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SoMAS Announces Battle of the Bands

This is the 2018 April Fool’s gag for the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.  While we are not currently planning any concerts, we aren’t ruling anything out!

April 1st, 2018.  STONY BROOK, NY.   – In an effort to raise money and close budgetary shortfalls at Stony Brook University, the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences is approaching fundraising from a novel perspective:  with a series of concerts starting on Long Island and the release and sale of multiple Extended Play (EP) albums.

Dubbed “The Battle of the Bands,” the concerts are headlined by RADAR SCIENCE, led by Dr. Pavlos Kollias and GOBLER LAB, led by Dr. Chris Gobler.   The kick-off concert, TIDAL WAVES VS RADAR WAVES will be held in The Boathouse.  The Boathouse has hosted several concerts over the years, and launching this concert series here serves as a perfect tribute for a building that well represents many aspects of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.  Additional concert venues will be announced, but the battles will primarily focus at schools in the State University of New York system.  The concert series will conclude at SUNY’s New Flagship School, Deep Blue.

This isn’t the first musical entry by SoMAS.  Back in 1986, when the school was still the Marine Sciences Research Center, a group of graduate students and faculty released “TIDAL WAVES” as the group The MSRC.  While the album may not have sold well, it provided exposure for the musical talent at the Center.

Tracks from the concerts will be released as the “battles” progress, and a album of all shows will be compiled when the concert series concludes.

A sample of tracks from the groups that are performing is available on YouTube.

SoMAS Music History

The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has celebrated musical talent at a variety of annual events. Musical acts have played at Oktoberfest, an annual celebration and fundraiser for the Petra Udelhofen Memorial Scholarship.  Oktoberfest welcomed different musical acts, from one-man bands like alum Peter Alpert to acts like Pumice.

Pumice was a group established at Stony Brook University, and actually includes Dr. Chris Gobler on drums, with fellow Stony Brook University faculty in Developmental Biology and lead singer Jerry Thomsen on guitar, Brookhaven National Laboratory RHIC technician and Stony Brook University alum Bob Olsen on guitar and former Stony Brook Psychology faculty John Robinson on bass.  The band has been regularly covered by in various periodicals at Stony Brook University, like News & Blues, the Graduate Student Newspaper and event advertisements showcased the band as well.

According to Chris Gobler, the “band started in 1995 and played consistently since.”  SoMAS events have invited Pumice back several times over the years, including multiple Oktoberfest appearances and former Facilities Manager Cliff Jones’s End of Summer Bashes.  “We used to play at the on campus grad student lounge, “The Spot,” monthly from 1996-2004 or so,” Gobler recalls.

Where Pumice’s “rock that floats” served as a fundraiser for the Udelhofen Memorial Fund, Jazz was the sound that helped raise money for the Nuria Protopopescu Memorial Teaching Fund.  The fund’s namesake, Nuria Protopopescu, was  a PhD student at SoMAS renowned for her talent, energy, and enthusiasm, which resulted in an office door nameplate reading “The Fabulous Nuria Protopopescu.”

There were two music-related fundraiser events, appropriately titled the Fabulous Jazz Revue and orchestrated by Tom Wilson. The first was in 2012 and the second was in 2014.  The headliner was Ray Anderson, Director of Jazz Studies accompanied by Blowage, the Stony Brook University Jazz Ensemble.  Both concerts were accompanied by special guests and a musical auction, where the highest bidder won the “you say it, we play it” number.

Christina Fink, in the Educational Programs office at SoMAS, has performed in several local musicals. In 2016, she was in “All Shook Up” at CK Productions in Islip, a musical comedy built around a number of songs made famous by Elvis Presley. Christina was an assistant director on the play “Clybourne Park,” and she also played the roles of Mrs. Finfer, a store clerk and Tammy O’Halloran in the musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street”  In 2017, she played Lady Mabelle in CK Productions’s Once Upon a Mattress.

SoMAS alum Elizabeth Hillebrand (MS, 1999) was a student in Dr. Darcy Lonsdale‘s lab who, as she was finishing up her degree, had an opportunity to follow her other passion and become a professional opera singer.   Dr. Lonsdale noted that Elizabeth “used to sing in my lab all the time.”  Elizabeth went on from her opera career to medical school.

Students, faculty, staff and friends have opportunities to express their musical talent.  At holiday parties and on occasion at recruitment weekend, a karaoke machine was available, or a guitar present to pass around to those in attendance, like former facilities manager Cliff Jones or alum Masatoshi Ugeno.  Even Santa Claus (or graduate student Steve Papa) would join in to play a set with fellow graduate student Bob Chant.  And graduate students joined with Dr. Ellen Pikitch to sing a number with Peter Alpert on guitar at SoMAS’s International Potluck Dinner and Recruitment Weekend.

SoMAS and Sustainability Studies Undergraduate students have performed in SBU Idol, Stony Brook University’s local musical talent competition.  In the 2017 competition, Coastal Environmental Studies student Jessie Joi performed an original song in the finals.  As covered by the SB Statesman, Sustainability Studies major and Stony Brook Pipettes member Hailey Greif, “opened the night by singing “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley.”

Tom Wilson plays the saxaphone with the Stony Brook Jazz ensemble The Blowage, led by Ray Anderson. The video clip below highlights his solo during the performance of “Moten Swing” by Buster and Benny Moten and arranged by Ernie Wilkins at the Spring 2015 Concert in the Staller Center Recital Hall at Stony Brook University.


Dr. Chris Gobler plays drums for the band Pumice, which is made up of graduate students, technicians and faculty from Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Lab.  The band’s leader, Jerry Thomsen, was featured in a 2001 issue of the SBU Graduate Student Newspaper News & Blues, which provided the history for the founding of the band.  In the video below, Pumice is performing a cover of “Blister in the Sun” at DEKS on Long Island.

A close friend of SoMAS, New York Sea Grant’s Communications Manager Barbara Branca is a jazz singer as well.  She has performed at the Fabulous Jazz Revue and has made several appearances at the Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, NY and the Village Bistro in New York City.  On Wednesday May 24, 2017, Barbara celebrated her retirement from Stony Brook University at a party at the campus dance studio on campus.  In lieu of a gift, she asked for donations to the Nuria Protopopescu Memorial Teaching Award. Barbara performed her original song about coastal storm awareness,  “Ask Yourself (When the Warning Comes).” An audio track is available below the video of the performance.


ASK YOURSELF (When the warning comes)

What are you going to do when the warning comes? Are you going to go? Do you have a plan? Who are you going to listen to?

What are you going to do when the warming comes? Where are you going to go? What are you going to take? Who are you going to leave behind?

Prepare to stay safely But leave if you have to Live in a flood zone? Do you know a safe route from home If storm surge is extreme Do you know what that means? Will someone you love be swept away?

What are you going to do when the warning comes? Are you going to go? Do you have a plan? Who are you going to listen to?

What are you going to do when the morning comes? Take a look around, hope that you have found Everyone is safe and sound, safe and sound Nothing about us without us

Ask yourself What are you going to do? (3 times) It’s up to you

There is a surprising amount of musical talent at SoMAS, and potentially more to be uncovered!


This article is the Aprils Fools 2018 Joke by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.  Many thanks to the School of Journalism, the Center for News Literacy, the College of Arts and Sciences and others for their assistance.


Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish with April Fool’s Jokes. Our collection of April Fool’s gags includes the following:  Using novel radar technology dialed up to 11 for mind controlThe University offers students an opportunity to examine the increase in sharknados with its Sharknado Studies minor.  The State University of New York announced DEEP BLUE, the 65th SUNY campus set to be the flagship campus for SUNY and the fleet of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences will provide escort duty for DEEP BLUE.  Undergraduate Student Government brought airplanes to campus with the satirical “United Airlines Party.”

Visit Newsday and Business Insider for their suggestions for spotting fake news.  And check out the Center for News Literacy‘s online MOOC “Making Senses of the News:  News Literacy Lessons for Digital Citizens” to learn more about evaluating the quality of news and journalism in order to judge the reliability of information and make informed judgement.

Graduate students Bob Chant and Steve Papa (as Santa) performing at a Holiday Party.
Coastal Environmental Studies student Jessie Joi performs an original song in the 2017 SB Idol finals
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