From gospel to Finnish polka tunes, there was a song for everyone at the semester’s first Prof’s Spotlight. The popcorn was popped and the lights were dimmed as some of Rowan’s greatest musicians showcased their abilities this past Labor Day.
Prof’s Spotlight is held on the first Monday of every full month during each semester. The first lineup featured worship singer Steph Berman, Springsteen-inspired Tyler Waddington, multi-talented accordion player Steve Solkela, gospel praise singer Marjorie Graves, and Kaitlee and Mariah Francisco, two sisters bonding with each other over their love for music.
Organized by Jenn Margiloff, Prof’s Spotlight showcases musical talent held by students at Rowan University. While the event only happens once a month, the performers’ love for music and performance is constantly being explored and showcased throughout the Rowan campus.
The event’s “chill and awesome environment,” to quote performer Kaitlee Francisco, brought students of all ages and majors together to enjoy the music performed by the chosen musicians, each of whom disclosed their unique backgrounds.
Steph Berman, a senior biology major with a minor in Spanish and an honors concentration, created an atmosphere of worship. Heavily involved in the Rowan Tutoring Center, Rowan Vocals, and the Rowan Chi Alpha chapter, Berman is an avid worshipper who finds that her talents are “gifts from the Lord.” She fuels her passion of worship by co-leading a small group every Tuesday and a prayer group every Monday morning. Although her musical influences derived from her love of worship songs, the Cherry Hill native has a love for music outside of gospel that inspires her to create a new sound.
Some of Berman’s other influences include Sara Bareilles and Bon Iver; “Holocene” by Bon Iver happens to be the most played song on her iPod.
“I see Prof’s Spotlight as an opportunity to introduce our campus to what worshipping God can look like.” Steph Berman says, “A simple step that I can take is to invite others to experience worship as I know it.”
Sophomore elementary education and math dual major Kaitlee Francisco invited the audience to dance. From Washington Township, she grew up participating in karaoke at home with her family, crediting her love of music to her dad. As seen throughout the night, both Kaitlee and her sister, Mariah, let the audience into their love of music and their love for one another. Kaitlee credits a lot of her music influence to Celine Dion who she refers to as the “OG superstar with crazy good pipes.”
Kaitlee grew up singing with her family around their house, giving credence to labeling her and her sister’s sound as “covers you would sing in your living room.”
Kaitlee has found that her involvement throughout events on campus has gotten her involved musically, having performed last year at special SUP and RAH events, as well having sung the national anthem at last year’s homecoming parade.
One of the night’s many unique acts was Steve Solkela, a Rowan celeb and a sophomore opera singing major. Solkela credits his reasoning to coming to Rowan to Veda Zuponcich, a piano professor at Rowan originally from Minnesota as well. In regards to Professor Zuponcich, he insists that she is “an amazing woman who believed in me.”
Solkela, who won last year’s Battle of the Bands and opened for American Authors at Hollybash, credits his musical influence to many Finnish musicians he has found and followed on YouTube. By “growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota without a TV” Steve states that he had lots of time to focus on his musical skills.
Heavily involved with the Rowan Music Department and an avid member of the Colleges Against Cancer Committee, Steve can play up to ten instruments at a time in his one-man-band named “Steve’s Overpopulated One-Man Band.” Monday night, Solkela captured the audience with his personality and ability to get the audience involved, showcasing his love for Finnish heritage and Tetris through his performance.
Whether it be a worship singer, a professional dancer or singer in a living room, or an accordion player, these three musicians, as well as everyone who performed that night, captured the essence and diversity of the musicians here at Rowan.
The next Prof’s Spotlight is slated for October 3, where the Rowan community will meet its next set of talented performers.
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