Taking Care of (Music) Business: Austin Frank ’17 What can you do in four years at W&L? How about manage a radio show, start a service organization, found a club, or publish an EP? Austin Frank ’17 has done them all.
“I hope that my own gratitude for W&L shines through – for all the opportunities and support it has given me and all of my dreams that the university has helped me achieve.”
What has surprised me most about Washington and Lee has been the frankly staggering number of resources available to students. By resources, I don’t just mean financial – this place has everything you could need. Need a studio-quality microphone for a recording project? The music department will happily lend you one for as long as you need! Need help with complicated statistical analysis or a niche research project? You can swing by the library almost any time and get help. Need thoughtful, intelligent, and passionate people to help you achieve amazing things? W&L is bursting at the seams with an enthusiastic and driven staff and student body to accomplish them.
Being able to have access to this wealth of knowledge and passion has been my favorite part of my W&L experience. I’ve been lucky enough to channel these resources into projects that I’m passionate about. My four years can be characterized by whatever big project I have taken on as I grew both personally and academically.
My first year was all about getting my feet wet. I sought organizations that seemed interesting to me, like WLUR, our campus radio station (now I’m nearing the 100th episode of my radio show, Generally Eclectic), and have climbed through the ranks from DJ to Assistant Music Director and, finally, Music Director and podcast host. I also met Graham Spice, who got me excited about the music scene on campus and honing my sound-tech abilities through performing with the Electronic Music Ensemble and then heading the Production Club.
By sophomore year, I started branching out to create new organizations. Perhaps most significant that year was working to recharter the seven-year dormant chapter of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity on campus. With the help of some amazing friends and teammates, we were able to conduct a multitude of on-campus and community service projects, and to submit all of the rechartering paperwork by the end of the year. We were proudly rechartered as a national chapter the next fall.
Junior year was dominated by the birth of Friday Underground. I had the privilege of working on the team that founded the weekly event space, working to coordinate the venue’s technology and performers. Getting to combine my love of leadership and music to play a part in offering a new and unique entertainment and visual art space for our campus social scene has been such a wonderful thing for so many people, and it has been a dream come true for me.
Now, I’m in my senior year. It’s amazing to look back at all of these things that I’ve had a hand in creating and watching them grow beyond just me. I’m excited to come back in a few years to see students filing into the ARC House on a Friday night to hang out, and I’m so anxious to hear what the Alpha Beta Tau chapter of APO is working on and how they’re giving back to our community.
When I think of what will define this year for me, though, I think it will be Friday Underground Records. While a few friends and I started the FUDG Records label last winter, we’ve really hit our stride this year. In many ways, I see our current project, Purser’s (Dana Gary) EP, as a sort of extracurricular capstone. This project is a culmination of so many of the things that I’ve worked on over the last four years – music technology, music performance, leading and organizing a large roster of musicians, organizational management, filing and running a registered business, managing a Kickstarter campaign and, most rewarding, helping other people make their goals and dreams a reality. On this third record, we’ve included the most musicians we’ve ever worked with, crowd-funded more than $3,000, and expanded into exciting new areas (such as pressing the EP on vinyl – a nearly lifelong dream of mine).
Dana has said that the music on the album is a sort of love letter to her time at W&L, and I couldn’t agree more. While the words and music aren’t my own, I hope that my own gratitude for this place shines through – for all the opportunities and support it has given me and all of my dreams that the university has helped me achieve.
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A little more about Austin
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Sociology, Politics (American Emphasis), Latin American and Caribbean Studies Minor
Why did you choose your major?
I love the way that sociology and politics work together. Sociology provides a way to look at why problems arise and proposes ways in which society can try to address them. Politics is sort of the practical side of things. It’s taught me how to take the solutions proposed in sociology and try to implement them.
What professor has inspired you?
I absolutely can’t pick just one. It’s a mix of Professor Jonathan Eastwood, Professor Lynn Chin, Professor Jeffrey Barnett, and Professor Graham Spice. They’ve guided me both academically and personally and have made my experiences both inside and out of the classroom here so much more rewarding.
What’s your personal motto?
“Be a Leader, Be a Friend, Be of Service” — the motto of my service fraternity as well as three tenets that I always try to hold myself to.
What’s your favorite song right now?
Fleet Foxes – “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and this is their first single since their last album six years ago!
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
That there is someplace for everyone. My biggest fear in going to college was being nervous about making friends and finding people with similar interests. At the end of four years, I can say definitively that I have met some of the kindest, most amazing people here, and I didn’t have any reason to worry.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Haywood’s. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you get. The food is amazing and the ambiance just throws it over the top. It was also where I had my first date with my girlfriend.
I’m going to pursue my masters in public administration at the University of Southern California Price School.
Favorite W&L memory:
On the second day of orientation week, I was talking with a few people at an ice cream social. While walking back to the dorm, we got shuffled onto a Traveller daytime tour (coerced by the promise of a free t-shirt). I ended up really hitting it off with the girl sitting next to me and we became fast friends. That was our first and last time on Traveller. We started dating at the end of freshman year and after three years, we’re still together.
Latin American Literature with Professor Barnett. The class only had about six students who all became very close. We got to hang out a few times a week and discuss some of the best books ever written — doesn’t get much better!
Favorite W&L event:
Friday Underground. It is always the perfect way to end a week. Being a part of bringing it to life was such a rewarding experience, and I’m amazed by the impact it has had on the school.
Favorite campus landmark:
It’s a toss-up. The huge weeping cherry tree right outside of Evans Dining Hall is a contender – it tends to bloom right around the end of winter term/beginning of spring term. It smells amazing and is unbelievably beautiful. The other would be Wilson Hall, especially at night. There are so many nooks and crannies to discover, and some of my favorite memories have been making music with my friends there over the last few years.
What’s your passion?
People and music.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I absolutely love to crochet! I learned sophomore year. One of my all-time favorite things to do is sit and watch cheesy superhero shows while working on crocheting — it’s incredibly relaxing.
Why did you choose W&L?
Honestly, it chose me as a Johnson Scholar, so it was a bit of a leap of faith. I’m happy to say that it was unequivocally the best decision I’ve ever made.