But students still manage to expand the University’s creative arts community. In spring 2022, some felt a need for a new approach to classical music — creating the University’s Anime Video Game Ensemble.
The group, consisting of one large ensemble and several smaller ensembles, plays music exclusively from anime and video game soundtracks.
Ryan Lee ’26, arranging chair and a percussionist and pianist in AVGE, explained that twice a semester, members listen to excerpts from suggested songs and vote on their favorites.
“Since our club is completely student-run and we play music that's voted on by club members, we have to arrange our own music every semester,” he said.
This process is no small feat, said Johann Dizon ’24, who conducts the large ensemble and is one of the club’s founders. He explained that while many student groups buy the rights to music or scores, AVGE tailors the pieces they select to their own ensemble. That way, members “can still participate even if the original score or digital song did not include” their instrument, he said.
The club’s set this semester includes music from “Super Mario Galaxy” and Castle in the Sky, a Studio Ghibli movie.
Though AVGE has grown quickly — now boasting 66 members, despite starting with only six in spring 2022 — the club works hard to maintain a democratic structure, Dizon said. AVGE votes on almost everything, from what kinds of songs they play to what they’d like to see the club do moving forward. “We're able to get everyone's input,” he said.
At her first AVGE meeting, Emma Hsiao ’25 suggested a song that won a vote. She recounted thinking, “Okay, well now I have to go to rehearsal.’”
AVGE prides itself on being “a serious but also relaxed club that anyone can join,” according to Dizon, and it has a commitment to welcoming members of all abilities.
“We want to make (the club) as accessible as possible,” Dizon said, as well as “educate our own members on music theory, music education and arranging and writing music.”
Co-founder and violinist Richard Dong ’25, head director of the smaller ensembles, also emphasized AVGE’s inclusivity. “Our club goal has always been to accept everyone of all musical backgrounds, all instruments — and make sure everyone can play the part they want to play,” he said.
As the club quickly outgrows its current performance space, it hopes to hold a concert in the main hall of the Lindemann Performing Arts Center. “The main hall would be a perfect way to accommodate both the performers and our audience,” Dizon said.
Dong also said he hopes to increase the club’s engagement with other groups on campus and “the performing arts sphere in general.”
AVGE will host two concerts in early December that will include a collaboration — the club’s first — with Gendo Taiko, a contemporary Taiko drumming club. According to Dizon, one of the songs the club plans to play from “Genshin Impact” contains a number of East Asian folk instruments, including the Taiko drums.
Hsiao described the Taiko drums as “bring(ing) the (song’s) fullness to life.” Hsiao is also excited to use a real typewriter as a sound effect in another piece during the concert.
The attire for the concert reflects the club’s mission of being both serious and fun, with members having the choice to dress in black and white concert attire or in cosplay, Dizon said.
“AVGE is serious about the music we play, but we also play a really different genre of music that's not as appreciated within the greater community,” Lee said. “Everyone's really passionate about spreading anime and video game music.”
Kate Butts is a Senior Staff Writer covering University Hall. Outside of the Herald, she loves running, board games and Trader Joe's snacks.