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French Literature | 2011

Battle of the Bands champion's burgeoning musical career

It was the spring of 2009 and Claudie Rubin, AB'11, had just learned of Delta Kappa Epsilon’s (DKE) Battle of the Bands only a couple of days prior to the event.

“So, I asked the brothers at DKE, ‘If I performed by myself, do I have a shot?’” said Rubin. “And they were like, ‘No, because it is Battle of the BANDS.’”

Rubin proceeded to contact all her of friends who were both musicians and students at the University of Chicago for the purpose of creating a band that could compete in the Battle of the Bands, an annual spring concert held on Bartlett Quad at U of C. The band had to learn and arrange five songs in two days. Due to the short notice, the band only had time to practice about eight hours on the day before the event and six hours on the day of the competition.

“By the end of it, my fingers were so sore and messed up that I had to tape them with athletic tape,” said Rubin.

Rubin and her band finished in first place and were awarded the opportunity to open for Broken Social Scene, Santogold, and Voxtrot at Summer Breeze, bringing her that much closer to her dream of becoming a country music singer.

“What I’d like to bring to the country genre is kind of a return to blues. Because I don’t have that classic country voice; I have a very strong, loud voice but I also have this very raspy tone that I don’t find many country artists have,” said Rubin. “I kind of want to merge those two [country and blues] back together.”

Rubin began singing at a young age during five-hour car rides with her mom and her grandma from their home in the French countryside to Paris. Although she has never received formal vocal training, her voice, unaffected and natural, has been showered with compliments on numerous occasions.

“Without sounding full of myself, many times when I performed or when people hear me for the first time, they are always very impressed and they are like, ‘Wow. You should really do something with that,'” said Rubin. “Comments...that I’ve heard them so much over time that I just got to a point that I was like, ‘Ok, if I got this many people telling me that I’m good enough, then I want to give it a try.’”

Juggling a burgeoning musical career and a full academic workload was difficult for Rubin, especially in her fourth year when she simultaneously wrote her B.A. and prepared to defend her title as the Battle of the Bands champion. The Battle of the Bands competition was held seven days before her B.A.'s due date. Yet Rubin defended her B.A. successfully — she graduated with honors — and won Battle of the Bands for the third consecutive year.

“[I’m] not gonna lie. The Battle of the Bands and my B.A. was a really scary combination, but I wanted both of them badly,” she admitted, “So, I made it work.”

Now, Rubin can finally fully commit herself toward achieving her musical aspirations. She moved to Nashville three days after she graduated with hopes of making significant progress in her music career. Though Rubin had not saved a sufficient amount of money to sustain a lengthy stay in the city, she luckily attained an administrative assistant position at a marketing firm within her first two weeks in Nashville.

Although Rubin has been told that Nashville is the right place to be for an aspiring musician, her progress in music has been stagnated partly due to her need to secure a job and find a place to stay. Primarily, however, the Nashville music scene is difficult to break into.

“So, that’s mostly my problem right now. I need to work on how to make myself marketable,” Rubin said. “Hopefully I’ll be cutting my demo soon and moving forward from there!”

By Chika Okafur, Class of 2011

Photo by Emily Lo, Class of 2012

Video by Linda Nyemba, Class of 2013


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