Talented students get ‘unplugged’ for a good cause

The sounds of acoustic strumming and piano flooded the Travers/Wolfe main lounge Tuesday night during TCNJ Unplugged, a benefit concert held to raise food and money for the Mercer Street Friends food bank.

A melodic mix of 12 solo and group student acts covered recent and classic tunes, with a few contributing original compositions as well. The event was sponsored by the College’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) and pulled in $125 and 30 non-perishable food items.

“I didn’t really have expectations (for the event), but I was happy with the turnout,” Shannon Martin, sophomore nursing major, said. Martin organized and hosted the concert herself.

James Huynh, freshman history major, John Dutton, sophomore mathematics major and Sandy Russo, junior health and exercise science major, all played covers of songs by popular singer-songwriters such as John Mayer, Ryan Adams and recent campus visitor Gavin DeGraw. Dutton showed an impressive vocal range during his two original songs in a vein similar to these artists.

Andrew Pearson, sophomore communication studies major, sang two original songs entitled “Homesick” and “Forgiveness.”

“Forgiveness is something that’s very important to me. It’s how I live my life,” Pearson said during the song’s introduction.

On the soulful side were Caryn Monta, freshman open options major, and Deborah Sadanand, freshman music major. Monta covered Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” and Sadanand covered Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough,” but the two were at their vocal best when they traded verses on Alicia Key’s “If I Ain’t Got You,” with Monta also excelling on piano.

The sole exception to the unplugged format was Forward Motion, a four-piece rock band featuring the ferocious drumming of Andrew Oliva, sophomore finance major, and the blistering electric guitar work of Stephen Dadaian, freshman music major. Dadaian displayed his formidable soloing chops during the band’s cover of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rendition of the seasonal classic “Carol of the Bells.”

Sadanand also showed her holiday spirit by singing “The Christmas Song,” with piano accompaniment. When she reached the line “to kids from one to 92” Sadanand joked, “Is there anyone that old here?”

Both Dadaian and Keith Petrillo, sophomore engineering major, played soothing classical guitar selections. One piece by Petrillo, entitled “African Lullaby,” nearly lulled this reporter to sleep.

Petrillo then made a 180-degree turn with a humorous original song about “a Chinese kid who used to streak down the halls freshman year.”

The evening was capped with a short set from campus favorite “Piano Dave” Schlossberg. Schlossberg, senior piano performance major, drew quite a few chuckles from the audience after forgetting the words to “If I Only Had a Brain” and continuing the number as an instrumental.

“I’m actually glad that I didn’t sing it,” Schlossberg said after finishing the song.

Founded in 1987, Mercer Street Friends Food Cooperative is a non-profit organization that alleviates hunger in Mercer County through food distribution, nutrition education and assistance and advocacy. During the holiday season, the efforts of the organization are crucial to providing food for the poor.

When asked about future LDP events to benefit Mercer Street Friends, Martin replied, “We’ll just have to wait until the spring.”