Meet Bradley Immel

Photo: Toni Bird

The pandemic turned down the volume in many of our lives, but the decibels really dropped for Bradley Immel. One moment, he was playing bass guitar in front of a crowd of hundreds at Full Moon on the Quad. A blink of the eye later, he was strumming for a max audience of seven, the social bubble he formed in the fall when rules allowed it. He’s spending his senior year as a resident assistant in EVGR-A, where all undergrads on campus lived in the fall and some upperclassmen are staying in the winter.

Music has long been a passion for Immel, who plays everything from saxophone to steelpan and embraces genres from rap to rock. But it was never his only focus growing up in Dixon, Calif., a Central Valley farm town where, he says, you know everyone you see at the grocery store. He came to Stanford with notions of becoming a doctor.


Instead, a mechanical engineering course captured his imagination freshman year, spurring a love of creating that Immel soon married with his musical interests. The engineering major has a fondness for finding old gadgets at Goodwill and turning them into musical gizmos—from the drum machine he created out of a printing calculator to a toaster he turned into a talk box, a device that lets you reshape an instrument’s sound with your mouth.

Photo of a decorated guitar.A bass guitar hand-painted by Immel (Photo: Courtesy Brad Immel)

 

“The No. 1 thing I miss most about pre-pandemic times: I was in three bands playing three gigs a week.”

 “I really enjoy starting something from scratch and finishing it to the end. That’s what draws me to music—creating a song from start to finish—and to mechanical engineering.

“In my frosh dorm, I would just play the piano every day, and then one day somebody else in the dorm came up and started singing. We started playing together, and I started producing music for him. He’s a rapper and a singer. Producing music has been one of the biggest things I have done at Stanford. I’ve produced songs for five artists.

“A band I play with, Reptile Room, won Battle of the Bands in 2019, so we got to play Full Moon on the Quad. At the performance, I was jumping up and down for an hour and a half straight. I just played way too aggressively. Both my fingers had huge blood blisters from playing bass. We were playing loud and people were dancing—it felt like we were a real band.

Brad Immel playing a guitar outside.(Photo: Toni Bird)

 

“Last year I staffed an all-frosh dorm. I had a great team, and we had great residents, and we had a really good time. This fall was a very different situation. We really tried having [dorm] events, but of course people don’t want to show up to another Zoom meeting. We don’t have it figured out. It was a really tough quarter to be an RA and to be a student.

“The one thing we relied on for interacting with residents was going on walks—just asking them to go on a walk with a mask.

“With your registered household, which was up to eight people, you could do anything—you could go into each other’s rooms, and you didn’t have to wear masks. I started teaching my roommate to play bass, and I was teaching guitar to another friend in our household. We made our own little band. My other friend sometimes played the egg shakers, and I was on drums. It was for an audience of none, for jamming’s sake. I’ve been playing as much music as ever.”


Sam Scott is a senior writer at Stanford. Email him at sscott3@stanford.edu.