Music blares through the halls of Beta Theta Pi. It’s 12:30 AM on a Tuesday night. Or perhaps a Wednesday morning. Call it what you want. I call it one thing: loud.
But this isn’t the rap music you’d expect to hear blasting throughout a frat house during a party. And it’s not EDM. And it’s definitely not “Closer” by The Chainsmokers for the millionth time.
It’s also not coming from the atrium speakers which, before this semester, you’d hear playing the standard party hits any night of the week. These jams—made famous by the likes of Green Day, Blink-182, and Peter, Bjorn and John—are being performed by the “Young Folks” of the Gamma Tau chapter of my fraternity.
There is no audience, besides a few other brothers and guys like myself who reluctantly listen from across the hall. They aren’t making an album or putting music on SoundCloud with hopes of being the next big thing, and they aren’t rehearsing for an upcoming party. In the words of the Chicago-based rapper so often played through any speaker in the house, there are no more parties in LA for Beta at USC. At least for now.
A suspension handed out by USC’s community standards board dating back to the fall 2017 semester put the brakes on the typical bi-weekly parties, mixers and other social events thrown by the guys off the row. This wasn’t the first time USC Beta had faced this same punishment in its 70-year history. It killed the morale of the house in the past, and many thought this would happen again.
No parties and no pledge class sounds like a death sentence to freshmen and sophomores in any fraternity, let alone one in a Greek system that has lost at least one house every year for the last half decade.
Once 2018 began, the Beta house began to feel less like a fraternity and more like a moldy, decaying building that happened to house some dudes who all pledged together in a sacred, everlasting fraternal bond. Or something like that.
Brothers went inactive. Chapter attendance plummeted. Rooms that once housed two brothers at a time were left empty. One of those rooms, Room 232, had a janky door that refused to lock. This inspired Auzzy Nufable, a sophomore and newly-initiated brother whose newfound position of recruitment chair was rendered useless by the suspension.
A GROUP OF US HAD VERY SIMILAR MUSIC INTERESTS SO WE KNEW THAT WE WANTED TO COLLABORATE IN SOME WAY, SAID NUFABLE.
“The jam room has proven that our social life goes way beyond just parties,” said Nufable. “Musician or not, everyone loves hearing music being played. Just having an activity available at the house everyday has kept morale up around the house.”
Freshman and fellow executive board member Nolan Melia echoed those sentiments. “Guys in the house of all ages have realized that we could have a good time with each other and strengthen our bonds as friends and brothers without having parties,” he said. “Instead, we’re bonding over the music we play and enjoy. I sincerely believe that the jam room opened up a whole new form of fun and enjoyment for all the guys.”
Even for Paul Hachigian, a senior studying real estate development who’s currently on his way to a big-time job in just a few months, the jam room has been a defining part of his experience in Beta. “I think I’m the oldest guy that goes in there, so it’s given me an opportunity to get to know the younger guys more on a creative side. It’s definitely been very exciting,” he said.
Assuming the Beta boys maintain good behavior, things will be back to normal for the fall 2018 semester. Parties will be back on. Sorority mixers, homecoming, and invites will return in full force. A new pledge class will be welcomed to Portland Street, the offshoot of 28th Street where the rest of the row resides.
But the old “normal” before the suspension may not completely overshadow the new. We might hear rap music blasting from Beta on the weekends, with rock, metal and blues dominating the weekdays. “What began as just a couple of guys informally jamming turned into the most important room of the house,” said Melia. “I don’t see those bonds or communal music sessions going away. The musicians of the house will continue to make music and jam together, maybe in a new manner, but still with the same effects.”
Sounds like a lot of noise, but is it worth putting up with, even on the most stressful nights before a midterm? Is it worth the lack of sleep when you’re sick?
“The jam room showed all of us how great of a time we could all have together, no matter the situation we are in, or the day of the week, or even how good we are as musicians,” said Melia.