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Bruin Harmony member returns solo to Spring Sing, ready to go virtual

(Andrea Grigsby/Illustrations director)

By Yasmin Madjidi

May 28, 2020 12:39 am

Returning performer Daniel Kohanbash rides solo to the Spring Sing stage.

After winning Spring Sing’s top prize last year with the a cappella group Bruin Harmony, the second-year musical theater student will return to the stage as a solo act to perform his original song, “Funky Middle.” Kohanbash said his love for singing began when he was 6 years old when he would play Frank Sinatra songs on his keyboard.

Since then, Kohanbash said he began writing his own music as he grappled with newfound friendships and relationships upon entering UCLA. For the soloist, music is his way of sharing his thoughts, and performing is how Kohanbash relaxes and lets people into his world to form new connections.

“Honestly, when life hits and you experience relationships in a different way that you can’t describe emotionally, it takes a higher explanation,” Kohanbash said. “Which for me was art and music.”

Drawing most of his style from his musical theater training, Kohanbash said his experience learning from a leader of a black gospel choir layered his musical influences with R&B, jazz and pop overtones. Mixing these styles in his songwriting, Kohanbash said most of his music is based on past relationships – romantic or otherwise – and has been using his time in quarantine to create an original song about his longing to return back to human connection.

Kohanbash said he seeks the purity in human connections through his songwriting. The song he chose for his performance, “Funky Middle,” is the first one he ever wrote, and he said it was inspired by the first meaningful relationship he ever had at UCLA. Performed on the piano, Kohanbash said the song revolves around balancing moments of love and companionship.

“I think love comes in many different forms,” Kohanbash said. “Music is one thing that has been able to connect people in any path of life … and ultimately the force at the root of it is love.”

This time around, however, Kohanbash said his Spring Sing experience will be immensely different as he is performing completely on his own. Although he has found his support system in the other artists involved, he said he is eager coming into his performance solo. But for Kohanbash, to perform is to generate a dialogue with an audience, and he said he is interested in exploring the spirit of an online crowd.

“I am curious to see how I am going to rediscover that energy again from such a vastly different experience with everything being digital and physical distancing,” Kohanbash said. “I have just been preparing myself for a learning experience.”

Having met Kohanbash at first-year orientation, Oscar Revelins said Kohanbash’s versatile vocals and simple yet elegant melodies are what set him apart. The second-year musical theater student said Kohanbash’s voice ranges from classical musical theatre and Tenor vocals to smooth, deep baritones for a more bluesy sound. Paired with his original songs, Revelins said Kohanbash devotes all of his time to his music and has been working independently on his upcoming Spring Sing performance for months.

“It is one thing to be a good singer and it is another thing to create your own music,” Revelins said. “And Daniel is experimenting with these really beautiful melodies and lyrics.”

Kohanbash’s personal and relatable lyrics drew second-year theater student Ava Alexiades to his music. His original song “Come Back” is the first he released on Instagram and Alexiades said the first line, “the day has gone and you are my day,” exemplifies how much of himself Kohanbash puts into his music. She said each line of his songs leaves her waiting for next, searching for their possible meanings.

Hopeful for the surprises that are sure to come, Kohanbash said the communication and dedication from the Spring Sing committee has allowed him to focus solely on his own preparations. Coming into his performance, Kohanbash said he wants to find support systems wherever he can. He said he hopes “Funky Middle” will shed light onto underappreciated human relationships as he takes the virtual stage at the end of the month.

“Music is love,” Kohanbash said, “I have a lot of love in my heart and being able to share that with people is a love language for me.”

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Yasmin Madjidi | Assistant Arts editor
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