By Zacharias Strohecker, May 3, 2022
Cal Poly Pomona’s 17th songwriter showcase featured original songs from students performed at the recital hall on April 28 and April 29, with various genres including hip-hop, rock, folk and pop arrangements.
Students from any major were welcome to audition their original works to the ensemble and practice over the semester with song coaches and producers to refine their material and be stage-ready come concert day. The ensemble director, Arthur Winer, worked with his longstanding production crew to organize the first live songwriter showcase since spring 2019.
“We’ve been working all semester,” Winer said. “Some of these songs started out pretty rough, and then we rehearsed and worked them into shape.”
The show ran smoothly most of the time. The music blared with energy but was never uncomfortable nor overly muddled. Some performances carried enough energy to convince audience members they were in a concert for a moment or two. Every song was met with enthusiastic applause and name cheering.
Occasionally, a minor technical stall would occur usually when a new group took the stage. To help ease the awkward transitions, performers made interjections amusing the audience.
Winer attributed the successful production to his crew, which he has worked with since before the lockdown. Winer has worked with the front-of-house audio technician Will Wright-Hooks for a decade, so despite his nervousness after a prolonged hiatus, he was confident in his team’s ability.
The opening set, produced by Marley Wilson, featured intense performances characterized by multiple hip-hop sections performed by Wilson and music industries studies student Dontrell West. Three of the four songs in the opening acts featured the rappers’ rhythmic bars. Colored lights shifted across the stage while the rappers occupied the space with their movements and swagger.
“Right when I started getting to the point where I was going to perform, I joined the Navy,” West said. “I stopped doing music for about three years, and then I had to get back into it. There is nothing like performing. I do a lot of recording myself, but it’s nothing like getting in front of a bunch of people and actually performing.”
The second set, produced by music industries student Gwen Daisy, changed the pace with softer songs and more emotional lyrics. Daisy closed the first half of the show with the title track off her debut EP album, “The Way We Came.”
“The inspiration from that song came from a really, really bad breakup, the common trope for a singer songwriter,” Daisy said. “Writing that gave me a lot of closure and being able to perform it and release it out as me letting it go.”
After a brief intermission, the show continued with the third act produced by Reza Matin. Punk attitude was on display here with students jamming away with electric guitars and fast, catchy melodies. The final set, produced by Cole Barberini, tied the night together with anthemic performances, particularly the final two pieces, “Legend” by music composition student Kat Cabula and “Hummingbird” by music industries studies and English student Renée Inés Paladini. The whole cast came on stage for the outro of the final song and acknowledged their appreciation to the audience.
The performers were not immune to the effects of their fellow musicians. Backstage the students swung to the music, and after a tear-jerking performance, stage members dried their eyes. Afterward, the performers met outside the hall to chat with family, friends and fellow musicians.
Many among performers and production were relieved to finish their first show and set their eyes on the second show the following night.
“It’s great working with people that are now close friends of mine,” Daisy said. “Honing their craft and making their songs the best they can be is such a gratifying and amazing experience because music is a universal language that everyone speaks.”
Feature image by Zacharias Strohecker
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