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 He disclosed to me that even though the band plays what he calls “outdated Pop Punk music with Reggae and Rap influences” he doesn’t have any connections to any similar bands in the area.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

CCC’s 2016 Commencement Speaker

CCC’s 2016 Commencement Speaker

By Jenn Hallgren

On May 19, Cumberland County College graduates and the community will be addressed at commencement by this year’s keynote speaker, CEO of Wawa, Chris Gheysens. Before becoming the head of the flock, Gheysens grew up in Vineland and worked at his father’s carwash while attending local schools such as St. Mary’s in East Vineland and St. Augustine Preparatory in Richland, NJ.

He then went across the river to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from Villanova University and later went on to earn his Master’s of Business Administration at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I have a fondness for Villanova and St. Joe’s,” Gheysens told Mainline Today in a 2013 interview, “They helped shape who I am in a lot of ways.”

Gheysens became the Chief Executive Officer for Wawa in 2013. He began his career with Wawa in 1997 as its Chief Financial and Administrative Officer and went on to become the President in 2012. Gheysens told, “South Jersey is a big part of Wawa, and it is definitely a part of me.”

As CCC approaches their 50th anniversary, Wawa will have celebrated 52 years of service on Wawa Day, which is on April 16. The founding family of Wawa, the Woods family, donated the land on which CCC was built and still owns half of the company.

During a press release announcing Gheysens as the keynote speaker for this year’s commencement, interim president Shelly Schneider stated, “Mr. Gheysens and Wawa are two great Cumberland County success stories, a great inspiration for our new graduates and the community.”

Although his footprint covers 645 stores across the tri-state area, Maryland, Virginia, and now central Florida, Gheysens still calls New Jersey his home—South Jersey actually—and enjoys visiting the Jersey Shore with his wife, Patricia Gheysens, and four children. “I grew up in South Jersey, spent my summers in Sea Isle,” Gheysens told Philly Magazine in 2012 when he was about to take the “lead goose” position replacing then CEO Howard Stoeckel. Just as South Jersey is loyal to Wawa, Wawa is loyal to South Jersey.

Commencement will be held at Cumberland County College on May 19 at 6PM and is open to the public.

Cumberland County College’s Dynamic Duo

By Georgia I. Salvaryn

For the past 50 years, John Gibbs and John Adair have worked as associate professors in English here at Cumberland County College. Throughout the years, both professors have had the opportunity to watch the campus and students grow. I had the pleasure of interviewing Gibbs and Adair and they shared their remarkable stories and unforgettable memories about their experiences at Cumberland County College.

Throughout the interview, Gibbs and Adair expressed their appreciation of the diversity in the student body, their love for their students and courses, and their enthusiasm for learning and their professional careers.

“My first day [at CCC], it was wonderful because I walked into the speech class, I taught speech at night, and I had a 65 year old woman and a 17 year old guy in the same class, and I thought, ‘This is for me,’” Gibbs states. “…it’s the interchange between the students that makes it so good.”

“People say to me, ‘Don’t you get tired of doing the same thing?’ and I say, ‘Of course not because I am not doing the same thing.’ Every class is different,” Gibbs states. “As the years go on, you get different experiences and different reactions. And, actually, what we’ve discovered, I think is, you learn new things, and…teachers learn from students as well as students learn from teachers.”

“We learn new things because you have students who had different experiences and they have different attitudes. And you hear and see things, sometimes, in a completely different way than you saw them,” Gibbs adds.

“I tell students, ‘The beauty of teaching literature is you can never exhaust it.’ And every once in a while, I haul out a pen and I’m writing and someone will ask me, ‘What are you writing down?’ and I’ll say, ‘I just thought of a new idea on what we discussed in class. I’m going to incorporate that next year,’” Adair states.

“We both like the interchange that we have with the students,” Adair adds. “That’s one of the neat things that we have about the community college… And I think that is part of why we have been here as long…”

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.”

Shawn Munoz

Staff Writer

In April 2014, two Vineland locals, Shawn Munoz, 22, and Brandon Pennington, 20, started the record label Runaway Records. Munoz, a rap artist, writes, records, and edits his own music. He began recording when he was 12 at Bezel’s, a now-closed studio on Landis Avenue. He now records in the studio he built in his house.

“I was making music and I wasn’t really taking it seriously at first, but once we started getting a good response from it, we figured we should do something independent.” Munoz said. From there, Munoz began producing music and Pennington started designing t-shirts and logos.

Munoz is inspired by the raw emotion of classic rock and he hopes to portray the same amount of emotion in his music. He uses scenarios from his life that impacted him because “most likely someone else is going through the same thing.”

His goal is to inspire and motivate underprivileged artists by showing them, “no matter what situations you’re coming from, this is possible to do.” He plans on using his record label to give the needed tools to underprivileged musicians.

Munoz has attended multiple open-mic events at venues such as Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia. He has received positive feedback from the audience. His first album was featured for a week on one of the “biggest music websites in the world,”, and it got 1,200 downloads. His second album, New Religion, is receiving more positive responses.

His DJ, Joey Diaz, creates playlists and orders the songs for Munoz’s performances. Diaz, along with Pennington and Munoz’s mother, is among his biggest supporters. Munoz works primarily with his friends. They use their individual talents and expertise to create the albums and merchandise. Munoz’s older brother, Orlando, is his manager and helps book performances.

From conception to completion, one song takes Munoz four to five days to create. During this time, his friends may give their input, but Munoz does the majority of the editing. When asked about how he writes his lyrics, Munoz said, “All day I write down these little ideas and at the end of the day I have a paper full of scribbled ideas and I come home and try to make it a complete song.” Since Munoz uses events from his life as inspiration, he is passionate about the messages he is sending.

Munoz has encountered many people who doubt his ability to make music into a career. “It was something people kind of laughed at me for, especially rap.” Munoz has been told a music career is unrealistic and he needs a back-up plan. Although he and his supporters are confident in his ability to succeed, he is working towards his real estate license.

Munoz plans on releasing two music videos in the upcoming months and a documentary in the upcoming years. He and his collaborators are “trying to capture all of the hardships we’re facing and capture us succeeding.”

Munoz’s music can be heard at