New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Q&A: How 2 first-years found community mixing music in their dorms

WSN spoke to first-year students Christie Brewer and Saima ‘Sai’ Hasan about experimenting musically, finding community and creating NYU Tiny Dorm Concerts.
Catherine Herber
(Catherine Herber for WSN)

NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts began with an idea in 2008 when writer, editor and producer Stephen Thompson was frustrated that he couldn’t hear his favorite artists over the overwhelming sounds of concertgoers. However, for Steinhardt first-years Christie Brewer and Saima “Sai” Hasan concert noise wasn’t the problem. 

The two collaborators, and close friends, wanted to rise above the noise of the bustling city, the misogyny of the music industry and the inaccessibility of gigs to spotlight the emerging talent that NYU has to offer. Thus, NYU Tiny Dorm Concerts was born. 

WSN sat down with Brewer and Hasan to discuss how their friendship and their Tiny Dorm initiative developed from their love for music tech, as well as their hiccups and successes on the way to producing a web series that “everyone can get excited for.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What drew you to studying music technology at NYU?

Brewer: I always grew up around music playing music, singing. I did choir for a very long time, but I really wanted to go into mixing. NYU has a really good program for music tech, and there’s a lot in the city, so I was thinking that there would be clubs and gigs that I could mix for. 

Hasan: In fifth grade, I took my first music class, and I was like, ‘Wait, I really like this.’ I joined plays, I started producing, arranging and directing just because I liked it so much. And there are a lot of great opportunities in the city. NYU was my dream school for a while because the music tech program is so good. The city is so full of opportunities and really bountiful in terms of music and art. I feel like you can’t go wrong when you’re trying to do art in New York City because there’s something for everyone.

WSN: Has collaborating with one another helped create a sense of community with other women in the music tech program?

Brewer: One hundred percent. Especially within producing music, guys are often willing to take that jump, take that leap and just do anything. That can be intimidating to women, just since everything we’re doing is already being critiqued. Less than 8% of professional audio engineers are women. So that can be a little discouraging.

Hasan: When we have a group of [women] doing music tech, it’s very encouraging and uplifting. In terms of my classes, and what I’ve seen, 20-30% of the students are women. I found that in real life and in college, there are a lot more male producers or, if there aren’t, they’re a little more vocal and a little more confident. So it’s nice that the women can all band together, even though the guys that we are friends with are so encouraging and cool. Christie and I met during Welcome Week, and our group of Music Tech women has stayed friends ever since!

WSN: What about New York City and NYU make NPR’s Tiny Desk format work?

Brewer: A lot of people come to the city to make art and to be themselves. At NYU, and in New York City in general, you have a lot of people just working and putting out music constantly because there’s all these people that are just wanting to create. When you go to smaller towns, there’s definitely like an ‘Oh, everybody likes this artist. Everybody likes this kind of genre.’ In New York, there are so many people creating and listening. It’s easy to find people that want to be on Tiny Dorm because everybody just wants to play.

Hasan: There are different pockets and niches for every type of music. New York City is really conducive to a bunch of genres and also genre-merging and genre-crossing. NYU is really conducive to that, too, because the professors are so encouraging here. And in terms of the actual tiny dorm, NYU is very conducive to it because the dorms are great. They’re beautiful. We’re very lucky.

WSN: How do you select your acts?

Brewer: We have a lot of friends in music tech that are performers, and Sai’s in the N’Harmonics, so she also has a lot of friends in Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music that are also performers. So we jotted down people who are friends that we like, or go to showcases. That’s how we found Dali Rose, the subject of our first episode. So we’re reaching out by just saying ‘Hey, I really loved your set. We’re doing Tiny Dorm inspired by Tiny Desk, wanna join?’ People are completely down and super patient with us. 

Hasan: It’s not just Clive showcases either. We have this thing called MTech Invasion, which is a performance for our major, and we saw performances that we liked there. One of our friends, Timi, is really talented. Her artist name is Milehin, and she’s awesome. She’ll be on Tiny Dorm soon. But there’s also an application form. People can reach out to us and it can work in the other direction. 

WSN: What goals do you have for Tiny Dorm?

Hasan: I just want to get better at mixing and mastering. And I love meeting new people, so I think this is just for that. I want people to get excited for every episode drop. 

Brewer: We just want people to be excited for them. With the first one, we did work really hard, but it’s not anywhere close to perfect. As much as I still love putting it out, I want to get to the point where when I put it out, I love it so much and everything is amazing. Then I want to just get better at mixing. So we get better by doing it.

NYU Tiny Dorm Concerts can be found on YouTube at @NYUTinyDormConcerts, Instagram at @nyutinydorm and TikTok at @nyu.tiny.dorm.

Contact Liv Steinhardt at [email protected].

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