Joe Biden, Bob Costas, Vanessa Williams: these are just a few famous Syracuse University grads. However, you may not have known that some of your favorite artists got their start bleeding orange. Here are a few of SU’s most musically-inclined alums:

The Chainsmokers

Who knew that the creators of today’s most notable party anthems got their start in snowy Syracuse? Andrew Taggart is one-half of the duo that called Syracuse University their home. Naturally, Taggart was a student in the Bandier Program at Syracuse, majoring in Music and Entertainment Industries. The 2012 graduate was a member on SU’s Student Accelerator Venture Board, named the Syracuse University 2011-2012 Engagement Fellow, and even made the Dean’s List. However, it wasn’t all work and no play for the hopeful DJ. Taggart was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. The group’s close connection with Syracuse prompted them to play at Block Party, the university’s spring festival, alongside Chance the Rapper last April. The Chainsmokers’ music has become an integral part of Syracuse’s party playlist, and we can all agree that we aren’t mad when we hear “Closer” five times in one night. The duo is hotter than ever thanks to the popular single, which is rumored to be based on Taggart’s experience at Syracuse. The band’s most recent release is “All We Know,” which dropped on September 29. Currently, the DJs are finishing up their tour dates in Europe, and will be back to complete the tour in North America late this week. Interested in supporting a band with ‘Cuse roots? The duo has a few New York shows lined up, playing in New York City at Z100’s Jingle Ball on Friday, December 9, and in Buffalo on Thursday, December 15.


Ra Ra Riot

One musical byproduct of Syracuse has become a major presence in the alternative scene. Enter Ra Ra Riot, the indie band that has blown up since their time at ‘Cuse. The band sees Wes Miles at the mic, Mathieu Santos on bass, Milo Bonacci on guitar, Rebecca Zeller on violin, and Kenny Bernard on drums. The group formed in January 2006 and saw no shortage of opportunities to get their name out while at Syracuse, frequently playing house parties and small venues in and around the university. The band gained momentum at an alarming pace, recording their first demo the month after their formation, and soon played their first music festival at CMJ Music Marathon. A year later came the group’s first solo headlining tour in the US, followed by an appearance at South by Southwest. The band’s debut album, The Rhumb Line, dropped in August of 2008, and has been followed by three additional albums, released in 2010, 2013, and 2016, respectively. The band’s latest album, Need Your Light, brings forth an upbeat, youthful sound that draws comparisons to popular alt-pop groups Matt and Kim or The Wombats. Currently, the Ra Ra Riot is concluding their latest North American tour. To our dismay, the closest show is in Chicago.


Lou Reed

An oldie but a goodie, Lou Reed was one of the most influential voices in music. He was also a proud Orangeman. Reed majored in English during his time at Syracuse, alongside being a platoon leader for ROTC. Reed hosted a late-night radio show for our local NPR station, WAER. The program, entitled Excursions On A Wobbly Rail based on pianist Cecil Taylor’s song, focused on rhythm and blues, jazz, and doo wop styles of music. Reed also started a band while at Syracuse, and frequented the then-popular bar the Orange Grove (later occupied by Darwin’s, which is now also out of business), the vintage equivalent of Lucy’s, Harry’s, or Chuck’s. Reed being Reed, the musician was nearly expelled on multiple occasion for his practice of illegal activities (I’m looking at you, heroin), but the musical genius stayed at the university and graduated with honors. However, no matter what Reed did, one may argue that his most significant happening at the university was meeting Sterling Morrison and Jim Tucker. Tucker, a friend of Reed and a fellow SU student, happened to be the older brother of Maureen Tucker, the musician who would go on to drum in The Velvet Underground alongside Reed. Morrison, a friend of Jim Tucker and also a former Syracuse alum, met Reed through Tucker. The relationship would last, and Morrison went on to play guitar with Reed and Tucker’s sister in The Velvet Underground. The band would become an integral part of Reed’s legacy. Formed in 1964 and managed by Andy Warhol, the band became a major influence in punk rock and alternative music. After six years of success, Reed decided to leave the band, but not before releasing four of the group’s five albums. However, that was only the beginning for Reed. The musician went on to release twenty-two solo albums, locking in his legendary status and leading him to become one of the most influential voices in music history. Reed passed away in 2013 after a long struggle with liver disease at age 71, but his legacy lives on: he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. The three-year anniversary of Reed’s was just last Thursday, October 27, so take some time out of your day to listen to revel in some of his legendary tunes.

Want to hear some of 20Watts’ must-listens for this article? Check out our playlist below and be sure to follow us on Spotify.