Student Artist Feature: First-year drummer

Chris Mellen is a first-year student at the College and an involved member of the music scene here on Mayflower Hill.

Mellen hails from Lynnfield, MA, and says that from a young age music has played an integral role in his life. He relayed that his parents’  love of music is what inspired him and his brother to take up the drums as soon as they were old enough to hold a pair of sticks. Soon after Mellen began his drumming career, his brother switched over to the guitar, allowing them to play songs together. Mellen recalled how he and his brother would perform for their parents’ friends and receive five and ten dollar tips, which made him “feel like a big shot.” These early experiences with performing live instilled a passion for playing music for a crowd that still lives on in Mellen.

Mellen attended Pingree School in Hamilton, MA before coming to Colby. At Pingree, he was involved with the music program and took music theory classes. He made an ensemble with a few friends at school and they were able to put together a live repertoire that included songs by the Eagles and Mumford and Sons, among other groups. He enjoyed being involved in music through his school and looked forward to having similar opportunities in the College.

When asked if he had found what he was looking for at the College, Mellen said “I think that the music program has been really cool so far because it has given me the chance to meet some really interesting people and do something that I think defines me as a person.”  

Mellen has discovered that one of the most useful resources for him  is the Colby Music Incubator (CMI). Mellen utilizes the drums and practice spaces located in the CMI to improve and perfect his craft, and feels the space has been essential to his development as a musician thus far at the College.

On the CMI’s role as a place for students to connect with other musicians, Mellen said “the Colby Music Incubator has helped facilitate finding others to play with and made it possible for me to have great musical opportunities right after arriving on campus.”

Mellen has truly taken advantage of the opportunities he has found through the CMI as he is a member of two student bands. One of these groups is made up of members of a group that existed last year but lost their drummer to graduation, and Mellen was happy to fill the vacant percussion position. The second is a group made up entirely of first years, this being a large group including a horn section and three guitarists. Although neither band has found a name, both groups plan on debuting at the Rock and Roe v. Wade concert, which will benefit Planned Parenthood and be taking place on campus in early November. The CMI will be announcing the specifics of the event soon, so be sure to make it out and see Mellen holding down the beat with fellow students for an important cause.

Mellen spoke warmly of his time at the College, saying, “I love Colby so far, I have encountered amazing, fun, and driven people that I am happy to be surrounded by. Colby College is a place that I like a lot and see myself liking for a long time.”

He talked excitedly about his Music Theory course with Professor Nuss, which he has found both challenging and rewarding. He has observed that it has helped him “take a more active role” in the groups he is a part of and made him more competent as a musician.

Mellen’s love of music goes beyond the classroom and stage as he is an avid consumer of a wide array of genres. He recommends the song “Movement” by Hozier, a song he says “builds slow, then goes over the top.”

This choice is indicative of his love for music that does not stay in one place, but instead “travels across the spectrum of emotion.”

When asked in an interview with the Echo what he loves most about music, Mellen responded saying, “my favorite part of playing music is connecting with the lyrics and the music itself. Being a part of the recreation of something and developing an emotional connection to it is something really important to me.”

Mellen finds inspiration in the music he listens to, his influences coming from a vast catalogue of music. His favorite drummers are revered session percussionist Steve Gaad, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich. Mellen has even found insight in the electronic drums of modern hip hop, discussing how the song “How Much a Dollar Costs” by Kendrick Lamar helped him “construct swing beats” that he uses in his playing.

Mellen invests much of his time practicing and playing with others, a commitment he is happy to make. On what inspires him to get to the practice room in Roberts Hall everyday and continue pursuing his art, Mellen explained that: “I am driven to be better and to set myself apart. Music is something that makes me unique and that is something I really value.”

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