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Manderson paves the way for female-fronted bands on campus


Crystal Manderson is a suburban house mom. Well, a fake one from the imagination of Sylvia Shutes ’24 — a persona created to send hate mail to her high school. However, the surname, Manderson, is the title for an all-female trio cover band she, Abby Johnson ’24, and Sydney Monge ’24 are in. 

On-the-fly jam sessions were a signature of student life during COVID-19 as music programs and ensembles were put on pause. For the three friends, the Hoyme lounge was where their music began. “Dorm lounges were filled with a lot more people playing music,” Monge said. “Our freshman year, there was a little jazz trio that would always get together and play, and people would come and listen.” 

Transitioning from lounges to dorm rooms to official band slots in the Pause, Manderson is currently the oldest student-led band on campus. The trio has performed on-and off-campus, including opening for Faye Webster and Spring Fest performers Claud and Maude Latour as well as at the Fifth Year Emerging Artists showcase in the Twin Cities. For them, their music is all about collaboration amongst themselves and other artists. 

“To join forces with other artists, collaborating with visual artists, I just love those types of collaboration things,” Johnson said. They perform various songs within the indie rock genre ranging from Phoebe Bridgers to Blondie. 

As a college band, their roots are grounded in their close friendship and winding collaborative partnership. “We prioritize having fun and allow each other to pursue different priorities,” Monge said when asked how they balance a student workload simultaneously with a band. Manderson is currently on a hiatus as Shutes is teaching abroad in Mexico for the semester. They hope to resume their musical endeavors in the Spring with independent, off-campus shows. 

Collaboration is a keyword that both Johnson and Monge expressed to student musicians who want to team up with other like-minded students. “If you want to collaborate with other student musicians on campus, just reach out, send an email out to stolaf-extra,” Johnson said. Since their beginnings during the pandemic, there has been a noticeable lack of student-created bands or a self-made music scene on campus. 

A lack of student musician participation is not the only thing missing from the on-campus music scene. “There’s a lack of female representation in campus bands,” Monge said. “Wanting to see female musicians rock-out is something I would’ve wanted to see when coming to St. Olaf.” As a female band graduating in the spring, they hope to inspire other female student musicians to perform and continue the legacy of female rockers on campus.

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