The Gear Co-Op Needs More

When Julian Geltman founded the Gear Co-op in 2014, he told the Oberlin Review, “We hope to create a space that will promote musical growth and development among the student body especially for those who, [for example] can’t bring their drum kit to the school.” 

The Gear Co-op was created with the novel idea of providing practice space and equipment for student bands. According to a 2017 Review article, only a couple of bands would ordinarily be able to secure practice space for the whole semester. The Gear Co-op alleviated this problem somewhat, by providing a place to practice and a wide selection of musical equipment including drums, amps, guitars, and more.  

But, Geltman’s vision of a practice space utopia hasn’t always measured up to reality. “The space is deteriorating, and much of the equipment is broken or missing,” said co-chair Wyatt Camery. “It’s the only practice space for non-conservatory students. Our staff is killer, and we budgeted really well for equipment. But it doesn’t mean [anything] if people don’t care.” 

Because the Gear Co-op is such a valuable resource for student musicians, it needs to be treated with respect by its users to continue operating. However, it’s not just the students that have to take the Gear Co-op seriously, but the college as well.

“I was completely sold on the music experiences at Oberlin. It’s worked out phenomenally for me,” said Camery. “But, if they really want to be seen as a music school, they can’t just say on the tour, ‘Oh, we have the Gear Co-op.’” 

During the pandemic, the Gear co-op closed. “We were dormant for two semesters,” said co-chair Isaac Dreeben. After a switch in leadership, it was clear to Dreeben and Camery that old systems would no longer work. “When we inherited the Gear Co-op, we inherited a system of monitoring, which made it easier to hold people accountable. But that system was keeping people from using the space. People just weren’t signing up for monitored slots,” said Dreeben. “Many students did not want to be monitored by other students, and it was a hassle to find somebody to take on that job.”

Justin Epstein, a “gear wizard,” who is in his first year as a member and administrator in the Co-op, has noticed there’s a misconception about the consequences of  accidentally damaging gear. “There’s really no penalty for damaging gear––we can just ask the school to replace it. But a lot of times, people worry they will be thrown out of the Co-op, so they don’t report it to us and we come in and see it’s damaged.”

If Oberlin wants to be a place that produces excellent musicians in both the college and the conservatory, then it needs to commit to providing ample practice space for all musicians. Additionally, students must commit to respecting the equipment and space of the Gear Co-op. 

If all of those things could be achieved, “They could sell it, hard,” said Camery.

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