From left, Brown students and recent graduates Will Beakley, Sannivas Reddy Nallamanikalva, Chance Emerson, Jack Riley and Satch Sumner-Waldman stand backstage before a March 2022 show at Fête in Providence. Photos by Small Frye Photography

Date July 21, 2023
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Chance Emerson and the series of improbable events

A band cobbled together before classes started freshman year has performed onstage in front of 3,000 people, opening for Blues Traveler. What’s next for the Brown senior and his bandmates? First, homework.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University senior Chance Emerson first arrived on campus in August 2019 with a couple of suitcases and a to-do list. 

A singer-songwriter and guitarist since his early teens, he’d already released his first EP as a junior in high school. But his boarding school was light on musicians to collaborate with — there were only a handful of bassists and drummers, and none of them were playing indie folk.

“As soon as I got to Brown, my goal was to start a band,” Emerson recalls. “I’d been itching for it for so long."

He already had a lead on a second guitarist — he’d heard about Will Beakley from Beakley’s cousin, whom he’d met while hiking in New Zealand during his gap year. It didn’t take long to convince Beakley that they should start a band. Guitarist? Check.

A day or two after move-in, hanging out in his dorm room on the second floor of MoChamp, he heard piano music coming from down the hall. He stuck his head into the room and saw Satch Sumner-Waldman. Keyboard player? Check.

At a party the next night, he ran into a guy wearing an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and a bass clef necklace who introduced himself as Jacob Vietorisz. The question asked itself. Bassist? Check. 

“ As soon as I got to Brown, my goal was to start a band. I’d been itching for it for so long. ”

Chance Emerson Class of 2024

“At this point, all we need is a drummer,” Emerson says. “But I am having a tough time finding the drummer, like a really tough time.”

He asked around; several people mentioned Jack Riley, a drummer from Los Angeles. So Emerson tried to get in touch, first by email, then by text. Radio silence. All he knew was that Riley lived somewhere in Andrews Hall. So Emerson and Beakley decided it was time for some good old-fashioned detective work. They started on the top floor and worked their way down, checking the names written on each door. On the second floor, they finally spotted a Jack. They knocked and asked if Jack Riley lived there. No dice.

So they kept going, all the way down to the basement. They were running out of rooms. Then they saw it—another sign for another Jack. They knocked on the door, and there’s a guy lying in bed. They ask if he’s Jack Riley. He says yes. They ask if he wants to join their band. Sure, he says. Drummer? Check. 

Orientation isn’t even over yet, and Emerson has a band. Check.

A little more than three years later, on a rainy October night in Montclair, New Jersey, Emerson and his band are lounging in one of the Wellmont Theater’s green rooms, eating mediocre Cuban sandwiches and getting ready to open for Blues Traveler, the Grammy-winning band of “Run-Around” fame...

Read the full story from the Brown Alumni Magazine.