More Cowbell

By Carol Elliott | Spring 2016

Laura Glassford’s other “job” draws from her lifelong passion for music

Goofy, quirky, funny, weird.

After even a brief encounter with Laura Glassford, those are the descriptors that most readily come to mind. Heck, she uses them to describe herself.

But Glassford, the administrative assistant in Mendoza’s Office of Undergraduate Studies for more than 11 years, doesn’t fit the caricature those words suggest. There’s a bone-deep authenticity to her upbeat, positive nature, her enviable unselfconsciousness. Instead of suggesting a crazy aunt, the adjectives stitch together in Glassford’s case to present someone with tremendous heart and humility — who also believes that impromptu dance parties are a great way to relieve office tedium.

After work hours, she takes up her other gig as lead singer for a rock-and-roll band, made up of two Notre Dame psych professors — Gabe Radvansky on the drums, Dave Smith on the guitar — and classics grad Jay Ingle, “the young one,” on bass. They get together to practice at least once a week in Gabe’s basement, and play at corn roasts, block parties, the occasional open-mic night — you name it. And yes, they will play for food.

Small potatoes? Sure. But as Glassford talks about a group of people who stuff their equipment into a car and lug it across town to play for a few hours, you get a sense of the meaning that a sheer love of music adds to a life. And more than that, similar to the local foods movement, what local music adds to the fabric of a community.


Q: What’s the name of your band?

A: Now we’re The Rabbiteers. Gabe always wanted, Jump Little Rabbit. And then I said,
“You know, we need one word, like ‘The something,’” and so The Rabbiteers was born. Get it? “Rabbit Ears”?

Q: Did you study music in college?

A: I was theater arts all the way and then I fell in love with art history. I’m a real artsy fartsy person. In my third year, I thought, OK, I’m at St. Olaf. I’m going to get my Bachelor in Fine Arts. But music theory killed me, the mathematical aspects: chord structures, composition, harmonics, etc. I did the choreography classes, I loved dance. I loved the theater classes; I did the acting thing performing in musicals and plays. I did the music thing like studying the history and singing in choirs, but studying music theory was not my forté.

Q: What kind of music do you play?

A: This is kind of a boring answer, but it’s what we feel competent enough to do. I did karaoke the other night and sang Heart’s “Barracuda.” And I nailed it. Everybody wanted me to do it over and over. But then when the three guys and I were in Gabe’s basement and I tried it, I’m like, Oh this isn’t going very well. But we play a very eclectic mix. Gabe likes more REM, 80s, 90s, alternative pop, but then he puts in this stuff like, “That Thing You Do” from the Tom Hanks movie. That’s his happy song.

Q: Do you play an instrument?

A: Percussion. Which means anything I can hold in my hand while I sing, like the tambourine and a cow bell. At church, I used to play the congas while I’d sing. I’ve been coveting either a ukulele or one of those things that’s called a drum box. You sit on top of it to play it. There’s a guy that plays one in Alligator Blackbird and I just love how he does that.

Q: Do you ever share with the students that you’re in the band?

A: Every now and then. I always think, oh, this genre is not their thing. But I was shocked at this year’s spring gala. They were playing John Mellencamp, old Jackson Five stuff. They know more of the 70s and 80s music than I thought, so I guess it’s cyclical. But I like to talk to the students about what they’re listening to, too. They come in the office with their headphones on or their earbuds in, and so that’s just a good opener sometimes. And they mention songs I’ve never heard of, but then I go and listen to them.

Q: Do you charge for performances?

A: We’ll just do it for free right now. Give us food. When we played at the Elks’ corn roast, it was a charity event, and they just wanted entertainment. So I guess we were providing a service. For me, music has been an important thread throughout my life. I want to make people feel something, whether it’s making people laugh, making people happy. Yeah, that’s always been a part of me.