evenings, 6-9 PM. It costs $135 to register with no previous experience needed. According to flyers advertising the courses, “[Intro to Pottery] explores hand-building techniques such as pinch, coil and slab, and throwing on the pottery wheel. Glaze, firings, and studio access are including in this six-week class.” This class is best for people that want to begin learning the craft or are just looking for a creative activity to try.

Advanced Pottery for Adults begins on May 18 and winds down on June 29. Classes are from 6-9 PM on Wednesdays and costs $190 total. “It is a seven-week course is for the more advanced student who already has some knowledge of creating pottery. Ceramic processes and techniques will be covered while developing student’s individual work.” Clay College will provide some of the necessary materials, but TBD materials will be up to the students to obtain themselves.

Intro to Pottery Wheel is another beginner’s class, but this one focuses solely on pottery made on a wheel rather than hand crafted items. This class runs from May 31 to June 28 on Tuesday’s from 6-9 PM. Classes cost $135. As advertised, “students will learn through weekly demonstrations and hands-on instruction how to make basic forms on the wheel.”

Pottery Boot Camp is the Clay College’s newest class. It is a four-week intensive class that teaches beginning hand-building techniques and a quick lesson on the wheel. This class is ideal for people who don’t have the time to commit to a regular class. However, it is limited to 10 available spots for prospective students. This class takes place on Saturday’s from 1-4 PM between April 30 and May 21. It is the least expensive of the classes, costing only $125.

As an added bonus, participants will receive two months of studio time during the months of July and August for absolutely free, along with their purchase of any of the classes provided. To gain more information or sign up for a class, visit

4 Woman writers to check out this summer


Here are four award-winning ladies who are challenging the literary world with their courageous stories, denouncing the stereotypical view of female authors. Alysia Harris, Nicole Krauss, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Andrea Gibson are four authors you do not want to miss.

Alysia Harris is a renowned spoken-word poet and former member of the performance collective, The Strivers Row. tells readers she has performed in seven countries and as part of the winning teams in the 2007 CUPSI and Brave New Voices competitions. Her lines evoke emotional response; “Hoes, boppers, and skanks. What’s in a name, but a whole lot of rape culture?” Harris meshes elegance, honesty, grit, and current culture to bring her poems to life. Her newly published chapbook, How Much We Must Have Looked like Stars to Stars, is already award-winning and highly coveted by fans.

Nicole Krauss has been named by The New York Times as “one of America’s most important novelists.” Her internationally best-selling books have been translated into 35 languages and her novels Great House, The History of Love, and Man Walks into a Room, have all won or been finalists for numerous awards. In 2010, Krauss was chosen by The New Yorker for their “20 under 40” list. She proves herself worthy of her laudable title with her intricately woven and always surprising stories. Krauss’ books share common themes such as memory, how people recover from great losses, and exploration of the inner self.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author and winner of multiple awards, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. She has written three novels, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah, and myriad short stories. Her compelling novels tackle issues dealt with by her own people such as political instability and the Nigerian Civil War, as well as love and personal unrest. She is a celebrated TED speaker and feminist; a woman who, according to an interview with The Guardian, “doesn’t seek to upset critics, but does so willingly if that’s what it takes.”

Andrea Gibson is a spoken-word poet and activist for gender and LGBTQ issues who prefers to use they/their pronouns rather than she/he. They have six published works including The Madness Vase and their latest book, Pansy. shares Gibson was the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam. In an interview with, Gibson tells that they prefer to write and perform collaboratively with musicians. Gibson is raw and truthful in both their poetry and activism. They write about weighted issues such as rape, gender norms, war, and bullying as a way to start a dialogue that so many people try to avoid.

With their honest depictions of life from the woman’s point of view, these authors and poets are not afraid to speak for themselves and countless others who seek to change female writing into a truthful discussion instead of the usual frills.

Are you anti-college?


Staff Writer

The notion that traditional college is not for everyone is rapidly becoming part of mainstream society, but what about the idea of an anti-college? Anti-college is the opposite of traditional schooling, yet still higher education nonetheless. There are many people who believe this type of schooling is more beneficial for prospective students, but due to the short amount of time anti-schooling has been in effect, it is hard to know whether or not it truly is a better way to handle education.

In 2012, the Make School was founded on the idea of allowing students to learn and create without the pressure of grades and tuition fees. The only one of its kind, Make School has become a prototype of experiential learning with eyes heavily watching to see whether it will succeed or flounder.

Advocates for Make School and budding replications include the founders of PayPal, Virgin Airlines, and EBay. These are all people who didn’t go to college, or they themselves have dropped out. CCC’s Professor Kevin McGarvey thinks that these founders and geniuses like them are more readily available to support nontraditional ventures like Make School seeing as they flourished in this type of environment and felt that they didn’t need college.

Make School was co-founded by Jeremy Rossman and Ashu Desai. According to, Rossman and Desai were high school friends who, after each spending a year at MIT and UCLA, respectively, decided to take a semester off and explore the process of creating mobile apps. Rossman describes Make School as “a college replacement for founders and developers.” reports they only have 50 spots to offer to prospective students each two-year program. There is only a 10 percent acceptance rate, but Make School is not for every major. The school specifically teaches classes in software engineering and computer sciences. According to McGarvey, “Make School is for people who are already at the top of their game. There are thousands of students who need the guidance a professor provides to point them in the right direction. Most people don’t just “know” these things; they have to be learned.”

What prospective students find so alluring is that Make School requires no upfront tuition. In a year where student loan debt is at 1.2 trillion in America ( and the cost of tuition is at an all-time high, people are desperate to keep themselves out of monstrous debt. It is not until after graduating from Make School and acquiring a “career” that you are required to begin paying for your schooling. No official tuition rate has been released, but as stated on, students will pay 25% of their salary each year until the cost is covered.

Make School gives no grades. There are no tests or homework. Rather, they focus on project-based learning. Depending on the rapid advances in the technological world, students learn based on what is happening right now. In an interview with Seeker Stories, a YouTube channel that produces short documentaries, Rossman described their core philosophy: “…if you teach the same thing two years in a row, it has got to be wrong because computer science as a field and software engineering as a discipline are moving so fast.”

This new twist on education has raised the bar for effective learning, but McGarvey thinks colleges have nothing to fear. “Don’t count colleges out yet. Students learn to think critically; they discover ideas and concepts that hadn’t occurred to them before. They become individuals who can make rational decisions and think for themselves. For so many, college is a rite of passage into adulthood.”

There is no one right way for a person to learn, similar to the question students ask themselves, “Am I a visual learner? Auditory? Kinesthetic?” McGarvey stated, “The best and brightest rise to the top regardless. But that’s a small number of gifted people. Most of the rest need a push, a nudge in the right direction, some moral support when things become overwhelming. Those are some of the things a college like Cumberland does best.” And it’s true. The best type of schooling for an individual is based solely on said individual’s personality.

Make School offers students another alternative to traditional school. With diverse types of schooling popping up like this, it is clear to see that people are taking school seriously; something that can only cause our country to progress more rapidly.

Riker’s Island: Gaining freedom through self-expression


Staff Writer

Riker’s Island is most known for being New York’s main jail complex and one of the world’s largest correctional institutions., a nonprofit news outlet, reports it as being one of America’s top ten worst prisons, but now, Riker’s Island is getting attention set in a whole new light. According to an interview with The New York Times, Miles Hodges, a spoken word poet and ambassador for the New York Public Library, has been developing a spoken word program at Riker’s over the past few months.

Hodges is currently working on two programs. The first being a spoken-word writing workshop for young women in their late teens and early twenties located in the Rose M. Singer Center, one of Riker’s nine functioning jails. The latter being performing his own hard hitting poems to inmates of the Eric M. Taylor Center, a male only jail.

You might be wondering what Hodges was thinking when implicating these workshops into the Riker’s Island culture, and it’s safe to say the inmates were too. After the initial indifference and lack of desire to attend, the male inmates were left with a new appreciation for the artistic medium.

Before beginning Hodges told inmates, “I’m a firm believer in the power of storytelling. I believe in its ability to change people’s minds. And I believe in being honest and speaking from a true and honest place.” Hodges’ goal in partnering with the New York Public Library is to create programs that entice the millennial generation to find and cultivate their voice in the form of creative outlet.

In an interview afterwards with The New York Times, Anthony Hernandez, an inmate serving several months for drug possession, said he had been reluctant to attend the program; he had expected it to be boring and stodgy. But he concluded, ‘It hit more like where you are from, a more different poetry.’”

At this specific visit that Hernandez attended, Hodges performed “Harlem,” arguably his best and most well known poem. In this poem, he describes the streets of Harlem as having, “Roached blunts and roached joints…scattered around the purple, pink, and black chalked R.I.P. signs as if whispering from the Concrete Jungle, ‘I’m resting in peace and high.’” These words resonate immensely with the inmates, most of whom spent their lives in the projects of New York before being incarcerated, and are used to the poverty, gang violence, and self-reliance that line the streets of so many urban cities across America.

Where some people make the mistake of dismissing poetry as being frilly and not relatable, Hodges reveals to inmates that poetry, specifically slam poetry, can be very raw and very real. In his collaborative poem, “Strive,” that he co-wrote and performs with Carvens Lissaint, Hodges makes his message to the Riker’s Island inmates clear: “Strive- Like you know prisons are man-made but minds are God-made.”

America: Cutting back on culture


Staff Writer

Gentrification is rapidly spreading throughout all major cities in the U.S. by erasing the cultures that once made these cities so vibrant. Gentrification is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” While the general ideas of renewal and rebuilding are a solid foundation, the phenomena that gentrification has become in recent years shows the increasing lack of compassion for things that do not directly affect us.

In cities such as Philadelphia and Brooklyn, gentrification stands out in stark contrast to the urban spaces that have yet to be enshrouded by hipster coffee shops, microbreweries, and luxury apartments. At first thought, gentrification comes off as a good theory. Most definitions lack the latter part, actively ignoring the thousands of people who are evicted or forced to leave their homes by rent increases designed to push out individuals and families that don’t fit the new white-washed neighborhoods. If utilized correctly, the basis of renewal and rebuilding could make neighborhoods such as those surrounding Temple University in Philadelphia, flourish in ways that celebrate the diverse cultures that make these communities home to so many people.

Instead of displacing those who cannot afford the increased price of living, couldn’t the city government assist the current residents and business owners in gaining a post-secondary education, evolving their businesses, and growing their own community? Of course, this wouldn’t make as much profit for the city government, and in a country as profit-focused as America, that’s a no go.

According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, about 15 percent of Philadelphia neighborhoods are being gentrified. Comparably, research by shows that 29.8 percent of Brooklyn neighborhoods have been gentrifying since 2000. The merger of the affluent and the low-income residents usually results in tension and misunderstanding. This leaves the minorities who were born and raised in the neighborhood feeling like outsiders, where they once felt most comfortable.

Jenae McDonald, a friend of mine who lives in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, is currently facing the harsh realities of gentrification, every time she walks out her front door. When asked what’s changed and why it matters, McDonald had this to say: “The culture behind the neighborhood is what’s changing more than anything. Kids don’t even play outside anymore. Block parties aren’t even thriving like they use to. Gentrification not only drives away people but the souls of the people. There used to be a comfort walking down the block and I don’t physically feel that anymore. Caribbean restaurants have even watered down themselves to accommodate the new wave of people. The fact that culture is blatantly being stripped separates us more than anything. Instead of unifying us in the community, gentrification only leaves disdain.”

We all enjoy overpriced coffee shops and perusing quirky clothing stores, but there are plenty of them in the more affluent parts of the city that make displacing hoards of people from their homes seem excessive at the very least. Gentrification takes culture and tradition and assimilates it into a bland “melting pot”, where the diverse cultures that created America as the powerful immigrant country it once was, are only showcased as Halloween costumes and in off-color humor.

May the force be with you…

By Russel Garvey, Jr.

Staff Writer

On December 18, 2015, the new Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens, will be released on thousand of screens. It is easy to say this is one of the most anticipated releases in the last decade.  Everyone is talking about it. “Did you see the new trailer they just released?”

It has been over ten years since a new Star Wars movie and it is generally accepted that the Prequel Trilogy (Episodes 1, 2, and 3) did not live up to the anticipation of their release.  With JJ Abrams at the helm, coming off the success and critical acclaim of the Star Trek reboots, many fans are very excited to see what he will do with the beginning of this new trilogy.

Star Wars is probably the most influential film of my generation,” Abrams states. “It’s the personification of good and evil and the way it opened up the world to space adventure, the way Westerns had to our parents’ generations, left an indelible imprint. So, in a way, everything that any of us does is somehow directly or indirectly affected by the experience of seeing those first three films.”

One CCC student, Eliud Rivera, is looking forward to a new fun plot, the use of “old school” practical effects instead of using CGI everywhere, effects that flooded the prequels making it undearable to watch, and the hope of the lack of Jar Jar Binks.

“I only hope that younger audience members can be as mystified as the generation that saw the original. Star Wars has a reputation and the hype spans all generations. If Episode VII succeeds, it could usher a renewal of big great movies that go beyond being cash-grabs and become a lasting part of pop culture,” Rivera stated.

On the reverse spectrum, there a several students that have not seen a Star Wars movie before so for them, this will be a grand new experience. For those of you in the same crowd, try your best and watch the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV through VI) to give yourself some basis to put the new movie in context.

As we await the new release, all different types of “fan theories” have begun to pop up in conversations and online. I was personally surprised with the conversations erupting during the release of the first wave of Star Wars merchandise this past September.

How many people believe the new Sith Lord Kylo Ren is actually Luke Skywalker? How that the new character of Rey (Daisey Ridley) is the daughter of Han and Leia? How amazing is it going to be to see what such a small droid, BB-8, is going to have in the whole plot?

There is so many theories floating around in conversation and online. We will have to just wait and anticipate what kind of world and events JJ Abrams and the cast will bring us on December 18.