It recently occurred to me during a phone call with my boyfriend that I have not been to a concert in over two years. For me, that is an exceptionally long time to go without experiencing the incomparable magic that is live music, or any art form for that matter. Thankfully, as a student at the University, I have not only been able to see the musical talents of my peers flourish but have also been able to explore my own passions through classes I have taken and as a member of POC-Appella. There is no doubt that I filled the three quarters of my freshman year with lots, and lots, and lots of music. But, some of my fondest musical memories to date, in what is turning out to be the most unusual of college experiences, are those that have been spent in the company of friends and strangers, within the four walls of Clara Babbott-Ward’s ’20 bedroom.
I first heard about Acoustic Bedroom from a friend of mine who had heard about it during crew practice with Babbott-Ward. In keeping with most Saturday nights at Wesleyan—in a time long before COVID-19—I imagined that I would spend my evening migrating between various rooms until I became brave enough to venture into the cold of an October night and see what Fountain Ave. had to offer. Only this time, I had been encouraged by my friend to attend what was anything but your typical open mic night.
Not yet accustomed to the workings of Acoustic Bedroom, we arrived fashionably late to a porch full of half-sober college students and were gradually hustled into a cozy bedroom that was bursting with laughter, art and creative collaboration. Over the course of the next two hours, I eventually found myself sitting “front-row” on Babbott-Ward’s oddly warm wood floor, next to smiling faces, many of which I had not seen before.
I heard poems that made me reflect and others that made me laugh to the point of tears. I heard original songs that could have been played on the radio and others that were a wonderful stream of nonsense. I heard jokes whose punchlines hit and others’ who missed. Regardless of whether hours or just a few minutes had gone into preparing for the performances, Acoustic Bedroom was not and is not about being the best.
During the summer that followed their graduation, Babbott-Ward not only continued to host virtual Acoustic Bedrooms as a result of the pandemic, but also began to determine which current University students could carry on the much-loved event and oversee its execution. Lilly Gitlitz ’23, a regular attendee of the events last year, is now one of four organizers seeking to revive Acoustic Bedroom this semester.
“Acoustic Bedroom is a beautiful space that gives people the opportunity to perform art of any kind—music, spoken word, poetry, comedy—in an incredibly collaborative and supportive space,” Gitlitz said in an interview with The Argus.
I wholeheartedly share this sentiment with Gitlitz, as someone who has relished in the atmosphere that Acoustic Bedroom manages to encapsulate. It’s an atmosphere that allows for creative connections to be built between artists of all disciplines and one that fosters a shared sense of community and acceptance. As a performer, I have found Acoustic Bedroom to be an environment where I can share my passion and expect not judgment, but rather soothing finger snaps of audience members and friends.
Fox Hayes ’23, is one of the other student organizers of Acoustic Bedroom this semester.
“I think what makes it different from open mic nights, is open mic nights are there to showcase talent, and I think acoustic bedroom is really there to showcase community and showcase the ways that we can come together,” Hayes said.
In the aftermath of the University’s campus closure and switch to remote online learning in March, Babbot-Ward, then a senior, endeavored to continue Acoustic Bedroom remotely. It was from this moment that Babbott-Ward began the process of handing over leadership of the event to students of all grades and artistic backgrounds.
“So [Babbott-Ward] had talked about it in a couple of Zooms at the end of last year, because when the semester became remote, we started doing acoustic Zoom rooms,” Gitlitz explained. “They ended up sending out this email survey to anyone who had expressed interest that we just filled out, saying what acoustic bedroom meant to us, how we would adopt it to a socially distant space, and how we saw it growing and expanding after Clara graduated. And then… Fox and I and Gabriel Ballard [’21] and Steven Philips ’22 became the four people [tasked with overseeing the event].”
It goes without saying that the event will have to be creatively adapted to a world now dictated by mask-wearing, social distancing, and COVID-19 capacities. Still, I was delighted to hear how the team of organizers intends to create the environment which so many looked forward to every month of last year. Their efforts include providing lanterns and hot tea to participants and audience members.
“Acoustic bedroom is in a nutshell like watching a Netflix movie with your best friend,” Hayes said. “The bedroom and the twinkly lights are on, and you’re drinking wine. But the Netflix movie is populated with actors that are your best friends in the whole wide world.”
Abiding by COVID-19 safety measures, Acoustic Bedroom will be taking place on the field outside the Music Program House (202 Washington St.) this Saturday, tentatively at 7pm. The event will be capped at 25 people.
“We’re going to have a sign-up sheet and we’re going to do it in two shifts,” Gitlitz said. “So there will be the first group of 25, and we’ll have a certain amount of slots for performing and a certain amount of slots for audience members.”
I would like to think that I am not alone in my desire to break free from conversations confined to the limits of a screen. I take all my classes via Zoom, talk to my friends, family, and boyfriend back home in England through the phone and, frankly, spend most of my time in front of my laptop. This may be the new norm, but it’s not one that I necessarily like, which is why the revival of Acoustic Bedroom could not have come at a better time.
“Wesleyan is a community first and foremost, and right now it really doesn’t feel like one,” Hayes said. “We don’t see each other. We don’t touch each other. Right now, everybody is living in their own bubble, and there is no space that feels shared. My goal is that I want any patch of grass to feel like it’s like a nice cushy, broken down couch. I want to create the same cozy atmosphere and make people feel close at a time when everybody feels really, really far apart.”
Tiah Shepherd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.