Bobby Murray

Year of Graduation: 
Bobby Murray

“I’m surrounded by a lot of good people — friends and instructors and coaches who have my back.”

Bobby Murray ’18 is wearing a pink velvet Adidas track suit as he busts a move down Spring Street. Here he is in front of Williams House, the dorm where he has lived since arriving last fall as a new upper from Yarmouth, Maine. A few beats fly by and we find him behind the counter of Stillwell’s, downtown Exeter’s go-to ice cream shop. Together with two other seniors, he is performing a song (“Ice Cream Man”) for which he has composed the music and written the chorus. His mates, meanwhile, have crafted their own rap verses. Bobby’s friend Kenny Pich ’18, a new postgraduate from California, takes care of filming.

Welcome to WORD Wednesday, an idea that began percolating in the summer of 2017 when Murray, home in Maine, undertook an intensive study of sound production. Back on campus in September, with the tune of the local ice cream truck still earworming through his head, he encountered Pich, who, says Murray, “loves rapping and has a vision.” The two seniors, from opposite sides of the country, instantly hit it off, and agreed to collaborate on a song and video. “Ice Cream Man” dropped in October, and so far has amassed over 6,000 views on YouTube. Other songs, each with an accompanying video, have followed, launching, you guessed it, every Wednesday.

In the studio

WORD Wednesday songs, explains Murray, take a full seven days to conceive, compose and record. Either on their own, or by crowdsourcing through Instagram and other social media, Murray and company select a word or phrase that resonates. Recent choices have included “Ridiculous,” “Piano,” “Scooter Gang,” and “Daisy.” From there, Murray retreats to his Williams House room, where, using his two keyboards and assorted guitars, plus a condenser mic, he writes the chorus. His partners then jump in to complete the process. The resulting creations — witty, funny, even doleful —are causing a sensation at Exeter.

“I heard from someone who is taking Social Ethics that his class is studying our music videos, and that they recently spent a whole class session breaking down ‘Ridiculous,’” Murray explains. Faculty, too, are embracing the series: At this year’s Halloween assembly, Murray’s dorm head, English Instructor Christina Breen, along with fellow English Instructor Ellee Dean and Associate Director of Admissions Porter Hayes, dressed as the three main rappers from the “Ice Cream Man” video, with Breen going so far as to don Murray’s pink track suit.

A rapping Renaissance man

Yet Murray is no one-trick pony. A lifelong and accomplished ice hockey player (he plays right wing on Exeter’s varsity team), he hopes to play Division I or NESCAC hockey in college. He is also, much to his own amazement, the current co-head of Outkast, the Academy’s all-male step team; a singer with the Exeteras, one of Exeter’s five a cappella groups; and a co-head of and performer with the Exeter Association of Rock (EAR). What’s more, when Williams House transitioned to an all-gender dorm for the 2017-18 academic year, he opted to stay on. “It’s been really good to branch out and meet people coming from different places and experiences,” he says.

Rigor and freedom

Thinking for a minute, he adds, “That’s what I love about Exeter. I have had so many opportunities here, which is in part because of the size of the school, but also because of the people. Before I came here, I had this idea that Exeter would be a really strict place where they bear down on you academically. And while it is challenging, there is also a lot of freedom. I can go skate on my own before classes; the music building is open all the time; and I can get help from teachers when I need it. I’m surrounded by a lot of good people — friends and instructors and coaches who have my back. I’m so grateful for that.”