Dual Degree Student Uses Music to Fight Cancer

Dual Degree student Daniel Nothaft is a member of the band Chill Beenz, a group of musicians and friends who donated 100 percent of the sales from their most recent album to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, which works to support individuals diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

April 10, 2014
Dan playing the guitar

Daniel Nothaft is a student and musician currently enrolled in the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po. While studying in Reims, France, Nothaft and his band, Chill Beenz, recorded and produced an album called Birth of the Chill. The album, however, was more than just a fun side-project for Nothaft and his friends, as all sales go directly to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, which works to support individuals diagnosed with bile duct cancer by providing information about the disease and funding research efforts. We caught up with Daniel and asked him about the band, the album, and how he balances his music and studies.

As an Earth and Environmental Sciences major who also has a background in music, you have an eclectic range of interests and skills. What do you want to do after you complete the Dual BA Program?

Music will always be an important part of my life, but not as a profession. I’m still determining what I’d like to do after graduation but I know that I want to have an impact on how our society interacts with the environment.

In the description of your album you mentioned Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool. Would you say his work had a major influence on Chill Beenz? If not, who did?

Miles Davis is certainly an inspirational musician in the eyes of the band, as are many other legends of cool jazz and bebop. However, our sound is very eclectic. Our influences span a range of genres and time periods, including classic rock, progressive rock, funk, and hip hop. In fact, a few tracks from Birth of the Chill directly quote rhymes from classic hip hop jams.

Now that you are in New York after attending the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Reims (CRR) how are you staying involved with your musical interests?

CRR was immensely welcoming to me as a foreign student taking classes in composition and songwriting, and the album would truly have been impossible without the help of their faculty. My songwriting professor, François Eberlé, put me in touch with the sound technician Nicolas Bouvier, who helped us record the album using the conservatory's facilities. Chill Beenz is extremely thankful to all at CRR.

As for my current involvement, I have had a busy first year at Columbia and, sadly, have had to put musical pursuits on the back burner. However, outside of classes I have met many friends in the music department whose concerts I regularly attend, in addition to others around the city. I plan to have a lighter course load next year, which should allow time to form a new band here at Columbia. Many of my friends from the Dual BA Program are musicians, including DK Guo—the trumpet player from Chill Beenz—who will be studying at Columbia in the fall. I am excited by the potential to create with the many talented musicians here.

Chill Beenz performing on stage

Chill Beenz’s album, Birth of the Chill, can be found on their Bandcamp site, and you can visit their Facebook page for more information on upcoming concerts, videos, and songs. To hear Nothaft's solo work, check out his Soundcloud page.