Student busks for smiles

By Stephen Slessor

In the stressed out, high-strung atmosphere of a university campus, what does it take to make you crack a smile? Third-year General Studies student Steve Bleile thinks he has the answer.

For the past few months, Bleile has busked on campus two to three times per week. Last Monday, he sang and played guitar for the lunchtime crowd in the Science Theatres foyer.

"Campus is kind of gloomy and stuffy," said Bleile. To brighten the mood, he played a selection of mostly folk-rock tunes people would recognize and could sing along to.

The response was very positive.

"I enjoy it," said Cappuccino Bar Manager Dave Bohn, who works across from Bleile’s main busking spot. "It makes school [less] tense. It doesn’t seem like an institution."
In his open guitar case, Bleile placed a "Busking for Smiles" sign an Art student made for him after a previous session. Most passers-by couldn’t resist cracking a smile. He also received thumbs up and words of encouragement.

"They should have more live bands on campus," said third-year General Studies student Paul John Bessette. He suggested building a small stage in the Science Theatres foyer for performers like Bleile, and said musicians add character to the university.

Bleile, who started playing music at age 10, is adept at bass, guitar, drums and harmonica. His busking career started as summer fun in Vancouver. He enjoyed people’s reactions so much, he decided to continue it at school this fall.

"Some people just beam, they radiate this huge smile," said Bleile when asked how people react to his busking. "One guy said, ‘you’re the only guy on campus with any school spirit’. Those guys make my day."

Bleile specified he does not busk for money. He did receive some small change on Monday, but
put it all in the tip jar at the Cappuccino Bar.

"It’s the opposite of how the whole world works–there’s no gain," said Bleile. "That highlights how it’s a different thing, especially since I could be making money from it."

Bleile was joined Monday by third-year psychology student Cameron May on harmonica and second-year Outdoor Pursuits student Alanna Brooks on backup vocals. Both said they enjoy lifting people’s spirits through music.

According to Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz, Bleile is free to continue busking, whether for smiles or spare change.

"At this point and time, [busking] is a non-issue," said Fritz. He added it would only become an issue if people made specific complaints.

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