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Spring Sing’s move online meant to maintain event’s original sense of community

(Cat Nordstrom/Daily Bruin)

"Spring Sing 2020"

Friday, May 29

By Brooke Cuzick

April 20, 2020 4:48 p.m.

This year’s Spring Sing has traded in live performances for its own website platform.

Following the spread of COVID-19 and news that the annual event would not be able to go on in Pauley Pavilion as planned, executive director and fourth-year dance student Jess Grimes said her committee needed to find a way for it to take on a new life. The most logical option was to shift student performances to be completely prerecorded, Grimes said. By working closely with the musicians and other student artists to put together the videos, she said Spring Sing 2020 will create a shared experience for UCLA students scattered across the globe when it launches May 29.

“We’ve seen (‘Saturday Night Live’) and all these other late night TV shows really working with this new format, and the whole world adapting to it,” Grimes said. “So we’re really trying to follow that same line, and just be able to create this content … and let the student artists take autonomy with that.”

The new online format will consist of prerecorded performances from artists selected before the live performance had to be canceled, she said. While the artists are still putting together their videos, Grimes said they all have unlimited avenues for however they want to creatively showcase their songs. Once each video is edited, they will likely be uploaded in staggered intervals to mimic the order of what the live performance would have looked like, she said.

[Related: Dance Marathon 2020 moves online with a focus on themes of unity and awareness]

The comments section on the uploaded videos will also foster a sense of interaction that normally exists between students who would be sitting and watching together, Grimes said. Continuing the performance on a similar scale allows not only for the musicians to have a platform to share their talents, but also for those away from UCLA to feel connected again.

With the transfer to video, the Spring Sing committee also had to consider artists who may not have the resources to showcase their songs. Emily Kohl, a third-year human biology and society student and the event’s talent director, said she is working closely with each artist to ensure they have all the equipment necessary to bring their creative visions to life.

Between interspersed Zoom meeting check-ins, Kohl said she works with UCLA artists and with visual and sound editors so each musician can have the means to make a video to match their vision. Whether it is animation, audio editing or polishing for post-production, she said the new circumstances have provided an opportunity for student artists who produce music in all genres to virtually collaborate.

“Everyone is in a different space mentally (and) physically right now,” Kohl said. “And with (collaboration) comes accessibility to certain resources that they have. So these videos, they are really anything that they want to make.”

Since varied circumstances create an uneven playing field among performers, Grimes said this year’s Spring Sing will eliminate its celebrity judges and almost all of its usual awards. Only the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement and the Bruin Choice Award – given to a celebrity doing good in the community and students’ favorite act, respectively – will be awarded. While the committee is still finalizing how voting for the Bruin Choice Award will occur, it will likely follow a text-to-vote format after every video is uploaded, with the winner being announced the following day, she said.

[Related: UCLA musicians maximize newfound time by pursuing new projects, art forms]

In place of the celebrity judges, Grimes said Spring Sing has been working to set up Zoom meetings between each artist and a famous musician for mentorship opportunities. This sense of unison between artists is one of the most beneficial aspects of switching to an online platform, said Alena Abella, a fourth-year financial actuarial mathematics student who is performing this year as a part of the duo Social Art Project.

She said she and Matthew Gilbert, a fourth-year musicology student and the other half of the duo, have been working to create a real social art project to display their song. The last lyric of the song is “Can I still love you from so far away?” and Gilbert said Social Art Project is trying to provide an answer to that question.

He said they will have students send in reminiscent videos and photos from their days at UCLA before spring quarter’s transition to online courses. If everyone can come together in their video, he said their audience will see other people’s experiences moving from UCLA to quarantine and be able to relate them to their own.

“(Our song) has kind of taken on a new meaning,” Gilbert said. “(The theme is now) almost like being so far away from campus even and being so far away from our previous life.”

Despite taking on a new format, Spring Sing’s same goal remains rooted in its core, Grimes said. Removing the much of the theatricality returns the event to its initial set of values – giving rising student musicians a creative outlet to share their methods of self expression, she said. And if all goes as planned, Grimes said it will leave viewers and performers feeling united by creativity.

“When you strip down Pauley, you strip away the celebrity judges, you strip away all those things; what still exists at the heart of it is this immense platform for student artists to share their narratives, to build community and to really come together … to showcase the immense talent that our student body has,” she said.

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Brooke Cuzick | Alumna
Cuzick previously served as a senior staff writing for Arts and Entertainment. She was the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2019-2020 and an A&E reporter from 2018-2019.
Cuzick previously served as a senior staff writing for Arts and Entertainment. She was the Music | Fine Arts editor from 2019-2020 and an A&E reporter from 2018-2019.
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