Eastman School of Music professor and double bass soloist James VanDemark and four of his students were featured on “E:60,” an investigative news show on ESPN. The segment aired this past Tuesday, Sept. 23.

The footage was shot two years ago. A piece on the Eastman ROC Boxing program from the Wall Street Journal intrigued award-winning ESPN producer Beein Gim. The segment was structured to mimic four “movements” showing the four students boxing and performing.

Renowned boxing coach Dominic Arioli, who taught the boxing class, said he couldn’t have been happier with the segment. VanDemark agreed. It was “really brilliantly done,” he said.

“It was really clever,” VanDemark remarked. “They used the shape of a sonata or a symphony to basically frame the different students and then put them through their paces both musically and then in the ring […]”

They shot for about three days, filming VanDemark and now-graduated Eastman students Ethan Chiampas, Dominic Sbrega, Jake Hannigan, and Kimberley Merell performing in Eastman’s Hatch Recital Hall and boxing at ROC Boxing & Fitness.

As for finding the intersection between boxing and playing music, VanDemark said it started years ago when he came across ROC Boxing and began training with Arioli.

“I was completely captivated by the sport,” VanDemark said. “[I] was struck immediately by the incredible dedication and skill that one had to develop to be even halfway decent at it.” Another similarity between boxing and playing an instrument, according to VanDemark, is the importance of rhythm.

VanDemark first introduced the boxing classes to three of his female students.

“They loved it,” he said. The program then expanded to include all interested students.

Chiampas, who has continued boxing after graduating from Eastman, said that he “saw pretty immediate results” in how he composed himself with his instrument after taking the classes.

“It was really the little adjustments we had to make each time, and that played directly into how I approached the bass after that,” Chiampas said. “This shift, this note, this phrase isn’t exactly right, so let’s break it down into really, really small movements.”

Senior Andrew O’Connor, a student of VanDemark’s who is also taking boxing classes, observed that boxing helps him deal with pressure.

“Performing is very nerve-wracking because everyone’s staring at you. But so is someone punching you in the face.”.

Lai is a member of 

the class of 2018.



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