Photographing Esperanza Spalding & Other WERS Opportunities

I often look back on my decision to transfer to Emerson College with happiness, but a recent development in pop culture served as yet another reminder of just how incredible my college experience was. Emerson’s radio station, WERS 88.9FM, is one of the best college stations in the nation, and they frequently have professional musicians visit their studio to do live performances. Everyone involved (aside from the artist) is a student – the engineers, the sound assistants, the host – and they even have student photographers and writers document each in-studio show.

I was chosen to photograph for WERS during my second semester at Emerson. I was 19, had barely used a real camera, and wanted to learn every possible thing I could. I was working off of my passion for making images and my love for music.  WERS had some absolutely amazing musicians come into the studio. Most of the time they were up-and-comers, but sometimes we’d have an already established name drop in. Back in 2006, Esperanza Spalding was one such up-and-comer. I remember being blown away by her music and leaving the performance feeling excited about what I’d seen.

Fast forward five years to February 2011, when Esperanza Spalding beat out Justin Biber for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards. To be honest, I didn’t even watch the Grammy’s, so I was a bit late finding out this news.  I was SO excited when I came to the discovery – how incredible! Through this Emerson opportunity, I not only got to meet a fantastically talented Grammy award-winning artist, but I photographed her too! I mentioned this in passing to my brother, who asked if I could send him a couple of my images.  This led to me delving into my old hard drives and looking at my work from WERS – at the artists I’d met, and how much my style has changed. I decided it’d be fun to post some of the images on my blog.  While I’m a bit embarrassed by their quality, they are indicative of my wonderful and unique college experience…so they mean a lot to me.

Here’s Esperanza Spalding:

Tom Brosseau
, a great folk musician:
My first WERS in-studio performance was with jazz musician Kurt Rosenwinkel:Kurt Rosenwinkle_blog
I met Regina Spektor and was given permission to snap a quick photo before her set:
Cary Brothers (featured on the Garden State soundtrack):
Jose Gonzalez – I first heard him play at WERS and have been hooked ever since.
Right before I went abroad to the Netherlands and ended my time with WERS, I met Guster, still one of my favorite bands to date:

Part of me wishes I could go back in time and tell myself to use this lens or that white balance or this camera, or how to store my files, or to shoot RAW and never to resize my final image…but it’s all part of the growth process, right? I have no doubt that WERS has played a huge part in shaping me as a photographer, and I’m SO grateful that I had these experiences.  Maybe someday I’ll get to photograph a Grammy award winner again…