Love NPR's Tiny Desk? Check out Tiny Dorm.
Students living in Berklee’s residence halls aren’t supposed to play or practice in their rooms, to give their neighbors a chance to study and sleep. But in the spring of 2018, a few students who are fans of NPR’s Tiny Desk video series came up with their own version: recording their peers playing original music under a bunk bed in an (undisclosed) Berklee dorm room.
“We had to keep it from our RA,” admits fifth-semester student and professional music major Madison Simpson, a cofounder and the original videographer for Tiny Dorm. “We started out with one mic, and the camera tripod was the bedpost." Early episodes of Tiny Dorm Sessions are full of these charming DIY improvisations—a microphone perched on an exercise mat, a desk lamp lighting the performers and casting huge shadows onto the patchwork quilt they used as a backdrop.
Now, three semesters and a location change later, the series has aired more than 50 episodes and garnered more than 20,000 views on its YouTube channel. “The project gained traction when Curtis [Heimburger, one of the other cofounders] moved into an apartment, and we could have a dedicated space,” Simpson says.
Thanks to Heimburger’s larger living space—and the generosity of his housemates—Tiny Dorm found a more permanent home, complete with a twinkle-light–draped backdrop. The new location, and the series’ popularity, gave its cofounders a chance to expand and experiment, and to upgrade their equipment. “Now we have two cameras, two angles," Simpson says. "It feels like a very professional thing.”
Heimburger, who majors in contemporary writing and production, agrees. “We also started out with really limited audio capabilities,” he says. “Having more than one mic and other equipment has been really helpful.”
During its three seasons, Tiny Dorm's cachet has also grown: the founders now get regular requests from bands who want to perform on the show. “It’s been really cool to see it gain momentum,” Simpson says. “It went from us asking people we knew to come perform in a dorm room, to people emailing and asking us if they could do a session.”
The show operates with a screening process now, but, adds Heimburger, “we want to make it a very inclusive space—to showcase as many artists and genres as possible. We don’t care if you have a social media following or an album. We believe that if you’re good, people will watch.”
See for yourself in the Tiny Dorm Sessions below:
The Little Big Band that Could
The finale of Tiny Dorm’s third season featured this 13-piece Berklee group, whose setlist included an original arrangement of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”
Raavi & the Houseplants
Writer, producer, and vocalist Francisco Haye fronts Cisco Swank, a student band that draws on jazz, soul, and hip-hop influences.
Justin Schaefers, a singer-songwriter from the San Francisco Bay Area, is also the frontman for indie band the Blind Barbers.
Berklee students Fox Hillyer and Shiloh Trudeau make up the punk duo Butch Baby. Their album, Stoned Butch Blues, was released in the fall of 2018.