Student Union Hosts Virtual Concert

In collaboration with several student-run music clubs, the Student Union hosted a virtual concert on Zoom.

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By Emily Young-Squire

Led by External Affairs Delegates sophomore Deven Maheshwari and freshman Eugene Yoo, the Student Union (SU) hosted its first virtual concert through Zoom on April 24. The concert, which lasted over an hour long, showcased solo vocal and instrumental pieces from 14 performers. Over 70 students tuned into the Zoom call to watch their classmates’ performances.

The 14 performers included seniors Chris Brown, Veronika Kowalski, Victor Kuang, Beracah Lam, and Derek Lao; juniors Roland Blake, Julian Cunningham, Derick Fang, and Oliver Jackson; and sophomores Zoe Buff, Cyrus Cursetjee, Amy Mai, Kai Mandelbaum, and Victor Veytsman.

The concert opened with an introduction from Yoo regarding the inspiration behind the concert. “We decided to host this concert […] because we felt like it’s important to connect the Stuyvesant community even though we’re going through these difficult times,” Yoo said.

Maheshwari further explained the roots of the project. “[Yoo] had been trying to organize a student-led concert at Stuy before March, and when schools got [shut down], he revised the idea into a virtual concert,” he said in an e-mail interview. “The External Affairs Department is always looking for new projects, and we thought a virtual concert would help bring people together.”

To kickstart the project, Yoo and Maheshwari contacted five student-led music clubs—Stuyvesant Music Association, Stuy Piano Club, Stuy Acapella, Jazz at Stuy, and Stuy Strums—to inform their members of the opportunity to sign up and participate.

In addition to the interest forms in the SU’s weekly e-mails and social media accounts, the directors of the music clubs created announcements and Google Forms to invite their members to participate. Sophomore Christopher Dou reached out to the members of the Stuyvesant Music Association. “Since we can't have in-person meetings anymore, and our club is heavily based on face-to-face interactions, we haven't been able to do much,” he said in an e-mail interview. “During quarantine, many of us are stuck at home and haven't seen our friends for weeks, so the virtual concert would give us a way to see each other [and] listen to great music being played by our classmates.”

Because most clubs have terminated their plans for the remainder of the semester, students used the concert as a chancen opportunity to perform and make up for the lost opportunities due to the pandemic. “I decided to sign up because I really enjoy playing music for people. I had plans to work on music with some friends and even play shows in the spring and summer, and that is all out the window because of [the] coronavirus,” Blake said in an e-mail interview.

Prospective singers and musicians were free to choose their own performance. “When I was choosing a song to play, I wanted to pick something that I thought I would be able to perform well on my own, something that wasn't too complicated, and something people would enjoy listening to,” said Blake, who chose to perform Title Fight’s “Dizzy” (2015) on the guitar and drums for the virtual concert.

Similarly, Lao chose a piece with a well-known melody, so audience members would be able to recognize it. “I played ‘Chariots of Fire’ by Vangelis. I chose this piece because it is an iconic tune, but people do not know the name, and I have never heard someone play it. Thus, I thought it would be amusing if I could play it and give people the reaction of ‘Hey! I recognize that!’” he said in an e-mail interview.

Others chose songs that connected to how they felt about school closings. “I enjoy getting into the emotions of the song [NIKI’s ‘Around’ (2018)] when I perform it, and I found the nostalgic notes and wistfulness of the song fitting. One of the lines of the song is ‘You know who took me to prom,’ and every time I sang that line when I practiced, I thought about how my grade is not going to have prom,” Lam said in an e-mail interview.

Likewise, Fang, who played “Out of Nowhere” on the tenor saxophone, drew a connection between the sentiment of his piece and the current pandemic. “I came to realize that the song's name was sort of related to the pandemic, in that it came out of nowhere,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Many had a positive experience participating in the concert. “It was fun. It felt like a musical showcase. It was different than a normal concert because I couldn't see a bunch of faces looking at me, which probably made it a bit less nerve-wracking. It was actually my first time playing guitar or singing live, so I think having it be virtual reduced some of the anxiety I was experiencing,” Blake said.

Due to the nature of performing music live over video calls, however, hosting a virtual concert ultimately posed limits. “There were problems with audio quality, but there's very little you can do between the microphone and the internet. I had spent a long time setting up to try and get my audio quality as good as possible,” Blake said.

Jackson faced a similar problem. “Unfortunately, I had a technical difficulty on my end, so I had to stop my song early, but the hosts were generous enough to let me finish it after everyone else had gone,” he said.

Despite these technical difficulties, performers and audience members alike thoroughly enjoyed the event. “Everyone who performed was absolutely amazing, and it was organized very well. It didn't go late; people went on and off and got set up pretty quickly, and the chat room was really nice, so everyone could compliment and talk about the performances,” Blake said.

Others expressed their interest in participating again in the future. “I enjoyed it very much—it felt good to be a part of something online even though we can’t see each other right now. Everyone else who performed at the concert was great, and I had a lot of fun cheering them on,” Buff said in an e-mail interview. “I would definitely like to do it again. It was a wonderful experience.”

Moving forward, the SU hopes to host more events similar to the virtual concert. “The SU still wants to do as much as possible to keep Stuyvesant culture going, [and] another concert is being planned for the future,” Maheshwari said.