Sara Stebbins and Allen Wang Host Stuyvesant’s First Tiny Desk Concert

Seniors Sara Stebbins and Allen Wang hosted Stuyvesant’s first National Public Radio (NPR)-inspired Tiny Desk concert on Friday, December 6.

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By Zoe Oppenheimer

Seniors Sara Stebbins and Allen Wang hosted Stuyvesant’s first National Public Radio (NPR)-inspired Tiny Desk Concert on Friday, December 6. The concert was held in the second-floor atrium and gave students an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a live audience of around 30 people.

A Tiny Desk Concert is an intimate concert performed up-close to a live audience, first thought of and hosted by NPR Music in 2008. The idea of holding a Tiny Desk Concert at Stuyvesant first struck Wang and Stebbins during the summer. Both are fans of the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and wanted to create a similar experience for Stuyvesant students. “The goal of the event was to bring more arts and culture to Stuyvesant High School,” Wang said.

Stebbins and Wang liked the personal feel of these performances, which use no fancy stage equipment or sets but mere instruments. Because the audience is in such close proximity, this setup creates both a literal and emotional intimacy between the performer and the audience.

Stebbins coordinated with the performers, while Wang worked on the production. Stebbins made most of the administrative decisions such as creating the set list, and Wang handled the logistics of the event, such as setting up the audio equipment. “We both trusted each other with what we were doing,” Wang said.

On the day of the concert, the concert area was set up in the second-floor atrium during the later periods of the day. The setup consisted of a few guitars, pianos, microphones, a desk from a classroom, and drums. There was also audio and video equipment present, as Wang and Stebbins were video- and audio-recording the concert.

In total, there were seven acts. The first performance consisted of three songs performed by juniors Roland Blake, Damian Klokowski, and Oliver Jackson; the second one was performed by junior Chrisabella Javier; the third by junior Saarah Elsayed; the fourth by senior Christopher Brown and junior Isabella Lee; the fifth by seniors Victoria Wong and Cosmo Coen; the sixth by senior Cecilia Bachana; the seventh by junior Julian Cunningham and senior Max Mah; and the last one by senior Zeynep Bromberg.

“Some people performed original music, which was really amazing to see,” Lee said. In particular, Elsayed and Bachana both performed original songs. Elsayed performed original songs “Safety Net” and “Perfect,” along with her cover of “Happiness is a Butterfly” by Lana Del Rey, while Bachana’s set was composed solely of original songs with “Lady Lou,” “New York Pizza,” and “Rise in Love.”

Other performers performed their own renditions of a varied genre of music. Blake, Klokowski, and Jackson performed “I Can’t Handle Change” by Roar, and “Naruto Themed Sexting” and “I Killed Arbor Day For You,” by Panucci’s Pizza. Javier covered “As It Is” by Winter’s Weather, “Coffee Shop Soundtrack” by All Time Low, and “Life In Pink” by The Ready Set. Brown and Lee performed “Passionfruit” by Drake and “Slow Dancing in the Dark” by Joji ft. Rich Brian. Wong and Coen performed “Firewood” by Regina Spektor and “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. Cunningham, Bromberg, and Mah performed “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, “The Weight” by The Band, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, and “At Last” by Etta James.

Though this concert is the first of its kind at Stuyvesant, Stebbins took steps to distinguish the Tiny Desk Concert from Open Mic, another type of musical event at Stuyvesant. “I feel like there are a lot of similarities in terms of showcasing student work. So, in order to distinguish it from Open Mic, we had a sound setup that we put in the atrium so people could walk by and stop to hear the concert even if they didn’t really know about it, which I thought was really cool,” Stebbins said. “We also had sign-ups beforehand and a set list, and Open Mic is a little more relaxed than that and more open-ended.”

One downside of the concert, however, was the various technical difficulties that occurred. “We did a pretty good job, but there were a few things missing. We didn’t get a keyboard pedal, which messed up the keyboard acts a little bit. They were very good at adapting to that, though, I must say,” Stebbins said. “During the concert, we had a few things with sound malfunctions. But that wasn’t something we could have completely prevented, and that’s not what people remember. That’s not what people take away.”

In addition, the concert also had a relatively small audience. “I wish more people came, but I understand that there were [other conflicts],” Wang said.

Lee agreed that the turnout wasn’t huge, but added that it was still notable. “The turnout wasn’t a bunch of people, but it was friends [and] supporters. I remember the gymnastics team came down to see some of the performance,” Lee said.

Despite the low turnout, those who attended enjoyed their experience at the concert. “[Having a Tiny Desk Concert] gives [the students] more creativity to do what they want. Throughout the concert, there was outward cursing which I’m not saying is amazing, but it shows that it gives [us] more freedom to express ourselves. You wouldn’t see that [at] a regular school concert,” junior Roshni Patel said.

In the future, Wang and Stebbins plan on hosting more Tiny Desk Concerts and would like to see more people come. “Overall, I think it was successful and would do it again,” Wang said. The date for the next Tiny Desk Concert is undecided as of now, but they are hoping to host another one after SING! season.

Stebbins and Wang are hopeful about the positive impact that future Tiny Desk Concerts will leave on the school culture as a medium for students to express themselves and share their talents with their peers. “I feel like we have to look around and appreciate how insanely talented everyone is. Like, there’s so much talent even outside of what [this school] is known for. With my coming-up on four years at Stuy[vesant], part of my mission has been [...] to share my peers’ talents and interests with the community, and my vision of Tiny Desk Concert is something that allows for that,” Stebbins said.