Thornton launches online concert series to unite students from afar

(Photo courtesy of USC Thornton)

With events canceled and venues closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, “Live! From Somewhere” is the Thornton School of Music’s approach to sharing student talent and maintaining a sense of community without being physically on campus together.

On March 16, the school launched “Live! From Somewhere,” an online series of student and alumni performances, to share music amid social distancing. Currently available on Thornton’s YouTube channel are five videos showcasing the wide variety of artists within the school.

Nolan Juaire, a sophomore majoring in classical guitar performance, is the first musician featured in the series.

Juaire, who works in a Thornton office, was approached by his boss with an offer to perform in a video series that was then a secret. He didn’t know what to perform, but since he enjoys performing and takes any opportunity as he can, he said yes. 

In his video, Juaire played “A Felicidade” by Antônio Carlos Jobim. Being a solo guitarist, he is not reliant on other musical accompaniments and is able to practice and perform outside of a classroom setting. 

“It’s a Brazilian jazz piece written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, and I chose it because of its nature — it’s a very upbeat kind of piece,” Juaire said. “Really [‘Felicidade’] means happiness. So I’ve been playing this piece for a couple of years now, and it’s been a staple whenever I’m feeling down. It’s a nice piece to lift me up.”

While these videos can’t compete with the live performances originally scheduled for the Spring semester, he believes they are still important. 

“This feels like a way to light up the spirits of both the students and the community through saying we can make music from anywhere, and we have,” Juaire said. 

William Kanengiser, an associate professor of practice for classical guitar who teaches Juaire,  is a fan of Juaire’s song choice and the overall series.

“I was so thrilled to see him take the initiative to do that, and it was a delight for me,” Kanengiser said. “I thought he did a beautiful job playing that piece, which incidentally is called ‘Felicidade,’ and it means happiness, which is something that we need to cultivate right now.” 

While Kanengiser admits that classical guitar is easy to practice alone, he agrees that the community aspect of the series is vital.

“I think that anything we can do to show the world that we’re still making music, we’re still practicing and we’re still finding joy in the comfort of music being shared [is important],” Kanengiser said. “Anything we can do to project that is a positive thing in these surreal times.”

Charlie McCollum, a freshman majoring in cinematic arts, film and TV production, discovered the series through the Thornton Instagram page and finds the videos entertaining as well as inspirational.

“I love how they are lighthearted about it,” McCollum said about the approach to social distancing.  “The one I saw was a cello performance and instead of using his fingers [to hold down the strings] he was using a roll of toilet paper and I think that lighthearted fun, even though we are in the midst of a crisis, does help people remain more optimistic during a dark time.”

For McCollum, “Live! From Everywhere” also reminded him of the sense of community present at USC and in Thorton. 

“Watching those performances really made me aware of the community I found at USC and how much I want to be a part of it and also reinforces an idea of family that comes from being at such a great school with talented individuals,” he said.

With Trojans scattered across the globe, the series unites students regardless of their location or time zone. Amelia Horney, a freshman majoring in composition, said she believes the series is accomplishing its mission of bringing artists together during this isolated time. 

“I think it’s a wonderful way for us to stay connected,” Horney said. “It’s really comforting to be able to still have performances and still get together as musicians or people who love music.”

Horney discussed the series with a composition instructor outside of USC, Saad Haddad, a Thornton alumnus. He told her that he was not surprised at the initiative to launch an online series, as that community spirit was present while he was a student years ago.

“The great thing about Thornton is it really embodies Trojan Family,” Horney said. “It’s always been a community and it wasn’t something that was forced. I think it’s really important that we all find ways to stay unified.”

You can watch Juaire’s performance and the rest of the series on the USC Thornton School of Music YouTube page. Thornton students, alumni and faculty are invited to submit their own performance videos through the school’s official website.