Alvernia Univeristy virtual cabaret performed in May 2020

Molly Gaffney ’22 singing “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Miserables and Scott Giacobbe performing as Fagin from the musical Oliver.


Alvernia’s Music Department showcases talent online during COVID-19

by Sidney Goodman '21


The inauguration of President Loyack planned for March 2020 was supposed to be a week of interactive events for faculty, staff students, trustees and honored guests that showcased Alvernia’s transformational mission. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of campus, all events were canceled, including the Spring Cabaret.


Understandably, the cancellations were a blow to many Alvernia students. They worked diligently to prepare music for the concert, and many senior musicians had lost their chance to perform their final show for Alvernia. However, members of the university’s community quickly stepped forward to give the chorus and band a chance to perform, even without a stage.


Former band and chorus member Jim Wyatt ’18 and Rionna Ferguson ‘20 created a Facebook page for a Virtual Cabaret.


“Jim was so upset for everyone that was a senior who was missing out on Cabaret that he took it upon himself to make a virtual one,” said Ferguson.


On May 4, the original date of the Spring Concert, the two uploaded video performances from many of those who were supposed to perform at the Cabaret.


While not all of the acts intended for the Spring Cabaret were submitted to the Facebook page, there was an overwhelmingly positive response from the Alvernia community. Some of the acts included a number from Oliver, performed by Alvernia community member Scott Giacobbe, and “Castle on a Cloud,” from Les Miserables, by sophomore Molly Gaffney, as well as performances from Choral Director Jennifer Michalik and Associate Professor of Music Carol Schwanger.


While the Music Department would have liked to be able to do the Cabaret in person, there were some unforeseen benefits to holding an online performance.


“I think that it allowed us to be personal with our choices,” said Professor Michalik. “I chose a recording from my undergraduate years at Michigan State University as a soloist with the Men’s Chorus. That definitely couldn’t have happened otherwise, as the director, I don’t get to sing!”


Pianist Diane Dunkleberger was also able to have a solo of her own, which does not usually happen in a traditional concert.


Since the Virtual Cabaret went so well, the chorus is hoping to expand its online presence and continue producing content in the future.


“We are looking at utilizing Instagram and other platforms to build our presence in the Alvernia community, and we have been working with the IT and Communications departments to achieve that goal,” said Professor Michalik.


The Virtual Cabaret is over, but the posts and videos are still available on Facebook.