Student musicians find solace in local music scene


Image courtesy of of Patrick Swain

Patrick Swain, first-year economics major, plays keyboard at The Cave in Buffalo, New York, in June 2019.

By Darin Fields, Staff Writer

In order to escape the monotony of schoolwork, some Pitt students have looked to regain their autonomy through creative expression.

Mikey Montoni, a sophomore non-fiction writing major, said creating music allows for a sense of control that school does not provide.

“Music is one of those things where you can always control how much you do,” Montoni said. “You’re not being told what to do or how to do it, you take on the amount of labor you’re able to do.”

Montoni is the bassist and one of the vocalists for the sad punk rock band Wasted Space. She said she had been dreaming of starting a band for a while, but had difficulty finding other musicians in her hometown of Mamaroneck, New York.

“I had this idea to have a band for a really long time, I had been dreaming of having a perfect band, and I never got it because there was no one in my town that wanted to play music,” Montoni said. “I said fine, I’ll do it myself.”

Montoni started Wasted Space as a solo artist, writing the group’s first song, “poison ivy,” in 2019. The song would eventually become the lead off single on the band’s first album, “like summer, but colder.”

After writing the first few songs solo, Montoni said she began to expand the band through various connections.

“I happened upon my first bandmate fortuitously, I met some people at a protest in August and that’s how I met my guitarist Mack,” Montoni said. “Their ex-partner is friends with our lead guitarist, Christian, and our drummer Jane is someone who found us on Twitter and decided to join up.”

Since moving to Pittsburgh, Montoni has become deeply involved within the local music scene, both attending and performing at various venues across the City. Some of her favorite local groups are Short Fictions and Hazing Over. Wasted Space’s first performance was at a local DIY venue, The Mr. Roboto Project, in Bloomfield. The DIY scene is a space for small underground artists and their fans to come together and share their music with each other.

Montoni raved about the local music scene and said it is welcoming in ways that other cities aren’t.

“It’s sick as hell, people around here are really really accommodating in ways that they aren’t in other music scenes,” Montoni said.

Jared Deluccia, a senior economics and history major, also had high praise for the Pittsburgh music scene. Deluccia is the percussionist for the rock band Quiet Hours. According to Deluccia, the band started performing his sophomore year and has found the local scene both accepting and multi-dimensional.

“It’s very welcoming, we’ve really felt like we’ve met a lot of acts around here, there’s a pretty good variety,” Deluccia said. “We’ve played with rappers before, punk bands before, we’ve played with jam bands before. We’re all just there to support each other.”

Like Montoni and Wasted Space, Deluccia and Quiet Hours perform mostly in DIY spaces throughout the City, such as the Mr. Roboto Project and Mr. Smalls in nearby Millvale. The group has also performed at local music festivals and recently performed at the Pitt Pop Art Den.

Deluccia has been playing music since the 6th grade, when he began taking piano lessons, and it was also around this time where he learned to play the drums. He said he met the band’s eventual bassist, Patrick Bobko, a senior physics major, at a WPTS Radio showcase. 

Bobko and two of the band’s other members — lead vocalist Evan Heming and guitarist Gabe Field — all lived on the same floor of Sutherland Hall during their first year at Pitt and invited Deluccia to play music with them. According to Deluccia, the band struggled playing together at first but became more cohesive over time.

“The first time we played wasn’t necessarily the most cohesive jam session I’ve ever been part of, but I kept going because I figured why not,” Deluccia said. “We really got the ball rolling the second semester of our freshman year.”

The group also added saxophonist Ricky Lipinski later after Deluccia and him met in a Pitt jazz ensemble course.

According to Deluccia, balancing weekly performances, rehearsals and promotion with academic commitment can be challenging. But he added that he has found over time that balancing the two can yield reciprocal benefits.

“It’s really kind of a necessary thing for all of us because I think we can all agree the daily routine we have to do can get monotonous and stifling of creativity,” Deluccia said. “Playing music is an outlet that is much needed and because of that we feel like we can actually complete our other responsibilities better.”

Deluccia also said creating music provides relief from the perfectionism that academic work calls for, and instead allows him and his bandmates to create a snapshot of their emotions and feelings.

“Why we do it is because it captures a moment in time and an emotion you’re feeling, and that’s more important than being perfect. What we do in school isn’t always connected to our emotions,” Deluccia said.

First-year economics major Patrick Swain has also found solace in music throughout his life.

Swain released his first album, Vinyl Vision, in 2019. Since then he has released two additional projects including the EP Far Go this past summer. He said music has always been an integral aspect of his self-expression and identity.

“It’s always been an auditory expression of myself, of my inner monologue, such as music is me,” Swain said.

Since arriving at Pitt, Swain has put a temporary pause on releasing and performing music, but does intend to start again.

“I would really miss the feeling of performing if I never did it again,” Swain said. “Once I am of the right state of mind, I hope to start working on another project.”
According to Montoni, getting into the local music scene can start by simply going to shows around the City.

“So the big thing is if you are ever trying to get into any music scene ever the big thing is go to shows, go to shows. That is where the networking happens, that is where the community exists,” Montoni said.

Montoni said a great entry point for finding shows to attend is by following Don’t Let the Scene Go Down On Me! Collective. The group is one of the largest booking agencies for local bands in Pittsburgh and has connections at various venues throughout the City.

Those interested can also get involved with local music directly on campus. Deluccia recommended students take a music class, get involved with WPTS and even utilize online means such as the University’s unofficial subreddit.

Montoni encouraged students to not be afraid to pursue music and to remember that there is no set method, it’s all about personal choice.

“Music is not a monolith, you don’t have to do it a certain way,” said Montoni. “It’s for you and as long as you’re doing it your way, you’re doing it right.”