Four Thornton School of Music students performed at the inaugural Empowered Music Showcase Saturday Sept. 12, a virtual concert to raise money for the Groundswell Community Project. Backed by a four-piece band composed of popular music performance majors, the young artists brought down the warehouse in San Diego from which the event was streamed.
The high-production-value show marked the first event to take place on GigStreamTV, a new platform designed to bring the excitement of concerts to the homes of locked-down live music lovers. The showcase aimed to highlight female talent while raising money for Groundswell, an organization that provides support to women who have experienced trauma through surf therapy. Surf therapy is a recently developed method of treatment that harnesses the power of the ocean to combat stress and depression.
“Our hope is that every surfsister who opts into our programs creates their own sustainable surf practice held and supported by a community of surfsisters,” according to Groundswell’s website.
The first set of the night came from Maddy Davis, a sophomore majoring in music industry. Her setlist, which included a mix of singles, covers and unreleased songs, concluded with a standout, forthcoming jam titled “You Still Send Me Beats Though.” Having seen firsthand how the underrepresentation of women pervades the music industry, the theme of the showcase resonated with her.
“Being a music industry major and just like always having been in the music industry … it’s so obviously such a historically male-dominated network of people,” Davis said. “[Women empowerment] is about being OK if you are the only woman in the room, you’re OK with using your voice and making sure that you’re not any lesser than the men around you.”
Next up was Tippy Balady, a sophomore majoring in popular music performance with a songwriting emphasis. Her red, blue and gold eye makeup glimmering under the stage lights, she strummed her futuristic-looking, cherry red ukulele while powerfully belting out self-written vocals.
“I shift between imagination and real life events,” Balady said. “I’ve written about pirates, stuff from my childhood, about scuba diving … and then stuff that is prominent in my life in the moment. ‘Family Dinners’ is about my parents’ divorce, and I’ve written a song about how anxiety affects me.”
Ellie Williams, a sophomore majoring in popular music performance, delivered the third set of the night. A screen spanning the stage’s length displayed visuals of warm-colored clouds, a fitting accompaniment for an out-of-this-world performance. She identified strongly with the inclusive message of the event.
“Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I think women empowerment to me just means acceptance and encouragement,” Williams said. “I, in a sense, challenge heteronormative storylines for women in today’s world through my music. I have songs about other girls and women and my experiences, and I think to just have those stories accepted by my peers … has played such a huge role in how I present myself and being able to be comfortable in who I am.”
Cordelia Degher, a sophomore majoring in popular music performance with a songwriting emphasis who performs mononymously as Cordelia, closed out the show. During her performance, she brought all three of the previous performers on stage with her to sing backup for her unreleased original “Good Time.” All four artists supported one another throughout the night by providing backup vocals intermittently during each other’s sets.
“For me, female empowerment is just being your unapologetic self, being confident and knowing your worth, and also encouraging all the women around you to do the same,” Degher said. “I’m always cussing and talking about sex, I’m not classy. People are always like ‘oh my God, Cordelia, like blah.’ But I want to be rowdy, and I want to be loud cause I don’t care, and I want other girls to feel that way too and not feel like they have to suppress themselves and suppress their emotions.”
The inspiration for the event followed the wave of concert cancellations that came as a result of the coronavirus. The team behind GigStreamTV decided to create a live music streaming platform and launch with the Empowered Music Showcase.
“We wanted to be able to offer something that looks more like a made-for-TV live event that still has multiple camera shots, high definition and is just a really exciting, interesting show to watch,” Matt Schwartz, the event’s stage manager, said.
The Empowered Music Showcase is available to watch in its entirety at gigstreamtv.com.