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A Guide to the Music Scene at CU


Are you a musician? Do you like music? Whether you answered yes to one or both of these questions, this guide is for you.

Postcrypt Coffeehouse

Free and open to the public, Postcrypt Coffeehouse features acoustic performances (and snacks) in the crypt of St. Paul’s chapel on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 pm and 11:30 pm. The space has drawn performers from the Columbia community, New York City and other parts of the world since 1964. From “blues, folk, jazz, rock, country and acapella to poetry, comedy, and storytelling,” you can catch performances of all kinds there. To learn more about performing at Postcrypt or joining its team of student volunteers, visit its website. To keep track of upcoming performances at Postcrypt, like its Facebook page.

Rare Candy

A music magazine that “focuses on exposing underground music and visual art culture,” Rare Candy is staffed by students and publishes content online each week—think interviews, playlists, and accompanying visual art and photography. It also organizes several shows on campus each semester, which often feature performances from Columbia groups and bands based in the greater New York City area. To learn more about Rare Candy and how to get involved, visit its website and like its Facebook page.

CU Records

CU Records is Columbia University’s student-run recording studio. If you or your band want to record music, CU Records can provide the student engineers and recording equipment to help make that happen. To apply online for a recording session, visit CU Records’ website. To learn about upcoming events, like its Facebook page.


WBAR is the freeform radio station of Barnard College. Broadcasting 24/7 throughout the school year, you can listen to DJ sets and talk radio programs on various cool themes on its website. (Some titles from this semester’s calendar: “Other People’s Moms,” “Bitchfork,” “Junglee Beatz” and “The Loneliest Monk.”) WBAR hosts several events a year that are free and open to the public, like Winter Formal and WBAR-B-Q. Keep an eye on its Facebook page to stay informed on upcoming events and to apply for a (two-hour, weekly) rotation next fall.

Hi Fi Snock Uptown

HFSU is a “DIY performance space for Columbia and Barnard students.” It organizes shows each semester that typically offer sets from CU musicians and, inexplicably, stew. Find out about upcoming events on its Facebook page.

Columbia University MPP Program

CU’s Music Performance Program is a great way to keep music an important part of your life, whether you major in music or not. Hundreds of students participate in its chamber music, jazz and world music ensembles, as well as orchestra and chorus, for credit. To learn more about upcoming performances or getting involved (auditions are usually at the beginning of each academic year), visit its website.


Last but not least, WKCR-FM is Columbia University’s student-run radio station. Broadcasting since 1941, the station is well-loved by its listeners in the NYC area and around the world for its focus on commercially non-viable content. One of the first radio stations to air jazz music, KCR hosted famous musicians like Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie in studio and continues to bring in some of the biggest names in jazz today. The Jazz Department is also famous for its annual 24-hour birthday broadcasts dedicated to Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and other greats.

KCR’s New Music Department is dedicated to all things experimental and alterative. A historically important supporter of the New York Downtown Scene (of experimental composers), it provided crucial exposure for musicians like John Zorn. It continues to broadcast live performances by avant-garde musicians today on its “Live Constructions” program. The Classical Department is known for playing entire works on air, instead of airing “classical’s ‘greatest hits,’” and for its annual days-long festival dedicated to the works of J.S. Bach.

With programs featuring everything from blues to bluegrass, country, folk, funk and soul, gospel and hip-hop, KCR’s American Department is dedicated to “providing an alternative to the other types of American music found on the radio.” The Latin Department offers programs dedicated to Latin music, Afro-Latin genres, Latin American protest music, Latin Jazz and the musics of Colombia and Brazil. IAL, the “In All Languages” Department, blasts everything from Reggae to Hindustani, Celtic, Cumbia, Indie Rock, Non-Western Classical, Field Recordings, Experimental, Folk, Carnatic, Afrofunk, Film Hits, Ethio-Jazz, Chuigushou, and Hip Hop on the airwaves.

KCR is also home to three talk radio departments. The Arts Department covers cultural events happening in New York City via interviews with film-makers, writers, poets and other artists, as well as readings of literature, poetry and essays. The News Department’s team of student producers brings new and archived stories to the airwaves that dissect issues relevant to the Columbia community and beyond. The Sports Department breaks down Columbia Athletics each Wednesday and typically offers live coverage of the Lions’ football and basketball games. (George Stephanopoulos is an alum!)

So what are you waiting for? Get involved with KCR! Send an email to the department you’d like to intern for. But first, listen in on the dial, at 89.9 FM or online, and keep abreast of upcoming shows on the station’s Facebook page. (Full disclosure, KCR’s shout-out is so long because the writer of this article is a radio host for the station.)

Virginia Ambeliotis, BC '19, studies English and Philosophy. At Barnard, she likes to unwind by sampling the noodles of various Morningside Heights vendors and inventing conspiracy theories about J.D. Salinger's books. She is from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
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