Silence fell upon rows of listeners at Schaeffer Art Building as student musicians began performing their original projects. Across six acts, they revealed songs that they created through Syracuse University Records, the premier student-run record label at Syracuse University.
These multi-instrumentalists filled the auditorium’s walls with incredible acoustics and a sense of calmness that did not reflect the process that brought them there. Their development did not come quickly, nor with ease.
As singer-songwriter Gabriel Milluzzo explained, “The hardest part about starting out as a new artist with the first songs is, how do I set the tone?”
Syracuse University’s Brazilian Ensemble, Samba Laranja, opened the show with bustling percussion and contrasting harmonies that demanded the attention of listeners. Portuguese for Orange Samba, Samba Laranja has been performing traditional Brazilian music since 2001 when it was founded by Elisa and Joshua Dekaney. Their performance of “Samba Reggae 2019” and “Capoeira Ciranda” off their recent album Guarana opened the show with power and passion.
Growing as Songwriters
After Samba Laranja, singer-songwriter Stephanie Weisz, known as STEF, performed. A freshman at Syracuse, she arrived prepared to develop her music and establish herself as an artist. STEF began writing poems in the first grade and throughout elementary school and first started signing as a child.
“I’ve mainly just started playing something on the guitar or piano and then I just start singing words that I think go with the music,” said STEF.
She drew inspiration from Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga and Adele and over time, the subjects over her songs have changed. She explained, “I used to write about a lot of childish things because it was right for the time. Now I think it’s more serious and complex things.”
STEF performed three original tracks, opening up with “Noose,” a song created out of frustration over a friend’s toxic relationship. Other songs included “I’d Rather Be Alone” and “Shuffle the Cards.” The latter reflected more serious topics. STEF revealed it’s “about how the world is unfair when some people are homeless and other people have millions.” She added, “it just doesn’t really make sense.”
Following STEF’s jazzy set, Gabriel Milluzzo set a sober, acoustic scene. Instead of getting stuck within a genre, Milluzzo focuses on the event and message relayed in each piece he writes.
“I think genres can change a lot depending on what the emotions you’re going for in a song, what that kind of life moment is … you need to have a certain sound but I don’t think you should be restricted,” said the songwriter.
He opened his set with a song titled “The Dream,” and finished with “Addicted to You.” Both served unapologetic emotion relating to events with a woman in his life.
Sometimes, Collaboration is Key
Gill with the G, a self-described “spunky acoustic” group, picked the tempo back up with their performance. They opened with singer-songwriter Gillian Pelkonen and percussionist Paul Goral. The staged filled up as Gillian joined the acapella group, Main Squeeze, then added two more members in Lauren Goodyear and Sarah Gross. The combination of female powerhouse vocals sang heartache songs “Overload,” “With You” and “Fallin.”
“We have a good time playing them,” explained Gill. “One I wrote with Sarah, one with Paul and the other myself. The collaboration is where the really good stuff comes out.”
During their set, audience members consumed the diverse talents each member brought to the table. With harmonious vocals, exciting percussion and a spunky tone, Gill with the G showcased the art of four creatives that work collaboratively and supportively.
Looking ahead, Gill said, “I see us evolving into more proficient artists. We’ve started to add people and become a lot more serious but not too serious.” She added, “we also need more clout.”
Julius Caesar showed that collaboration is not genre-exclusive and that his music transcends a single label.
“I would say that my main focus I songwriting,” explained Caesar. “I like to work with all types of artists and do whatever I can so I like to be a songwriter and collaborator first.”
He changed the sound of the showcase by performing “On Sight,” and “I Was Gonna Call You,” two hip-hop songs that brought a refreshing burst of energy to the stage. From the performance, Caesar appeared a developed and secure artist. Like the rest, he feels that artistic maturity takes time.
“Musically, I came here with no idea what was going to be in front of me,” explained Caesar. “I remember getting shut down at all these places.”
With time and networking, Caesar arrived at SUR, practicing his performance style and collectively working with new musicians.
Jordan Reynoso, a Junior at Syracuse University and another active member in Main Squeeze, wrapped up the show. Reynoso has been writing songs since childhood and arrived at Syracuse with an opportunity to execute her work and develop the jazz-pop sound she loves listening to.
She performed “Chokehold,” “Little Girl” and “Daydream,” a trio that displays artistic growth. With a sound inspired by Sara Bareilles, Reynoso’s performance was equally fun and refined.
She is currently working on recording an EP with SUR. When asked about her goals as an artist, Reynoso responded, “I do this for myself and the people that love my music. It’s therapeutic. I’d love to still be doing it but I have no idea where I’ll be.”
Syracuse University Records’ Showcase presented a variety of artists and writers that work to relay their emotions in ways audience members can relate. With varying sounds that were personalized and refined, each artists’ journey to where they are now is one of personal experience and growth.