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Coffeehouse enjoys triumphant return to Mac campus

Half the school had never seen lit-mag-sponsored live music, poetry event until Friday’s SRO showcase in library
By Samantha Powers, Alice Scott, Caroline Owen

The strum of an acoustic guitar, the sound of crisply-spoken poetry, the vibrations of Cello arpeggios — all could be heard from the library this Friday during Excalibur’s semi-annual coffeehouse.

Friday’s Coffeehouse was the first in nearly two years. For both freshman and sophomore performers, Friday’s event was their first time experiencing a McCallum Coffeehouse. Sophomore performer Charlie McBride’s favorite part of the experience was viewing art forms other than his own, specifically the spoken poetry.

“I’m a musician,” McBride said. “And while it was awesome to see everyone perform their songs that they’ve worked on, I’ve never been to a poetry slam or watched a live reading of poetry before. That was a new experience for me.”

For junior performer Charlotte Blackmon, however, Friday’s event wasn’t her first rodeo. Despite being able to perform her original music her freshman year, she describes being back at Coffeehouse as an upperclassman as a special experience.

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“Most of the people performing hadn’t done Coffeehouse before,” Blackmon said, “It’s crazy to think about how I’d only performed at coffeehouse once before but I was one of the more experienced—for lack of a better word—in this specific area.”

Given the extended leave of absence, senior and special events coordinator Lucas Dulitzky hopes the return was fun and memorable for the audience and performers alike.

“It was difficult to come back from an extended leave,” Dulitzky said. “But I had some amazing support and some last minute coffee from our wonderful sponsor Sa-Tén. All in all, it was a great experience.”

Senior and co-special events coordinator Keely McNab expresses her happiness with how the event played out.

“Excalibur really pulled it together in the past couple months with organization and publicity and just setting up the whole thing and making it happen,” McNab said. “Coffeehouse was definitely a success this year despite its challenges and I’m so glad we got to give our talented McCallum artists a platform in which to share their original artwork.”

CAFE CAPTAIN: Senior Kenta Asazu and junior Oliver Boyd invite students into the library to enjoy some hot coffee and some tunes. “I’m in charge of the coffee, Asazu said. “My mom owns a cafe, so I asked her if she could just donate coffee for us.” His mom’s coffee shop is the local Sa-Ten, and she agreed to supply the beverages. Senior Oliver Boyd said there were some challenges getting everything in order for the event, so Asazu took a load off of that pressure. “It’s been a couple months just planning all the sponsoring, and trying to get coffee,” Boyd said. “That took awhile because we emailed a lot of different coffee shops, but nobody emailed us back, so then we just got Kenta.” Photo by Alysa Spiro. Reporting by Samantha Powers.

Junior Charlotte Blackmon performs a song she wrote for Coffeehouse. “I hadn’t played it for anyone yet, but I felt that it was ready to perform,” Blackmon said. “Luckily, it was well-received.” Her favorite part of the event was sitting with the other performers. “Everyone was super positive and hyper each other up, the energy of it felt really great.” Caption by Evie Barnard. Photo by Alysa Spiro.

WORDS WORTH 1,000 PICTURES: Senior Sydney Lowe performs an original poem. Lowe’s writing style is free-form, but she makes an effort to compose each piece thoughtfully. The poem she performed at Coffeehouse was based on an extended metaphor relating to clay. “I write down a bunch of words and then I go back and I change them and edit them to fall into place the way I want them to,” Lowe said. This was her first time performing her writing in public, but she is inspired to recite her poetry elsewhere in the future. “I might go to slam poetry places and perform, just because I like getting my feelings out there,” Lowe said. “It’s very therapeutic.” Photo by Madelynn Niles. Reporting by Samantha Powers.

JOKE’S ON YOU: Seniors Ivy Golyzniak and Eden Goodman laugh between breaths post-punchline after Goodman delivered a joke between performances at Coffeehouse. For Golyzniak, a co-editor-in-chief of Excalibur, this positive energy is exactly what makes Coffeehouse so special. “It’s a really cool group of people and a really cool space,” she said. “And it was great to get everyone back in the same place and appreciate these awesome performers.” Photo and reporting by Madelynn Niles.

A POIGNANT PERFORMANCE: Jessie Lucas gave a stirring solo performance of a song she wrote during coffee on Friday, Nov. 5. With Coffeehouse, Lucas had been given the opportunity to pour her heart out through her song lyrics. “Getting to perform at Coffeehouse was really scary in the moment, but it was also super emotionally rewarding for me as well,” Lucas said. Caption by Grace Vitale. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

Senior Reia Williams applauds as she soaks up the electric ambience of her first Coffeehouse. She was excited to see her classmates’ performances and, of course, to enjoy some of that free coffee. “It was really cool being in such a supportive environment and seeing the kids who had the courage to be that vulnerable in front of their peers,” Williams said. “Everyone was really talented, it was awesome.” Caption by Sofia Ramon. Photo by Carter Eason.

Sophomore Lanie Sepehri recites her original poem ‘Girlhood.’ The poem centered around female rage and performing it provided catharsis and validation for Sepehri. “As soon as I introduced what the poem was about, the crowd clapped,” she said. “I don’t usually share my writing and auditioned for Coffeehouse on a whim, so this was overall a really great experience.” Caption by Alice Scott. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

COFFEEHOUSE CROWD: Seniors Lucy Marco, Veronica Britton, and Junior Malia Walewski gather to enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to a wonderful display of McCallum’s musicality and poetic nature. Last Friday, the Coffeehouse event was hosted in the library, offering an immersive experience of the arts and talent at McCallum. “Getting to see a live performance from McCallum kids was super exciting and refreshing,” Walewski said, “I think it’s a great way to highlight the literary talent at Mac.” Caption by Amaya Collier. Photo by Alysa Spiro.

ASHES TO ASHES: Senior Carden Arellano began writing original music a year ago. One of the first songs she wrote is “Ashes to Ashes,” which she performed at Coffee House last Friday.

“The day of online school had just ended,” she said,” and I had a specific lyric idea inspired by this one Bon Iver lyric: ‘you’ve buried all your alimony butterflies.’ Alimony is such a pretty word so I put it in the first line of the song and it inspired the rest of it. The lyrics flowed out pretty easily.”

Arellano has been performing at open mic nights and official gigs since August of 2020 but she still felt nervous performing in front of her peers.

“I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “When I was performing my legs were literally shaking. When I finished I convinced myself that I screwed up in some way that I couldn’t hear but afterward everyone was telling me good things and I think it ended up pretty good.”

Arellano looks forward to performing in the Battle of the Bands next Tuesday and has gigs lined up at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on December 3 and Carousel Lounge on Dec. 9.

Caption by Evelyn Griffin. Photo by Alysa Spiro.

Senior Brealen Miller performs his spoken-word poem, “Holy Deception.” The title is a reference to the question of religion Miller addresses throughout his poem.
“In my darkest moments, rather than comforting me or providing me peace of mind, my own religion made me feel guilty for feeling the emotions I felt, leading me to my title,” Miller said. Miller’s poem also relies heavily on rhythmic flow. Though this distinct flow was originally only there to help with memorization, Miller later realized this rhythm added to his performance. “I just felt like using rhythm would make memorizing the poem much easier, which it did,” Miller said, “and I really liked how it sounded.” Despite Friday marking his first Coffeehouse, Miller explains that everyone around him made him feel at ease. “The environment created by the audience as well as the Excalibur members was very vibrant and uplifting.” Photo and reporting by Alysa Spiro.

10-21-03: Sophomore Sulivan Banks performed with his band “Daydreamer” at Coffeehouse last Friday. The band performed their song “10-21-03.” “The song itself is about dealing with the changes over quarantine and finding your footing again,” Banks said. Caption by Cassidy Levin. Photo by Madelynn Niles.

LUCKY: Coffeehouse ended with a performance from Daydreamer, a band dating back to lead singer and guitarist Harrison Knight’s fifth-grade year. The band performed a song that he and keyboard player Sullivan Banks-Gilmore wrote about one of their favorite artists, Elliott Smith during quarantine. They titled it “10.21.03,” the day Smith died.

“I was listening to the album Either/Or a lot and I was relating to a lot of what he was expressing, a shared loneliness,” Knight said. “I built the verses around his life and had the choruses tie back to the way I was feeling.”

Daydreamer will also be competing in the Battle of the Bands next Tuesday. Further down the line, they hope to release a single of “10.21.03” and a full album that Knight has recently begun recording. 

“It’s been a project for a while, maybe 60 percent written,” Knight said.

At Coffeehouse, Knight played with an acoustic guitar with the word “lucky” artfully painted on it. It has a unique story highlighting his artistic upbringing. His grandmother was a piano teacher, his father a singer and guitar player and his mother a painter.

“My dad wanted a really nice guitar for a long time,” he said, “and five years ago he saved up a lot of money, did a lot of research, picked out a guitar and my mom got it for him as a gift. That same weekend he went on a really successful hunting trip or something, so he always thought of it as lucky. My mom paints so she painted it on the side.

Knight is happy to be continuing a family tradition through his music.

“It was just sort of expected and I really love it,” he said.

Caption by Evelyn Griffin. Photo by Alysa Spiro.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on November 9, 2021.