Music feeds the soul of IT guys who jam at noon

Walk through most WSU buildings at noon and you’re sure to find empty offices or employees doing lunch at their desks. But stroll through Information Technology and you might think you wandered into Kimbrough by mistake.

You didn’t. The live jazz and blues music you’re likely to encounter is produced by Ken Clark, graphic lab manager, playing guitar; Rick Wegner, network manager, on bass; and Geoff Allen, computer assistant administrator, on saxophone.

“It’s a nice way to spend lunch,” Clark said recently. “It’s something we’ve been doing for fun.”

About 18 months ago, Clark wanted someone to play blues with him at work. When he asked Allen, all he got was a laugh. But soon the two were strumming guitars together. Then Allen brought in his sax.

The music drew a lot more foot traffic through the long halls of IT and into the Graphics Lab. The men half-jokingly asked visitors if they played bass until, one day, Wegner wandered in.

“He said he could play a little, so he joined us,” Clark said.

Initially the music didn’t bring joy into the lives of all.

“Predictably, doors would close. But we’ve noticed that as we have played longer the doors are staying open,” Clark said. “We think that’s because we’re getting better.”

Some people even purposely book time to work in the Graphics Lab during the group’s practice hour. “That makes you feel good,” Clark said.

While the men were practicing during this interview, two passers-by stopped, walked into the room and tapped along to a tune. Allen said, “Our groupies have arrived.” They all laughed.

The laid back trio doesn’t take itself too seriously. The three play to have a good time and through the experience have learned a lot more about music.

“Jazz forces you to learn about theory,” Clark said.

Allen added, “I played the sax fifth through twelfth grade, but back then I was unable to fully appreciate it. Now I’m studying theory, playing in tune and listening to the people around me.”

“There is so much room to experiment,” Clark said. “There is room to push the boundaries and let each other explore. Sometimes we play the same song for 10 minutes, and sometimes it’s a bit ‘out there.’ ”

After they were asked to play at the IT diversity potluck, the musicians decided to come up with a name for themselves: /dev/null. “It’s a geeky Unix thing that means ‘nothing,’ ” Clark said.

“It’s a black hole for data,” Allen added.

Contrary to that description, the group is a star on the rise. The trio played at the IT holiday party and considers someday moving onto the live stage.

But one thing will not change: “If it ain’t fun, we’re not going to do it,” Allen said. “Cause we’re definitely not making money.

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