NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University Libraries launched a new project, dubbed “the New Brunswick Music Scene Archive,” on October 22.
The library hopes the archive will help document local music history, which has been scattered and driven underground over the past few decades, but not forgotten.
“New Brunswick has been host to a vibrant musical community for such a long time,” said Christie Lutz, the Head of Public Services at Rutgers Libraries.
“We are excited to document its impact and preserve its history through the New Brunswick Music Scene Archive, and hope this will be the first of many public events as the archive grows and develops.”
The new archive will serve as a central repository for all sorts of artifacts, memorabilia, and rare record pressings from New Brunswick during its prime decades as a hub of music venues.
The city is still is known today for performances, from touring and independent local bands, and descendants of the Central Jersey scene that launched the careers of notable musicians like Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, who made his way to the Hub City from Asbury Park.
Dating back to the 1800’s, collections of sheet music and articles have well-preserved much of the city’s music history. However, within the past half-century little has been done to patch together all the pieces of music performance and culture woven into New Brunswick.
To celebrate the launch of this project, Rutgers libraries hosted a panel discussion in Alexander Library, on College Avenue, featuring well-known locals heavily involved in the Garden State’s music community.
Among the panelists was Ronen Kauffman, the author of a memoir called “New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye,” a coming-of-age telling about growing up in the community of local punk and hardcore bands that frequented New Brunswick venues.
Marissa Paternoster, who for 10 years has been fronting a local favorite and long-time touring band called Screaming Females, also participated in the discussion.
While becoming widely renowned and touring nationally, Paternoster and the band frequently revisit their roots, and recently headlined a free outdoor show with several up-and-coming bands from the area.
Screaming Females, having started 10 years ago after the closing of many popular local music venues, were major players in popularizing the basement shows that are now so frequent among New Brunswick residencies, many of which have free admission.
Joe Steinhardt, founder of Don Giovanni Records, discussed his role as an independent music producer who has found the home of his career in the Hub City. Screaming Females and several other local groups are part of his label.
Also joining in the panel discussion was Jim Testa, a Rutgers graduate who runs the highly influential and magazine “Jersey Beat” since 1982. With an independent, do-it-yourself ethos, the Weehawken resident continues to use the brand name to provide exposure for up-and-coming independent musicians.
In addition to Jersey Beat, Testa worked with the Star-Ledger, Rolling Stone, and hosted a radio show, Rock n’ Roll Gas Station. There is also a “Jersey Beat” podcast available at JerseyBeat.com.