NIU professors form rock band

By Ericka Exton

They teach by day and rock by night.

O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Highway, is the repeated venue for the rock cover band Buffalo Jump. At first glance it would seem to be just another band paying tribute to some of classic rock favorites, but take a closer look and some surprises are in store. For starters, three of the five members are history professors at NIU.

James Schmidt, assistant chair of the NIU History Department, sings vocals and plays lead guitar in the band. Associate history professor Brian Sandberg plays percussion while assistant history professor Eric Jones plays guitar and sings vocals in the band. Staff member Aaron Lewis does sound productions and vocals, and Dan Holloway plays bass.

Many of the members had played in previous groups where they played their original music, but the idea for a cover band was born in the spring of 2012, Jones said. He recalled the first time they thought of starting the band.

“Well, many of us in the [history] department played instruments or played in a band, so we would bring our guitars to department Christmas parties and play,” Jones said. “We thought, ‘Hey, let’s start a band and do this for real.’”

O’Leary’s owner Mel Witmer said he has been delighted to have the band play at the pub multiple times.

“Customers enjoy them and we keep them coming back by popular demand; people request to see them,” Witmer said. “They have a great vibe and it’s clear that they aren’t playing for the money, they are doing it because they just love to play.”

Witmer personally enjoys when the band covers The Eagles, but the list of rock bands the group covers doesn’t stop there.

Buffalo Jump covers many rock legends and even some blues. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, AC/DC, Prince and The Rolling Stones are just some of the artists Buffalo Jump covers, Jones said. Within the short time of the band’s start, it has already achieved a strong fan base, Witmer said. Playing other band’s music instead of its own solidifies that base.

“We can play what people want to hear and what we’ve always loved to hear,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg said he has had no issues with balancing teaching and channeling his inner rocker.

“Music has always been apart of my life and I still go listen to music in my free time so the switch comes natural,” Sandberg said.

O’Leary’s manager Dorothy Clucas referred to the band as high energy and said she loves when it comes back to perform.

Buffalo Jump will be playing again at 8 p.m on Friday at O’Leary’s, 260 E. Lincoln Highway.