ASUSF Voices gathered on Nov. 12 to celebrate the return of live music after a year and a half of being apart. The University Center’s fourth floor transformed into a karaoke club as a mix of about 30 undergraduate and graduate students sang to music of their choice. Each performance was accompanied by dancing, cheering, and clapping that lasted well into the night.
The evening began with a viewing of ASUSF Voices’ spring 2021 concert which was produced through Zoom. Due to technical challenges and the desire to view the project in community, Friday was its first-ever screening.
Produced in collaboration with USFtv, the 30-minute concert video included performances from five different choirs within ASUSF Voices, ranging from jazz to acapella groups. They sang a wide range of genres, moving swiftly from Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” to Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart A Break.”
A few technical difficulties emerged within the concert, with the video often lagging due to poor internet connection. The audience laughed and talked through the interruptions, acknowledging that this was a bit of a “social experiment.”
Laynee Daniels, a senior double majoring in psychology and performing arts and social justice, is the senior assistant musical director for ASUSF Voices, and was responsible for conducting and editing most of the concert.
“Upon our launch into the pandemic, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” she said. After deciding on the virtual format for the spring concert, Daniels said that there were greater contributions required from performers, as compared to a typical year.
“Every student had to learn their audio parts through a screen, record a clip of them singing their part, learn how to use the software to record it, record lip-syncing footage for their scenes, and share it,” she said. “A lot of work went into this.”
The virtual collaboration included songs such as “Home” and “I’m Still Standing,” an apropos acknowledgement to a year and a half of hardship and resilience. It introduced prospective members in the audience to a sense of community that only further developed as the evening progressed.
Following the screening, two hours of karaoke fun began where students performed solos and group numbers to an audience of friends and three student judges, with winners to be announced later in the week via email.
Song selections ranged from pop superstars like Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish, to musical theatre pieces from “Frozen” and “Les Misérables.” Some singers strayed from convention, with one student performing a beatbox rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Sunshine Bastin, a junior nursing major, had not participated in an ASUSF Voices program prior to the evening’s events. She said she came to accompany one of her friends and ended up singing in front of an audience for the first time. Bastin described the community as “a really welcoming group.”
“The karaoke night was a really awesome opportunity for people who may not be in choir to meet a group that has become a family, those who made it through the pandemic together,” Daniels said. “We struggled the same struggles, we had the same mountains to climb.”
The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were fresh on the minds of the event planners, as they waited to host the event for a while. “We had to make sure it’s safe to do something like a karaoke night, where we’re all singing into the same microphone, even though we’re masked,” Daniels said.
Mia Echivarre-Morelli, a sophomore engineering major, found out about the event through her older sister’s prior involvement with ASUSF Voices. “I love singing,” she said. “I did not know what to expect tonight, but I had a lot of fun!”
Coming to the event with Echivarre-Morelli, Erbin Abarado, a freshman nursing major, said, “I’m always down for a karaoke night.”
As the evening concluded, the entire group burst into a rendition of “You’ll Be Back” from the musical “Hamilton,” accompanied by dance moves and an abundance of laughter.
Their joy displayed the community that Daniels said music can create. “Immediately, when you play something as unifying as music, you have everyone coming together,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person next to you; you have a friend.”
ASUSF Voices will have an in-person choir performance on Nov. 30, in front of the cafeteria during dead hour, and on Dec. 4, in Mclaren Conference Center. More information can be found on their Instagram @ASUSF_VOICES.