Musician finds harmony between school, band life


Michael Chew

Leah Tritabaugh, sophomore in LAS, performs with her band, Bum Rush, on April 14.

By Kiran Bond, Maaike Niekerk and Dhruv Baronia

Leah Tritabaugh has been a musician for a long time. When she was a child, she began taking piano lessons. In high school, she started playing trombone and learned guitar and bass through her local School of Rock program.

Now, Tritabaugh, sophomore in LAS, has gotten involved in the local music scene and balances that with her political activity as the co-president of the University of Illinois chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America and her political science major. 

Tritabaugh is in two bands: Bum Rush and Decapitation In The Food Court. 

Tritabaugh said she sings and plays bass in Decapitation In The Food Court. The band was struggling to find a consistent bassist before she came along. 

Tritabaugh met the band’s lead singer through Punchline, an RSO that plans concerts.

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“He was like ‘you play bass, right?’” Tritabaugh said. “And I was like ‘yeah,’ and he was like ‘do you wanna be in our band?’ And I was like, ‘alright!”  

“But I was a freshman, it was the first semester only a couple months in, so I was like ‘I don’t know anything about the scene or anything,’ but I said yeah,” Tritabaugh said. 

Tritabaugh described Decapitation In The Food Court’s sound to be fifth wave emo and Midwest emo.

The band is currently on hiatus because two of the members are studying abroad, but will be back next semester.

Tritabaugh said her other band, Bum Rush, is fast and heavy punk music and she plays guitar in this band. 

Bum Rush usually performs at house shows around Urbana, but occasionally does shows at Illinois State University. 

The band originally formed when the other members were in high school, with most members hailing from Evanston, Illinois. 

Tritabaugh said the band had a guitarist before her, but he’s currently studying abroad. This led to Tritabaugh’s two bands combining.

“When we saw that Bum Rush was gonna have a guitarist going abroad, and Decapitation In The Food Court was gonna have two of our people going abroad … we essentially just combined bands,” Tritabaugh said. 

Tritabaugh said her boyfriend is the drummer for Decapitation In The Food Court and the bassist for Bum Rush. 

Tritabaugh said she is only playing in Bum Rush for this semester and the summer, and when Bum Rush’s original guitarist returns, Tritabaugh will return to Decapitation In The Food Court. 

Tritabaugh said that balancing being in bands with her YDSA involvement and academic life can be difficult. 

According to Tritabaugh, YDSA does a lot of campaigns to try to better the University.

“We address when there’s racism or homophobia on campus, we try to do things to combat that,” Tritabaugh said. “We’ll do protests, fundraisers, we’ll do a lot of mutual aid stuff too.”

Tritabaugh has been the co-chair of YDSA for around a year. 

Tritabaugh said she’s always been attentive to politics because of her major. This is what led her to joining YDSA. 

“I was seeing politicians that I thought would have people’s backs … not follow through on anything that they would promise,” Tritabaugh said. “I think every person should … not have to go into thousands of dollars of debt for basic rights.” 

Tritabaugh said that there’s overlap between her life as a musician and her role in YDSA. 

“In both bands, we’ve played political events like charities,” Tritabaugh said. “It always goes towards some human rights issue.” 

Tritabaugh said Decapitation In The Food Court played an event organized by YDSA. All of the funds went towards helping people in the Deep South gain access to abortion.

Tritabaugh said that both bands have been involved in an event called “Jamnesty” that is put on by Amnesty International. The money always goes towards a human rights issue. 

Tritabaugh said that these events can draw people in that may not have come on their own.

“When we have events like this, it can bring other people in and make people aware of the issue,” Tritabaugh said. “It’s a more fun way of doing things than just going around asking for donations.”

Tritabaugh said house shows have a good sense of community and that a lot of people usually know each other. She said a big thing with organizing house shows is safety. 

“There’s a lot of room for people to get hurt, people to take advantage of other people who aren’t necessarily sober,” Tritabaugh said. “People will always look out for each other, that’s a really good environment that you can’t really find at KAMS or Joe’s.” 


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