Quinnipiac ‘Unplugged’ and the students behind the QUEST TV show

Mike Schoeck

Spring of 2000 accented a car chase of two sleek convertibles. There was also a bulldog chasing him around Tator Hall at night. The joy and the sheer possibilities being a Freshman mass communications major during a project shoot are priceless and unparalleled.
These were early memories of Juniors Eric Marrapodi and Sean Deland collaborating for a film project. The video was a minute-long music video cut to N*Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye.” In three years the two have not only become good friends but have also jump-started “Quinnipiac Unplugged.” Hands down, “Unplugged” is the most intimate, live acoustic rock show on campus, not to mention the first and only.
The campus has seen a fair share of visits by mainstream bands, comedians and political figures. There is the annual Open Mic Night series and Coffeehouse shows and events at the Rathskellar. These are few and infrequent compared to Unplugged, which is getting a widespread buzz on campus.
Aside from time allotted to his studies, the duties of being a Residential Assistant and an active involvement with the school’s Christian Fellowship chapter, the 20-year old Providence, Rhode Island raised Marrapodi still manages “Unplugged.” He and Deland produce the show, aired on Monday’s each week on campus television channel QUEST.
Although there is a limited audience of twenty to thirty listed people allowed each week, there has been an increased fan-base on campus after each week’s televised show and daily program rotation on the channel. “A day doesn’t go by without one of us getting a compliment or comment about the show,” says Marrapodi.
Broadcast journalism is the concentration for the Marrapodi. Back in 1999 when the channel was still QCTV Marrapodi was a regular sports anchor. Between then and now he remained involved in Christian Fellowship and became a Residential Assistant. “Unplugged” debuted in the Fall of 2001.
“The show is a team effort, but Eric’s the executive producer and really gets it all done,” said an unusually pensive Deland, seated across from Marrapodi at a conference table in one of the Communication building’s computer studios.
Deland is a 21 year-old mass communications major also, with a film concentration. He lives off campus and can be most aptly distinguished on campus with a part free-wheeling guru stature and part rock star physique with eye length locks, all-around goatee and acoustic guitar at most times.
Deland mentions no formal band connections at the moment, but he does contribute musically to Christian Fellowship’s weekly “Worship” meetings with song. He has previously dee-jayed acoustic rock music on campus radio station WQAQ.
” ‘Unplugged’ is pure acoustic. It’s the kind [of feel] you get when you’re sitting, listening to someone play in your living room. That’s what we want the audience to feel,” notes Marrapodi, swamped in an open folder of papers with band information, contacts, and related booking information. Phone numbers and contacts are checked via his electronic handheld Palm Pilot.
The show has seen a fair variety of artists perform live at the Communication building’s broadcast studio. Marrapodi keeps a succinct list of possible, definite and booked bands set to grace the “Unplugged” stage. Hartford-based singer-songwriter Nico was the first to be televised for “Unplugged” on Oct. 8.
The blend of funk and acoustic-rooted pop-rock was brought on Unplugged’s second week, courtesy of New Haven based band Green Inside. Quinnipiac junior band, Kadence, played on the third installment while Tennessee’s Simple Fools came on the fourth show while touring New England.
“Unplugged” is still a long shot from what Marrapodi and Deland would coin their ideal routine. “We try to book several bands week by week, because [they] know they will cancel,” Deland points out. “Bands are actually starting to call us,” Marrapodi grins with a matter-of-fact tone.
A website for the show is almost up and running, Marrapodi notes. Promotion and advertising is an outlet that they are both trying to make the best of. The program has no fixed funding or budget allowance.
They hope to produce and release “Unplugged Volume 1,” a compilation CD containing tracks culled from each performer’s show thus far. This is in hopes of the bands’ permission, while the two are anticipant and firm to charge a small price per copy. Volume 1 will be released early this Spring.
Although Marrapodi has ties with Atlantic Records and smaller label and band contacts, Unplugged wants to stay on a modest but independent pedestal. They recently had a scheduling conflict with They Might Be Giants, a popular post-punk band recently touring club venues, but were almost booked on Unplugged.
Marrapodi says the only bigger names they have also came close to booking are Dispatch, Tim Reynolds and Guster.
Several national and New England based bands are likely on the Spring roster for Marrapodi and Deland. They are hopeful that other immediate campus or area bands will show interest and perform. “We had hesitance booking Kadence, but we saw a show of theirs in New Haven. Our proximity to that city is great for publicity also,” says Marrapodi.
Of 14 weeks of classes in the Spring Semester, “Unplugged” has a confirmed list of 10 new bands and artists to perform. Connecticut veterans Mighty Purple performed on Jan., a pleasant welcoming back to the crack and whip of academia. The Aaron Katz Band, formerly of the New Hampshire-based band Percy Hill, is set to play the week of Jan. 30. New Haven Christian-Rock band Ten Sheckle Shirt will be performing Unplugged early in February.
Although the quality presentation of QUEST programming is equal or less than Public Access outlets, “Unplugged” hopes to delve outside the channel and seek promotion, advertising assistance and airtime from area cable-access providers Comcast and Charter Communications. “The campus cable feed is awful and the audio is super weak but I don’t think better technicians could really help [the output],” says Marrapodi.
In addition to upcoming performances, never-ending persistence in booking and contact maintenance as well as the compilation disc in the works, Marrapodi and Deland will be putting together a singer-songwriter competition. The first-place performer will play live on the televised show, and the guys anticipate that a guitar prize will be offered as well.
Judges for the competition are being sought from the New Haven Advocate, campus and area radio show personalities, campus faculty in music and the arts, as well as any other worthy applicants interested in judging or performing.
For information on the yet to be established songwriter competition, get in touch with Eric Marrapodi at campus extension 6253.