Student musicians raise domestic abuse awareness with music

Women’s Action Coalition and Guitar Club hosted an open-mic fundraiser for domestic violence awareness in Newton Hall on Thursday Oct. 30. The fundraiser was part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and included performances of a variety of genres and styles, as well as a raffle. All donations went toward Chances and Changes, a local shelter for victims of domestic violence. The event had a very casual vibe, with some performers reading lyrics off notebook paper and engaging with members of the close-knit crowd directly. Most played either the ukulele or guitar, but the music was varied. The opening performance wasn’t technically music at all.

Junior Greg Stewart started the show off right with some original slam poetry. He rattled off letters, including some very hard-to-swallow lines like “xenophobia played like a xylophone” and “zero hour is upon us.” At times the verses tumbled out so fast that focusing on the words became a challenge, if a rewarding one.

For his part, senior Mark Susmann performed a couple of original instrumentals on the acoustic guitar. Walking the line between soft rock and country, the first melody was a slightly sad, nostalgic-sounding piece, while the second song was happier, with chords that built on one another for a rich, soaring sound. These songs were emotional, dynamic and felt complete— even without lyrics.

Freshman Blaise Tangney also played an impressive guitar set and sang original songs. He strummed his guitar enthusiastically, playing bluegrass-infused rock and rasping out surprisingly romantic lyrics to songs with names like “One Heck of a Girl.” His music feels like it’s from another time––maybe even another state.

Halfway through the event, WAC president sophomore Jes Heppler took a break from introducing the performers to read some sobering statistics and talk about domestic abuse. “Violence isn’t just physical,” Heppler said. “Emotional and psychological abuse are just as common.” She pointed out that by raising money for Chances and Changes—one of the only shelters for victims of domestic abuse in Livingston County—Geneseo students can help make a difference in their community.

Senior Chris Coffey closed out the event with some original songs on electric guitar. “I don’t normally play by myself,” Coffey said. “Some of you might know me as the bald guy who plays in Red Kettle—if you know Red Kettle.” His songs had a full, holistic quality, almost as if he were still playing with a full band. He drummed on his guitar often, creating an electronic sound that was somehow simultaneously deep and trippy. The highlight of his set was a funeral dirge of sorts. “I wrote this for the art department when it closed,” Coffey said with good humor.

WAC has donated to Chances and Changes in past, but this open-mic event was new territory for the organization. “We didn’t want to just do tabling,” Heppler said. “We wanted people to come together and enjoy some music while supporting a good cause.”