On a brisk Sunday morning in a dark back room of Louis Hall, something magical happens. It is the rebirth of Niteskool Productions, a Northwestern student group that has made music videos since the ‘80s. The group closed up shop in 2015, but Bienen sophomore Erica Bank is resurrecting Niteskool in her own vision. And, behold, it is very good.
A group of about 20 students fill the room, each with their own expertise in various aspects of production. A legal committee representative is on standby to make sure there are no problems with copyrights or contracts. From the back of the room, Bank leads it all, looking on with calm resolve. She may run the show, but she still has time to take it all in. She even pauses to capture the scene on Snapchat.
The group is gathered in the set room of Louis for One Takes, a new initiative launched by Bank last December. In the past, Niteskool Productions focused on producing a single large-scale music video for a student band, but the new Niteskool has a different approach. In an ode to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert, a popular live music series shot in an intimate setting, Niteskool plans to release a series of casual concerts recorded with high-quality audio and visuals in a single take. This quarter the groups consist of Prom D8, Unpopular Opinion and Thunk Acapella.
“We are just focusing on Northwestern student musicians right now because we really want to highlight the talent that Northwestern has,” Bank says. “Being in the music school and WNUR, I’m surrounded by very impressive undergraduates every single day and I think a lot of students don’t have the same ability I do to be exposed to that level of talent.”
Bank says she wanted to get involved in the group before even starting her freshman year, only to learn that Niteskool had been shut down two years earlier. Instead of giving up on the club, though, the ad hoc music business major saw an opportunity to build her resume and pursue a passion.
“I’m not really taking any music business classes, so Niteskool is the first real, hands-on experience I’ve gotten because it’s my own little business,” Bank says. “I got to bridge my passion and knowledge of music and dive into this passion project.”
Niteskool has experienced faculty advisors to assist with operations, including RTVF Professor Jacob Smith and Gregg Latterman, a Kellogg innovation and entrepreneurship faculty member. Smith first heard about the group just before he started teaching at Northwestern five years ago and wanted to get involved. When he heard Bank was trying to restart the club, it seemed like a perfect opportunity.
“The big ideas have really been coming from the students, and I think that’s the way it should be,” Smith says. “[Bank] had this vision and idea about how it could be rebooted and restarted, but immediately when she spread this idea around, it sounded like many students were getting on board and wanting to be involved.”
Smith and Latterman both have extensive background in the music industry. Smith played bass on the double-platinum album How to Save a Life by The Fray, which Latterman was managing at the time. Together, the two are a dynamic duo: Smith helps with the recording and Latterman offers advice on the business aspects of Niteskool.
“We’ll be able to get big artists here once Niteskool is able to prove they’ll be able to capture, make it sound good and look good,” Latterman says. “There’s a way to build something that’s not being done at other places.”
For now, though, Bank wants to keep the vision simple. She says she’ll be happy if Niteskool can record One Takes in campus locations such as Deering Library or Morty’s office. She just wants to see how well the group can do on its own.
“When I got the mastered audio from the first recording, that fully made my day,” Bank says. “I’ve been learning so much and I’ve been through so many challenges. Just seeing the final product, especially after a hard production day, is super rewarding.”