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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Music, Food and Culture at the Fest of Us

Photo by Caleb Stone
Photo by Caleb Stone

In response to the widely held misconception that there is no collective sense of community at UMass Boston, more than three thousand students, staff, and faculty made it onto the plaza September 17 to take part in a range of events designed to celebrate the university and to welcome students back to school. On a morning and afternoon of beautiful weather, the crowd gathered for activities that included live music, free food, and interactive games, producing an overall high-spiritedness around campus unlike any in recent memory.

Of all the day’s events, one of the most important for current and future students of UMass was Fest-of-Us, a first-of-its-kind production that was the result of a great deal of campus-wide collaboration between students, staff, and faculty. In terms of the day’s events, Fest-of-Us was responsible for delivering nearly five hours of live music, as well as funding for student organizations interested in presenting some form of entertainment. Considering the magnitude and the success of the event, it is interesting to note the unique manner in which this particular event was organized and executed.

The Fest-of-Us committee was comprised of six students and representatives from more than a dozen organizations and departments, which worked closely with the Chancellor, Student Life, and Campus Facilities, among others. As early as May, the committee was holding regular meetings to determine the most effective and least expensive way to bring attention to the diversity, the talent, and the quality of the personnel at UMass Boston. After adopting the logo “Plan for it. Perform at it. Get involved,” the committee was certain that, given the opportunity, students would meet the challenges necessary to provide a day of entertainment and education for others.

A campaign involving posters, broadcast e-mails, and word-of-mouth advertising was implemented by the beginning of June to spread information about the event, and to solicit students for their talent and input. Requests went out asking student musicians or music groups with at least one UMass Boston student to submit an application and a demo CD to a listening subcommittee. In addition, student clubs, organizations, and associations were encouraged to apply for “mini-grants,” which would provide necessary funding for such groups to provide their own forms of entertainment during the day. The Fest-of-Us committee continued to meet after numerous submissions of both types were on hand, and until days before the event, worked to ensure that the event would flow seamlessly and be enjoyable for everyone involved.

By the time Fest-of-Us was presented, eight student organizations and four student bands were selected to entertain the campus, while the student barbeque and the Passport to Discovery were providing other incentives. At noon, “Fest-of-Us” was officially set in motion on the tail of a stunning, colorful Lion Dance. Sponsored by the Asian student center, the traditional performance involving the masterful timing and coordination of a large group of well-trained artists earned the attention of the rapidly growing crowd. Shortly thereafter, amplifiers were turned on and live music began, featuring acts that were as professional as they were diverse.

Opening the musical part of the show was the energized, seven-piece instrumental hip-hop act Audible Mainframe featuring Exposition (a.k.a UMass student Victor Pontes-Macedo). The next act, an up-and-coming hard-core/metal crew called Swear Follow, had many in the audience commenting on the skillful and elaborate drumming of UMass’s Michael Scappicchio. Harry Gardner, another UMass student, stylishly flaunted his original underground pop sound, backed by the remaining members of Alley Side. Closing the student sets was The Stairs, a talent-rich group of musicians made even more talented with the help of UMass’s Evan Sicuranza, who had the crowd rallying to the end.

To bridge the gaps between bands, edu-tainer Baba beatboxed, emceed, and freestyled his way across the stage up to his own performance, which included the deployment of a makeshift didgeridoo-perhaps the first ever to be used on the campus. The final music act of the day was Bleu, a super-charged team of Boston-based rockers who have earned a number of music awards, including Pheonix/WFNX’s Best Singer/Songwriter two years running. Although the crowd was beginning to dissipate when they took the stage, those remaining were treated to a remarkable performance.

Throughout the day, student groups drew crowds to their tables with a wide array of interactive events. The Student Arts and Events Council got the attention of passersby with a raffle for hard-to-get Patriots tickets. In addition to the Lion Dance, the Asian Student Center offered a number of prizes for bingo and checkers players. Casa Latina had a loyal fan base with their presentation of a Tarot Card reader. The Korean Christian Fellowship earned a number of new friends by offering authentic Korean Food, while the Queer Student Union opted for the always-successful henna tattooing. The Office of Community Outreach had a packed table and earned a gracious thank-you from the Columbia Point Community Partnership with their ivy-planting project, which donated decorative potted plants to senior citizens at Harbor Point. The Women’s Center presented a thoughtful natural menstrual products display, as well as a raffle for an Afghan wall hanging. Finally, with a donation of t-shirts from the Athletics Center, the Veteran’s Center was able to offer prizes for a double hoop basketball game.

“I had a really good time,” said Veteran’s Center Coordinator Louis Colon, “we had a lot of people come by for the double hoop basketball. People were addicted to it-both male and female. They loved it. Fest-of-Us was a good day; there was a lot of participation.”

Fest-of-Us was not the only event considered a success held on the Plaza that day. The student barbeque had hundreds of people eagerly lined up throughout the day, feeding one of the larger crowds assembled recently. Of course, many students lined up for the sake of being served by UMass’s administrators, including Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, who offered students a smile with each veggie burger. The Passport to Discovery was also a huge success, providing students with valuable information about more than thirty departments and programs on campus. Students taking part in the passport program were challenged to visit with each department for a chance to win one of many prizes. Top prizes for the day went included a semester’s free tuition, awarded to Glaucimone DeJesus, a semester parking pass awarded to Hiwot Gebrimichael, a $100 bookstore gift certificate awarded to Ishwar Mahadeo, and dozens more.

With the overall success of the day’s events, it is likely that this year’s Fest-of-Us will begin a yearly tradition at UMass Boston. By using input from students, staff, and faculty, events of this nature seem to offer something useful for everyone on campus while showing off the best of what the university has to offer.

Darrell Penta is an employee of WUMB and an organizer of Fest-of-Us