When Jay Weinberg enrolled at Stevens as a freshman in fall 2008, he was a pretty typical student – sort of. Although he is the son of the drummer of one of the world’s most famous, esteemed and popular rock & roll acts of all time – Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – and he considers “The Boss” and the rest of his father’s band mates pseudo-members of his family, Weinberg was basically a normal 18-year-old eager to begin his college years as a Stevens Business & Technology major.
“I was drawn to Stevens’ really unique approach to teaching business concepts, and also thought its location near New York City would serve my interests in music and art,” said Weinberg, a high school ice hockey star from Middletown. N.J. “I knew that Stevens had really set itself apart and I got that vibe that it would be a good home for me.”
Just two months later, Weinberg’s life took a crazy right turn when he was invited to play drums in place of his father on an international tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, when the elder Weinberg’s duties as bandleader of “The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien” presented a scheduling conflict. A self-taught drummer who had previously only preformed in small hardcore and punk rock venues, Weinberg was suddenly traveling the world performing with a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer live in front of tens of thousands of fans.
“It was an amazing opportunity, and like anything else that came after it, I gave it everything I had,” said Weinberg, who received rave reviews for his performances on the tour. “I’m really proud of my time I spent with them.”
Although he unsurprisingly comes from an incredibly musical family – besides his father, Weinberg’s sister is a pianist and his mother is a “great harmonica player, although she doesn’t want to it admit it” – Weinberg didn’t discover his passion for drumming until he was 14-years-old. His dream ever since has been to tour and make music, so there was no way he was passing up the life changing invitation.
However, he didn’t want to quit on his goal of earning a college degree, either.
“I never thought that during my freshman year I would start a full touring career,” he said. “I was expecting to be a full-time student.”
Weinberg – who has taken exams from the road and written essays from his tour bus – said he feels incredibly fortunate that Stevens administrators and faculty members were so understanding of his unique situation, and worked hard to create an individual study plan to allow him the flexibility to continue his education.
“My crazy schedule made continuing at Stevens very confusing, but everyone at Stevens helped me to make it work,” said the 22-year-old. “The administration and faculty understood that I wanted to make it a point to finish school.”
Today, Weinberg is just one semester away from graduating, despite maintaining a demanding touring calendar for the past four years, which included two years as the drummer for the popular punk rock band Against Me!. He recently finished a tour with a Norwegian hardcore band named Kvelertak, and just released an EP with Hesitation Wounds, a side project of a number of musicians from the hardcore scene.
A talented visual artist, Weinberg is also involved in a side project – an art collection business called Happy Attack he founded with another Stevens student for their senior design project.
“The point of Happy Attack is to create and share art and built a community,” said Weinberg, who said he was drawing long before he even knew what music was.
Weinberg expects the business principles he is learning at Stevens to help him achieve success in every aspect of his life going forward.
“Everything I’ve learned can be applied very broadly,” said Weinberg, who said he currently has some undisclosed music ventures in the works. “What I love about Stevens is that you are able to align your interests with what you are learning in class. I don’t think a lot of schools offer that. The malleability of the courses lends themselves to what you individually want to do.”
For Weinberg, what he wants to do is “simple” – “share my music and art with the world and always remain creative, motivated and inspired.” And despite the weeks and months at a time he’s spent off campus in pursuit of that goal, Weinberg said Stevens did indeed become the home he thought it would be when he first set foot on campus.
“I’ve developed great relationships with teachers over years and met many people at Stevens who share my interests,” Weinberg said. “Although I’ve been all over the country and all over the world, nothing has compared to the home I feel at Stevens. I realized this really is the place for me.”
Photo credit: Chloe Rice