Behind the tunes drifting from the Oakland Center


Sergio Montanez

John Bollda comes to the OC to play on the grand piano for a few minutes

On a Tuesday afternoon, Tyler Bollda made his way to the grand piano in the Oakland Center and began to play the theme song to “The Walking Dead.” Although he struggled at first, the melody was distinct and suitable.  

As his fingers tapped the keys and the hammers on the inside stroke the strings, it became apparent that the Oakland Center maintains its most prominent feature to date: a grand piano.   

The Oakland Center is the heart of campus where students gather to enjoy a quick snack while activities occur throughout the building. With ongoing renovations, the Oakland Center continues to expand its future features for students and occupants to enjoy.

A junior musical theatre major, Bollda usually comes to play the piano for a couple minutes once a week.

“I started playing the piano two years ago, right at the time I came to Oakland,” he said. “I learned music theory here. I spend time [here] playing and learning, mostly from watching videos on YouTube. My influences include Panic! At The Disco, John Legend, Twenty One Pilots and Linkin Park.”

As he stated his musical influences, Bollda began to play “This Is Gospel” by Panic! At The Disco, the first song he learned. He followed the music by singing the lyrics.

Beside learning and playing songs by some of his favorite artists, Bollda also likes composing his own songs and playing them whenever he has the time in-between classes.

Unlike Bollda, Katelyn Neal isn’t concerned about playing the songs of other artists. She would rather play the songs she composes herself.

“I usually just play my own songs,” she said. “I don’t really have a go to song or a favorite song to play on the piano.”

Neal, an English major, began playing at the age of six. As her skills improved over the years, her parents began to take notice of her rapid progression and began looking into hiring a private teacher.

“When I reached the age of 13, I began to get lessons from a private teacher,” Neal said.

Neal regularly goes to the Oakland Center to practice her skills and share her talent with others.

“I come here to play 65 percent of the time I’m on campus, usually during my breaks,”  she said.

Luis Carcamo’s influences consists of classical composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. Carcamo, a biomedical engineering major, started playing the piano in his first semester at Oakland.

“I picked up mostly by ear, and then I started learning from YouTube,” he said. “’Piano Man’ by Billy Joel was the first song I ever learned to play.”

In his first semester at Oakland, Carcamo would come to play the piano every day.  This semester, his daily routine has taken a slight change, but he still manages to come and play at least four times a week.

“My go-to song to play would be ‘Moonlight Sonata’ by Beethoven. My favorite song to play is ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ by Elvis Presley,” said Carcamo.

Despite never playing in front of a crowd, Carcamo’s talents don’t go unnoticed when he sits behind the ivory keys. “I’ll play for a crowd once I get good enough.”

As for Bollda, he wishes to continue playing and composing his own music in the hopes that someday, his talents will help him achieve his career goals.

“One I get my own website, I want to advertise myself more. It’s a good skillset to have. To tell future employers that I can compose my own music,” said Bollda.