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Tunes from the Newsroom | Willard

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Picture this: You’re a freshman living in East Halls at Penn State experiencing college life for the first time.

But as much as you enjoy your classes, activities and new friends, something’s missing — a place to play guitar. It’s been a passion of yours for a long time, but playing instruments isn’t practical or courteous in residence halls, and noise complaints present yet another problem.

Where can you play your guitar?

The answer for Eugene Ryoo, lead singer of the student band Willard, was the campus building of the same name.

And he was not alone.

Ryan Keating faced the same dilemma living in West Halls his freshman year — and it just so happened the Willard Building became his peaceful practice place, too.

That was how Ryoo (junior-cybersecurity and information sciences and technology) and Keating (junior-corporate innovation and entrepreneurship) met.

The two quickly became friends, and eventually decided to form a band, which they named Willard after their excursions to the building.

“First, we were sending each other songs to listen to and then little riffs or ideas for chord progressions,” Ryoo said. “It sort of evolved into this whole thing.”

Keating’s childhood friend Grant Cheung quickly became involved with the band, becoming its bassist and de facto producer.

Cheung, a junior studying music technology at Millersville University, is a member of another band with Keating, Mango Safari.

Mango Safari released an EP titled “Momotaro” in February 2020, which was self-published by Keating and Cheung.

Willard’s members described the band’s music style as indie rock, though Keating is reluctant to label the band with a single genre.

“We kind of go all over the place. There’s some chiller stuff [and] some heavier stuff,” Keating said. “Why do one thing if you want to do whatever?”

Ryoo said The Strokes have been a huge inspiration for the band’s style, but each member draws inspiration from his musical history.

The band is currently working on an EP, which it hopes to release soon. No release date or title have been set for the project.

Willard’s EP will also be self-published by Keating and Cheung.

Jade Campos, Jeremiah Hassel, Evan James, Rebecca Marcinko and Ben McClary contributed to this production.

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