The unusual Thursday Night Special (TNS) concert series attracts an eclectic group of students and occasionally faculty.
“It’s an enigma. It’s vague and mysterious,” said organizer, second year graduate student, Travis Johns.
TNS is entirely unofficial and student-run; it is not connected to the music department and is not an official club. It is organized by Johns and Gudmundur Gunnarsson, both second year graduate students.
“It’s a chance for students at Mills to produce their own music events, in their own time,” intermedia arts program head Chris Brown said. “I think they are important for the student community here.”
Anyone can attend the concert, beginning between 8:30 and 9 p.m. in the ensemble room of the music building. It ends when the night’s performances have finished.
“It makes it something more then a bi-weekly concert if you say it’s vague and mysterious,” Johns said. “We have no idea what each bi-weekly event has in store for us or for those that attend.”
It is free to attend, although donations are suggested.
“We encourage people to come regardless of suggestions,” Johns said.
The order of performers is unknown until around five minutes before the show begins. It is decided by some means of randomization, such as dice.
“It’s the excitement of spontaneity and seeing what people are going to do, what fellow students are going to come up with this time,” Gunnarsson said. “In many cases it’s improvised music that might only exist that night.”
Anyone can perform at the bi-weekly concert. They are recorded and the recordings are available to performers.
“The forum is theirs in whatever context they want it to be,” Johns said.
Both Johns and Gunnarsson perform often.
“You might see the same people doing different things at Thursday Night Special,” Gunnarsson said.
Occasionally TNS will have a theme night. Past themes have been Halloween and truck driver/biker granny. There is also a dance party once in awhile.
“Dance parties happen when you need them to happen,” Johns said.
The only way Johns and Gunnarsson said they see to improve TNS is with an entourage, lasers, smoke machines, helicopters and spinning platforms.
“It’s a pretty low-key environment,” Johns said. “If we upped it, it would be vague and fabulous and I’m not sure I could afford that lifestyle right now.”
They are currently coming up with a system to find who will replace them as organizers next year. The process is different each year; Gunnarsson and Johns were chosen through anonymous calls and notes.
“Maybe it won’t be ours to choose, I feel it may come to us in a dream,” Johns said.
Although it used to be held on Wednesdays, the concert is now held on Thursdays for convenience and it is the beginning of the weekend for many since there are not many classes at Mills on Fridays.
They estimate TNS is six years old. Its origins are unknown, partly because graduate students are generally only here for two years.
“It began as somewhat underground, they would hold concerts under the music department stage. We have none of this information verified,” Johns said. “We like it that way.”
To participate, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and include who will perform and how long it will take. The next Thursday Night Special is Oct. 19.
Gunnarsson said, “Just let the curiosity bring you to TNS with an open mind and an open heart full of joy.”