In 1974, Bruce Springsteen wrote Born to Run—perhaps the ultimate anthem to shaking off the dust of your surroundings and getting out while you’re young—in a small cottage one mile from Monmouth’s campus.
Four decades later, Ohio native and Springsteen superfan Connor Rupp took that sentiment to heart.
“When a song comes to you at the right place and time, it can mean the world to you,” says Rupp. “I was a restless kid in high school and wanted to get out of Ohio. And when I listened to Born to Run, I felt like Bruce’s music was talking to me in the cheesiest way possible.”
Rupp did get out, sort of. He is now a junior music industry major at Monmouth, works in the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, and lives off campus in Asbury Park, New Jersey—Springsteen’s old stomping grounds. The irony of his journey isn’t lost on him.
“The place Bruce wanted to get out of was the place I wanted to come to,” Rupp says with a laugh.
It was Rupp’s love for Springsteen’s music that first put Monmouth on his radar. As a teenager, he and a friend made a pilgrimage of sorts—driving 10 hours east to visit Bruce’s old Jersey shore hangouts. Rupp’s mother made him promise to visit a college along the way. “Closest to everything was Monmouth, of course,” he says.
When it came time to apply to college, Rupp, who plays bass, says he wanted a school that offered a music industry program and had a thriving arts scene. Monmouth checked both boxes. “I wanted to be around ‘the noise,’ and Monmouth is between two of the biggest music cities in the world: New York and Philadelphia,” says Rupp. “It felt like the perfect place.”
It also feels like “the perfect time” to be a student here, says Rupp. This spring, Billboard magazine named the University one of the country’s Top Music Business Schools. Students in the program have “almost every resource possible” at their disposal, says Rupp. Most of his music classes are held at Lakehouse Recording Studios, a multimillion-dollar facility in Asbury Park. Many of his professors are trained producers who know “the real-world side of the music business,” says Rupp. “And the kids in my department want to make the arts scene just as big as it possibly can be, which is exciting.”
Rupp is still a Springsteen devotee, but he says the music speaks to him for different reasons now. “It’s not about the restless youth anymore,” says Rupp. “It’s more about my passion for talking about social justice. I appreciate Bruce’s voice as an activist and as an ambassador of the American dream.”
Working as a student archivist in the Archives, Rupp helps catalog donations sent in from fans around the world, and sometimes from Springsteen himself: news clippings, concert tickets, memorabilia, and the like. He also assists with events that are staged by the Archives. At one, “Springsteen: His Hometown,” Rupp was personally introduced to the Boss by his own boss: Archives Director Eileen Chapman. The moment was both awesome and surreal, says Rupp, and provided further evidence he was at the perfect place at the perfect time.
“Students just have access to so much here,” he says. “I got here, talked to people about Bruce, and the next thing I know I’m in the Archives going through Springsteen’s personal collection. But even outside the music industry program, I know there are opportunities like that for students to get involved,” says Rupp. “If you have a passion or a goal, Monmouth is the place to be.”