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Pepperdine Students and Alumni Record First-Ever Virtual Rendition of Songfest

Songfest - Pepperdine UniversityPepperdine Student Activities at Seaver College will debut Songfest 2021 virtually through the Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts website on April 29–30, 2021. This year’s theme, Hobbies, will feature Seaver College alumni from 1973 to 2020, the Pepperdine Chamber Choir, and the Pepperdine Pickups.

“The fact that so many alumni answered the call for content is a testament to their dedication to this tradition,” says Danielle Minke (’14), the Student Activities campus programs coordinator who directed and produced this year’s show. “This remote season of life has taken a toll on our students, and it is an amazing accomplishment for them to be able to say that they put on a Songfest show even while they were physically apart. Songfest is such a special tradition that lives near and dear in the hearts of our students and alumni.” 

Annie Block-Weiss (’13), who participated in Songfest each year during her time as a Seaver College student, helped other Songfest alumni submit a video or audio of themselves singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth”—a Songfest tradition sung by alumni and students at the end of every performance. She also recorded several host lines to be used throughout the show. 

“Songfest is what made my college career,” Block-Weiss says. “I am so proud and impressed by the students participating this year, and I hope the audience gets to connect to the Pepperdine family in a special virtual way while being reminded of the magic that is Songfest.” 

To ensure the digital show's professional quality, composer Sam Parmelee (’00) mixed and produced the vocal performances for the main student group and coordinated the recording and production of “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” He also partnered with Minke to offer advice, support, and hands-on production work. 

“It was dramatic to realize just how drastically a large community event like Songfest is impacted by being produced remotely in a COVID-19 climate,” Parmelee says. “It was also rather eye-opening to see how passionate some of these students are about Songfest, and how their love for this program and for each other was no different than in a normal year.Between the commitment of the participating students, their group leadership, and the wonderful support we've received from alumni, Songfest continues to be a program that pulls people together in a special and powerful way.”

Rather than performing together in person each night, alumni and student groups provided videos of themselves singing and acting, with student leaders hosting weekly rehearsal sessions via Zoom.

“We wanted to keep all of the traditions that we've been doing for years at in-person rehearsals, like our halfway-done dance and theme-of-the-day dress-up days, but we had to find new ways to incorporate online,” explains Cassie Barr, a Seaver College senior who produced Eta Theta Tau's performance. “We were able to foster the same sense of community and belonging in our group as we always do, even though we weren't able to be together in person.” 

Barr also shares that online rehearsals involved a learning curve, as participants encountered technological challenges that hindered memorizing choreography and mastering vocal sections, with a new heavy reliance on posting recordings online to be shared with other team members. Virtual rehearsals were also shorter in duration. 

“During a normal year, we meet from 10 PM to midnight every night for about a month, which is brutal, to be honest.” says Barr, noting that this year her team met for about three hours a week over a period of two months. 

“If you had asked me a year ago whether Songfest could be done completely virtually, I probably would have said no, but after watching this year's show, I hope the Pepperdine community sees that anything can be accomplished when people join together with a passion for a shared cause,” she adds. 

Originally introduced in 1973, Songfest is one of Pepperdine’s longest-standing traditions among multiple generations of students, alumni, and the greater University community. During this annual musical variety show featuring student performances, participants of all backgrounds have joined together to tell stories through song and dance, thrilling audiences of all ages. Arrangements for Songfest 2022 will begin in summer 2021 and production with student leaders will commence during the fall 2021 semester.

For additional information about Songfest 2021, and to register to attend, visit the event’s registration page.