Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Before Common Grounds was the Zeitgeist

Megan Tuennerman

A&E Editor

The College of Wooster campus is buzzing with talent- ed students looking for places to express themselves, and our community has created a multi- tude of ways to allow students to do just that. Some students choose to express their talents through productions put on by the Department of Theatre and Dance, others through student organizations such as a capella groups, while other students perform at Common Grounds or Covers. But Com- mon Grounds and Covers have not always existed — so in the past, where could students per- form in a coffeehouse setting?

Before there was Common Grounds, there was The Zeit- geist. The exact start date of The Zeitgeist is hard to pin down, but Don Frederico ’76, commented that it was there for a while before his time on campus — at least a decade beforeaccordingtoadvertise- ments in previous editions ofTheVoice.Fredericoworkedas the manager of The Zeitgeist hissophomoreyearattheCol- legeandcommentedthatitwas “your sort of typical 60s, early 70s era coffee house, which means not that it served coffee, but that it provided acoustic musicentertainment,”andem- phasized that “the main attrac- tion was the entertainment.” The Zeitgeist was open most Friday and Saturday nights and was primarily, if not ex- clusively, student performers. “The music was all acoustic — mostly guitars. It was held in the basement of Westminster housewherewehadlighting for performers with a small stage and candles on the ta- bles(yes,theywereallowed!),” commented Frederico.

Reminiscent of Covers, per- formances at The Zeitgeist were mostly covers of songs; themostcommonlyheardcov- ers were of people like Elton John,JamesTaylor,Simonand Garfunckle and Joni Mitch- ell—mostlysoft/folkrock music. The Zeitgeist ran announcements in The Voice with one such announcement in the May 5, 1969 edition stating that Navajo Folk Songs and Stories were to be performed at The Zeitgeist by Ruth Roes- sel. Frederico commented that“thereweresomestudent groups that performed mul- tiple times,” and it was easi- est for him to keep a roster of people to call and ask them to perform on any given night.

One of those routine per- formancegroupswasatrio— Debie Smith ’76, John Rice ’76 and Benny Antagnoli ’76. The trio’stimeperformingatThe Zeitgeist has propelled vocalist Smith into a professional music career. Smith has gone on to be a part of and tour with the groupsThe Smith Sisters and The Four Bitchin’ Babes. According to her website, Smith has “recorded over twenty albums and compilations—her solo recordings and songs have garnered numerous Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies), ASCAP composer awards, American Library Awards and a Grammy nomination.”

Smith recounted her time per- formingatTheZeitgeistfondly, and stated that she “particu- larly remember[ed] singing at Lowry Center, indoors and out — there was a concert around the pit one time, and I remem- ber being on a stage singing be- hindLowryduringsomekind of student barbecue event — we sang things like ‘Teach Your Children’and‘Ohio,’(Crosby, Stills and Nash) and ‘Desperado’(Linda Ronstadt).”

Ultimately, The Zeitgeist was meant to be a place for studentstoexperimentwith music and have fun — much likeCommonGroundstoday. Founded in 1999, Common Groundsfunctionsasastudent run,substancefreealternative to parties on campus, accord- ing to Mercer McLennan ’21, Common Grounds program coordinator. McLennan stat- edthat“thegoalofCommon Grounds overall is to give the campus a space they can use, andhighlightingandgivinga stage of sorts for students’ tal- ent or interests is one of the ways we do that.

Common Grounds has events planned every weekend for the rest of the semester, so wheth- eryouwanttositandlisten to others perform, or perform yourself, head on over, and maybegetamilkshakewhile you are at it.


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