Arts, Music, Arts Features

Lost Articles: Backstage with BC Admission

Admission counselors spend countless hours getting to know you: the hours you spent running football drills on thousand-degree summer days, the lessons you learned from the kids at the preschool where you volunteered, and maybe even the first song you learned the words to in the back of your mom’s car on long road trips.

But if you ventured into Devlin Hall on a regular weekday, you might hear passing conversations about the admission counselors’ lives that would surprise you: the theatre productions they participated in when they were Boston College students, The Strokes concert where they nearly lost their hearing, the time they spent climbing Machu Picchu this past summer, and the North Attleboro-based festival their band plays every summer.

Pete Caruso, an associate director at the Office of Undergraduate Admission and LGSOE ’98, marveled at the close arrangement of the drum kit in a Carney Hall practice room, drawing parallels between the weathered instrument and that of Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson.

Across the room, David Weber, also an associate director in the office, sifted through a cluttered closet full of guitar amps before selecting a Marshall amp and setting it on the ground. Outside the window of the practice room, students walked across lush green quads between their Friday classes for the first time since May. Caruso and Weber are just two of the 20 admission counselors who played a role in each current undergraduate student’s journey to BC.

Together the two make up one half of Lost Articles, a rock band that plays eclectic sets at bars, backyard barbecues, and the occasional presidential library throughout the Northeast. The other two members are Chris Connolly, a loss prevention and quality control manager for Lowe’s, and John Weber, a technical solutions specialist for Agilysys and David’s brother. At first glance, the grungy dive bars they sometimes find themselves playing seem worlds away from the bright Devlin presentation room in which they give hour-long information sessions to eager prospective students and helicopter parents—yet the band derives its name and eight-year existence from the admission office.

Lost Articles, whose name is an allusion to the articles in the Statements of Principles of Good Practice—or the admission code of ethics—were first conceived in spring of 2010 at The Barking Dog, a tavern in Bethesda, Md., during downtime on one of the many admission visits the two make during any given academic year. The thought had independently crossed both of their minds before, but Caruso and Weber saw a unique opportunity that year: Their coworker Kelly Bellavance, an associate director of admission, was chairwoman of the annual New England Association for College Admission Counseling (NEACAC) regional conference at Stonehill College for the following year—each conference includes entertainment for the attendees.

Prior to picking up a guitar and sticks together, the Lost Articles’ first order of business was to convince Bellavance to add their band to the entertainment lineup for a conference that would be host to many of their admission colleagues.

“My first question to them was, ‘Are you guys any good?’” Bellavance said. “And they said, ‘yeah,’ which I found out later that they didn’t even know because they hadn’t ever played together yet.”

Having secured a spot on the lineup, it still took a while for the newborn band to get the wheels turning. With a goal of creating a full setlist of 17 songs, Lost Articles had their work cut out for them.

“This [proposal to play] was in May [of 2010],” Caruso said. “We didn’t start rehearsing until November.”

In some ways, the two musicians had been rehearsing for live performances their whole lives. Weber gravitated toward guitar at a young age, his main inspiration in his early years being Billy Joel. Although he had taken piano lessons before, he found himself frustrated that he couldn’t play contemporary music. Weber began taking electric guitar lessons from a long-haired instructor with heavy metal posters on his wall named John Rosario when he was in sixth grade. Today, Weber’s 13-year-old son takes lessons from the same man. Although his love for music didn’t die out, he went through periods devoid of playing.

Caruso’s story is similar: His early interest in music was sparked by bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, and he began playing the drums in fifth grade. During his first drum lesson, the instructor left him alone with the kit to see if he would play, and Caruso passed the test with flying colors, drumming up a storm in the basement. He joined his first band during his freshman year of high school, but after graduating college and starting his professional life, he didn’t pick up the sticks for a full 18 years. A run in with the elementary music teacher of his oldest son, John Caruso, MCAS ’19, inspired him to revisit his musical talents, and he hasn’t looked back since—prior to forming Lost Articles, Caruso played drums in a band named Forbidden Logic.

Although admission was the starting point for a new manifestation of a shared passion, the fact that Weber and Caruso ended up working in the same admission office is almost serendipitous. Few enter college expecting to spend more than four years there, and this was certainly the case for both Weber and Caruso.

Weber graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002 and during his time there worked a job in Campus Recreation. He developed an admiration for his manager’s leadership style and was intrigued by the idea of leading a professional life on a university campus. Weber accepted his first position as an assistant director of admission at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., but always felt the desire to eventually return to his home state of Massachusetts. The North Attleboro native returned home in the fall of 2007 when he took his current position at the BC Office of Undergraduate Admission.

Caruso attended Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where he worked for groundskeeping. The time spent outside allowed him to see college tours go by, thus sparking his interest in college admission. Although he took a job in Stonehill Admission after graduating, he did not expect to stay in the field for the duration of his career—having been involved in the college radio station at Stonehill, he expected to eventually enter the field of recording. When it came time to make the switch, Caruso found himself “dreading the prospect of leaving [admission]” and has now worked in the field for a total of 30 years, 22 of which have been spent at BC.

BC is known to be a black sheep in the world of college admission. The Office of Undergraduate Admission, under the direction of John Mahoney, the recently promoted vice provost for enrollment management and BC ’79, for the past 28 years has placed its focus on the lives of current students to convey the BC story and includes a student-led Q&A session as a part of its college visit itinerary.

College admission is a field that is notorious for high turnover rates, but BC aims to hire employees who want to spend a long portion of their career at the university—many of the current employees in the Office of Undergraduate Admission are BC grads themselves, including the newly hired director of undergraduate admission, Grant Gosselin, BC ’97, LGSOE ’02. This close relationship with the University and the long tenure of admissions counselors allows for genuine relationships to form organically within the office, and these are part of the reason Caruso and Weber have been able to remain in Lost Articles for eight years and have received such great support from their colleagues.

In preparation for Lost Articles’ public debut, Bellavance hosted a private performance in her backyard in Dudley, Mass. in June of 2011. Most of the office attended the event, including then-director Mahoney, who was “sitting in his lawn chair, [with a] ball cap and craft beer.” Steven Koo, an associate director of admission, recalled recognizing the opening of “Silent Lucidity” by Queensrÿche during the set.

“They can pretty much play anything as a band [and it’s] recognizable,” Koo said, who framed the setlist and photos from the band’s first performance and presented it to each of the four members as a gift that year.

Despite their capabilities, the two admission counselors felt the pressure of the high stakes for their first performance. Few processes are as universally anxiety-inducing in young people’s lives as the college application process, and students who choose to apply to top-ranked schools like BC put themselves in an especially vulnerable position: Only 27 percent of applicants received admission to BC last year. Caruso and Weber found themselves in a similar position while seeking acceptance from their fellow admission counselors.

“When you blur the lines between professional and personal life … I remember thinking, ‘Should I be doing this?’” Caruso said.

After the year-long buildup of nerves and excitement for their admission conference debut, Lost Articles rocked Stonehill and went on to play the NEACAC regional conference for four straight years. In the age of Snapchat, it is hard to imagine, but Weber recalled that it was so long ago that no quality video exists of their debut night because audience members still wielded flip phones with limited filming capabilities.

“It is almost like this lost night, but it is so magical in our memory,” Weber said. “I remember the moment people started to get into it: We went into this little mashup of ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys and ‘Slide’ by The Goo Goo Dolls. [There were] these massive iconic melodies and hooks that everybody knows, and everyone let their guard down at that point.”

Seven years later, the band has illustrious performances and original songs under its belt. Its stint entertaining the admission world didn’t stop with the regional conference—Lost Articles took to the stage before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the National Catholic College Admission Association conference at the JFK Presidential Library. Weber has delved into solo acoustic work as well, opening for Imagine Dragons and Rascal Flatts at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass. this past summer, two experiences he was happy to share with his son. The two estimate that they have played over 100 songs to date, eight of which are originals that heavily drew influence from Third Eye Blind.

When discussing the application reading process, Caruso noted that he looks for students with “generosity of spirit,” a term that circulates around the office—BC hopes to find students who have a concern for others. This same generosity of spirit shows up in the Lost Articles’ music: Caruso and Weber stressed that their purpose is anything but self-indulgent, and that their favorite part of the whole experience has been bringing together the office and their families.

“We want everyone to come, have fun, and sing along,” Weber said.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

September 9, 2018