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Coffeehouse Comes Home
Jason Hwong ' 20

Coffeehouse has always been a great way to celebrate art and music within our community in a low-stakes, welcoming setting. But especially now, in a thoroughly difficult time in the world, it’s more important than ever to harness the power that art and music have to bring our community together. I was one of the student organizers for Coffeehouse, and we really wanted to emphasize the communal aspect of the event. For that reason, we expanded our audience (which is usually only Upper School students and faculty) and welcomed all PreK–12 students, parents, faculty, and incoming families. 

One big consideration of moving to a virtual platform was how to maintain the open, supportive, and communal space that we have been able to create in person at past events. After a lot of consideration, we opted for a live Zoom call instead of a YouTube stream, as we felt it was important to see the faces of everyone in attendance and to provide a space for live reactions, visually and through the chat function. The chat became a live blog of commentary and support during the performances, which occurred as an organic phenomenon that went beyond what would be possible at a regular in-person Coffeehouse.

I loved seeing how well not only the event but our performers adapted to and thrived in the virtual setting last Friday. I was blown away by Alyssa L.’s visual artwork that was seamlessly shared with the audience using a screen share. Jamie’s epic reading of Samuel Beckett’s Not I (a piece with stage directions that indicate only the speaker’s mouth should be visible) was an extremely clever way to leverage the virtual format. I was especially grateful to our performers who shared acts that usually center around the live audience, especially Kate, who delivered a hilarious stand-up comedy piece despite the challenge of an absent live audience. 

With more than 100 audience members for the whole hour, we welcomed members of the entire PreK–12 community. Seeing so many faces—new and familiar—was an invaluable way to remind ourselves that we are not alone, even though it can often feel that way when we’re stuck at home in our rooms in Zoom meetings all day. 

Spaces like the Coffeehouse have provided me and so many others with a space to play music with friends, share art of any form that we are passionate about, and even have impromptu jam sessions with teachers. Coffeehouse is one lasting tradition within the larger picture of music and arts at Nueva, an area where we’ve been able to foster enormous growth in my four years at the Upper School. Through lunch concerts, dedicated Arts Culminations, Coffeehouse, and other growing traditions, we’ve built the foundations to consistently bring our community together around the shared experiences of art and music. These moments, whether they happen during a normal semester or in the middle of a global pandemic, are essential in reminding us that we are not alone. We can always look to art, music, and most importantly to each other. 


Next year, Jason H. will study mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, and he is seriously considering a minor in music, focusing on jazz guitar. He’s very excited about that possibility, as it will push him as a musician and as a guitarist. Extracurricularly, he can’t wait to take advantage of all of the great music opportunities that Nashville has, including endless concerts and an on-campus music festival at Vandy. He hopes to play some of his own gigs as well!

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