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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

A Passion for Music

February 16, 2023
Nicholas Humphries

The Dedication Behind Student Leader’s Pursuit for the Ultimate Concert

Nicholas Humphries

Battle of the Bands (BOTB) is a gathering of Walla Walla University students who want to share their talent by creating bands to compete with one another. At the end of the performance, there is a poll where students are asked to rate their favorite band. Although there is no prize, the bands practice long hours to win over the hearts of their peers. The Collegian has interviewed four individuals to learn how their unique skillsets create a concert for students to enjoy. 

Sam Schaffner is a senior business major and a campus sound tech who coordinates a nineteen-person sound crew during BOTB. He works directly with vendors for speakers, stage trussing, and lighting. The day before the performance, Schaffner meets with the bands and ensures they have everything they need including microphones and other audio equipment. Then, he sets up all the soundboards and runs sound checks. After the performance, Sam and his team tear down the equipment well into the morning, clocking out at around 3 a.m. 

Sam and his team work hard to produce BOTB. Last year, he worked a total of 40-45 hours during the week before the performance, but he loves doing it. Sam is a BOTB veteran; he’s been part of the sound crew since his freshman year and became the team leader last year. 

“I put a lot of work into it because it’s something I enjoy, and I have a lot of fun. It’s my favorite event I do every year.” [1] Sam’s favorite memory was when the winning band performed their encore last year. It gave Sam the chance to let his team enjoy the last song and join the audience because their work during the performance was over. 

Jacob Roney, senior business major and ASWWU Social vice president, oversees the event with his team but doesn’t deal directly with the performance, which he credits to the sound crew and bands. ASWWU Social sells the tickets and markets the event, as well as produces the scheduling for the event. Roney is a big fan of BOTB.  

“Battle of the Bands is important to me personally. It’s actually a large reason why I came to Walla Walla. I transferred in and my friends were really hyped about the event and told me how special it is. I think it’s the best produced event we had.” [2] Roney believes that BOTB produces a large value for students because it’s a well-produced concert for the affordable price of $5. He expects it to be heavily attended with around 600 participants projected. Although he realizes everyone might not enjoy and attend the BOTB, he believes it’s a unifying event for WWU. 

Drew Irvine, a senior business major, leads the seven-member band Hot Tub Time Machine. Besides himself, the band includes students Jenna Wagner, Cameron Bordeaux, Bella Anderson, Dylan Dietrich, Maddie Hoffer, and Parker Leclerc. Irvine began brainstorming by listening to songs with Dietrich. They are selective of which songs they choose to perform because he feels song selection is the difference between winning or losing. 

One of the challenges for returning bands like Hot Tub Time Machine is filling spots when previous members have graduated or transferred schools. When recruiting anyone, Irvine is sure to be upfront about the time commitment joining presents. His band rehearses for around four hours each week, but this doesn’t include personal practice time. However, Irvine realized that most people won’t have an opportunity like this again. Irvine tries to include as many lowerclassmen as he can because he wants the tradition to continue. He suggested that students who are interested in performing not only in BOTB, but other musical events such as vespers, not be shy and ask leaders to participate. 

Hottub time machine. One of the well-known bands that comes back every year for BOTB.

Irvine sees music as a creative outlet for the stressors in his life. He also loves the performance experience: “There’s nothing quite like being on the stage, it’s a completely different experience when you’re up there. You’re pumped full of adrenaline and there’s a wall of sound just hitting you as people scream the songs you put your blood, sweat, and tears into perfecting.” [3]  

Irvine also loves the bond between the band. His favorite memory was having WWU Campus Chaplain Albert Handel make an appearance on stage and yell: “Hey, where are the drums?” during last year’s performance of MKTO’s song Classic. [4] 

Irvine believes that BOTB is important because it’s 100% student-led. Many people relate to this better because it’s led by peers, which provides a more comfortable setting that’s still fun and loud with lights. “It’s an actual concert for $5.” He also stated that it’s a safe way for students to participate in a rock concert since drugs and alcohol are prohibited, unlike other rock venues. [5] 

Sarah Coffin is a junior exercise science major and co-leader for the band Fresh White Kicks along with her co-leader Jedidiah Turner. Other members include students Kelton Turner, Jaron Brown, JC Griffin, Caiden Personius, Marcella Medema, and Julia Beaudoin. Coffin believes that her band became a new family because she became friends with people who weren’t in her inner circle. As a band leader, she is focused on logistical dealings such as where her band is practicing, or ensuring band members are on time for important meetings like sound checks. 

Sara coffin. BOTB features students’ incredible musical talents with instruments and vocals.

Coffin believes that BOTB benefits students because it’s a fun and surreal event for the student body. “There’s something about having our student body come together as one, having fun, sharing excitement, sharing joy, and being able to sing together.” [6] Coffin believes that BOTB boosted students’ spirits and morale last year during a long winter quarter. 

Coffin has been interested in BOTB since she was in high school because she saw many people posting videos and pictures online after participating. When she came to WWU as a freshman, an enthusiastic Jed Turner started a band and invited Coffin to join him. 

Many students who participate in BOTB are also active leaders in spiritual worship. Although Schaffner leads the campus sound team in BOTB, he also is the institutional sound director and oversees WWU events in the University Church. Coffin and Irvine can frequently be seen performing during vespers, Circle Church, Heubach Chapel services, and orchestra performances. Coffin believes that students who want to get involved with musical opportunities on campus should talk to praise leaders they’ve seen on stage. 

When asked why students should come, Coffin said, “It truly is a once-a-year event, there is no other event that compares to [the] battle that happens on our campus every year.” It’s by far her favorite event each year, and the excitement and anticipation are part of the fun. [7] 

BOTB is an exciting event that is highly anticipated each year. The campus sound crew, ASWWU Social, and the members of each band are instrumental in creating an event that brings students together, lifts morale, and provides unbridled excitement for one night, but also creates memories that last a lifetime. 



  1. Interview with Sam Schaffner, 2/7/23. 
  2. Interview with Jacob Roney, 2/7/23. 
  3. Interview with Drew Irvine, 2/8/23. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Interview with Sarah Coffin, 2/9/23. 
  7. Ibid. 
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