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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Jake Hawrylak ’13 Headlines First-Ever Knox Rocks Residency

Music has always been front and center for Jake Hawrylak '13. Growing up in El Dorado, New Mexico, his musical talent was his guiding light toward an education. Now, a decade after graduating from Knox, he had the opportunity to return to his alma mater alongside his band, Maiden King, to perform at the first-ever Knox Rocks Residency concert. 

Hilary Lehmann

Since graduation, Hawrylak has explored the music landscape, giving professional lessons, filming a YouTube video series with Reverb, and touring Japan. Now, walking along the campus paths that helped him become the person he is today, Hawrylak recalled the ways in which Knox nurtured his creative spirit. 

“I credit my stability as a musician to the education I received at Knox,” Hawrylak said. “This place gave me flexibility and a desire to try all sorts of different sounds and instruments. I never felt shoehorned into anything specific.”

From the moment Hawrylak first toured Knox, he felt connected to the community. He said it was quickly apparent that the people were authentic, not trying to sell him on an experience that he wouldn’t ultimately be a part of. “Everyone at Knox wanted to know my vibe, not just what I was studying and my major,” he said. 

Hawrylak says his approach to a college education involved experimenting with many sounds and instruments. He tried a music radio show with WVCK, submitted music to Catch Magazine, and even played shows on campus with his then-band Poets and Peasants. He also pointed to live performances during Jazz Night at McGillicuddy's and a summer of gigs at Baked Pizza as highlights. 

Now, touring and recording with Maiden King are Hawrylak’s main focus. The group, which Hawrylak classified as his solo effort, has been playing together for over a year now. When Knox reached out about performing for Knox Rocks, the opportunity to showcase his musical evolution to his alma mater was too good an opportunity to pass up. 

This residency marked Hawrylak's first trip back to Knox in many years. He says visiting buildings like the Ford Center for the Fine Arts and walking the sidewalks near Seymour felt like traveling back in time. 

Hilary Lehmann

The band played a full set for a large crowd of students in the Taylor Lounge on Friday, October 6. The group also held workshops and Q&A sessions for students the following day, giving Knox’s budding artists a chance to explore their musical curiosities. Managing Director of Jazz and Instrumental Programs Andy Crawford was thrilled with the outpouring of support from the students and thought Maiden King put on a great first residency.

“Jake is a powerful performer. Having him as a former student, I’ve really seen him grow as an artist. Seeing what he’s doing musically and how he connects with students personally and musically was really special,” Crawford said. 

Hawrylak says the band is already working on new music, months before their debut album has even been released. He says that this step in his musical career is about branching out and starting to make more of a name for himself and the band in the Chicago area and around the country. Just like his education at Knox, he’s just excited about the many opportunities that could be right around the corner. 

“I feel like art is the act of doing something bigger than myself, and at the end of the day, it’s always worth it,” he said.

The band’s debut record Who Else Were We Supposed to Become?releases on streaming platforms on December 1, 2023. 

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Printed on Sunday, April 21, 2024