Before Moses Rubin ‘19 even arrived at Swarthmore as a freshman, they had the love and passion for music instilled within them. Rubin took their opportunity as a child of a musician living in New York City to explore and learn how to play different genres of music. When Rubin began taking guitar lessons at age seven, they became inspired by singer/songwriters like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. As they grew older, they explored punk and jazz music, admiring artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown. During their high school years, Rubin took their musical exploration even further and went out multiple times to various venues in New York City where live music was playing. They recall visiting “a bunch of jazz clubs and bars when [they were] in high school,” and they soon realized that no matter what they did with their life, they “needed to be around [music] all the time.”
Upon arriving at Swarthmore, Rubin didn’t originally intend on studying music in an academic setting, however, they still found a way to keep their passion for music alive by joining Caboose, a band which still actively performs today. Their involvement with Caboose helped fill the “artistic vacuum” Rubin said they felt during that time of their life. Caboose gave Rubin a community to belong to. Though Rubin writes their own songs and at times enjoys music on their own, being a part of Caboose helped them realize that they were their “happiest when [they] were playing with other people”.
As they started to invest more dedication to Caboose and their individual musical pursuits, Rubin decided to study music academically to improve their musical skills. However, what Rubin values most from their music classes is not so much rooted in academics but more in the “spiritual” experience of music. Rubin learned through their classes to “think critically about music,” to appreciate its history and current stature while at the same time being able to criticize its limitations. According to Rubin, space is one realm of music that they “never really understood before Swarthmore.” Rubin sees Swarthmore as “a reflective and thoughtful place”, especially when it comes to the idea of taking up space though presence or expression, and “the most important skill” the music program has taught Rubin is to listen to the space they are taking up as an artist. By listening and engaging with the space that both the audience and performers are simultaneously altering, Rubin says “it becomes a shared experience,” and though Rubin has been around music their whole life, Rubin recognizes this “shared experience” of music as something “unique to Swat.”
Though many experiences Rubin has had with music are unique to Swat, they still plan to take all they have learned and apply it to their life after graduation. This summer, they will use their background in production by working as a sound designer for a dance company. In addition, they and another musician are working on an application to the Fringe Festival in Philadelphia. When Rubin graduates this spring, they will leave Swarthmore “very excited to start [their] own musical projects.”
Maria Consuelo de Dios ’21