You’ve heard them banging during Festifall, seen them scale ladders during Artscapade and always wondered how a relatively small group of people could make such a unique ruckus. Groove has provided our campus with an interesting form of entertainment by hitting drums and homemade instruments. Simply described as a “high energy percussion and performance group,” Groove has made a statement on our campus. I had the opportunity to talk with Groove treasurer John Mirandette, an LSA junior with an international studies major and sustainability minor, in order to get more insight into this group of drummers. I wanted to see the inner workings, how a member began and grew and what Groove itself is like as a whole.

Sara Shamaskin

When John first came to Michigan, he had plans other than joining Groove. “I thought about being in marching band and drum line, but I hated marching band in high school. I had to follow instructions to the tee and be rigid; I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I couldn’t have fun with it.” After finding Groove at Festifall during his freshman year, he could tell this was it: “It was already something I was good at, so it was easy for me to dive in.” John always found that he was uncomfortable playing in front of groups of people when it was songs about which he himself was not passionate. As opposed to the “cheesy and corny” songs that were typically reserved for high school bands, John found that he could explore in Groove, making and performing the songs he had always wanted to during band. Just talking about these songs, I could see John getting excited, an instinctive reaction including big hand gestures, talking fast and a tiny smile that crossed his face, remembering some of his favorite pieces that he had written.

I asked John about how the group has grown since its inception: “We started out as a percussion group, but over the last 10 years, what it has become is a variety group. We are still drumming, at our core, but we have found avenues to utilize other people’s talents to make a more complete show.” John breaks Groove into two groups: musicians and actors. He wants his songs to be “kick-ass,” wanting the crowd to get up and feel it in their chests. If he feels that way and can project it on stage, then the audience will feel the same. The acting makes the show complete, with skits, guitar and melody songs, incorporating drumming to remind people that it is Groove at the center.

But how does the mood change when John is on stage? “When it’s in front of 20 people, that’s one thing. But in front of 1,000 or 1,500 people, and you can see it across the board, the people getting so hyped for you and the group and the talents you have; it is so sick.”

Even offstage, the chemistry is strong. I asked about all of the different majors, ages and experience of the other members: “It doesn’t really matter because the common denominator is music.” Because of their love for performance, the Groove members are comfortable with themselves enough to collaborate with each other and do what they love to do. John told me about his friendships within Groove, explaining that they get together for football pregames, to family game night, to study sessions in the UGLi. “They’re my best friends; I love them all. It’s hard to see seniors leave, but it’s great to see new people coming, because you can see how it’s going to unfold in the next few years; it’s a continuous family.”

This 10-year-old group has made a statement on campus, rising from a small group that only played in Angell Hall auditoriums to selling out Michigan Theater. Groove has expanded its repertoire and its presence, and the future seems promising to John. “We’re on the cusp of being a big group … as in people know who we are, being recognized without our Groove shirts. We have the talent and the fan base … now we just got to act on it.” The excitement of Groove becoming a bigger force on campus drives John to continuously work to make new songs. Anybody who has been to one of their shows can see the camaraderie on stage, the energy that persists throughout the music and the passion that these drummers possess when showing their talent on stage.

Sara Shamaskin can be reached at scsham@umich.edu.

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