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Music and Performing Arts Professions Students Perform "Stand for Change"

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collage of images of people singing and dancing on purple background

Members of the Class of 2021 from NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions (MPAP) programs in Vocal Performance and Dance Education came together to create a video for the new song “Stand for Change” for this year's Steinhardt graduation ceremony.

This special video is a true MPAP department collaboration.

“Stand for Change” was written by MPAP's Chair Dave Schroeder and Director of Songwriting Phil Galdston as the theme song for Black Theatre United. Dance Education students learned new choreography by program director Deborah Damast and contributed their own improvised dance phrases. Vocal Performance students rehearsed and recorded the vocals under the music direction of MPAP alum Ben Weiss and supervision of Vocal Performance director Dr. Ana Flavia Zuim. Music Technology program director Paul Geluso mixed the vocal tracks and the video was produced by Dance Education alum Rebecca Oviatt. In addition, the original instrumental backing track was produced by Galdston and faculty member David Swagg R’Celious Harris. It was mixed by Galdston, Harris and faculty member Kevin Killen and features contributions from the NYU Chamber Orchestra, arranged by Jazz Composer-in-Residence Rich Shemaria, conducted by Brass Studies director Wayne du Maine, and recorded by Geluso.

collage of images of people singing and dancing on purple background

The pandemic has forced this project to come together in unconventional ways. In pre-pandemic times, the dancers, singers, and band would rehearse separately at first, then the singers and band would work together, and finally the dancers would join in too, an exciting culmination.

Even though the students rehearsed and performed their portions of the “Stand for Change” video independently and asynchronously, “we think they will be amazed at how the song brought them all together with the same vision and the feeling of a community of artists,” remarked Damast.  

The process began with dancers listening to the song, feeling the rhythm, the meter, and tone. They listened to the lyrics and felt the power of the message.

Damast choreographed a main phrase to the song and recorded herself performing it from the front and also from behind so that students could dance along with it and not have to mirror the movements as they learned it. Damast also recorded herself slowly breaking down the phrase into smaller parts and talking the details through as she demonstrated the movements. Each dancer recorded themselves horizontally and vertically so there would be a variety of positions in the final video. The dancers were also asked to record themselves doing an improvisation section in which they could do any style or movement phrase that they wanted, in a way that they liked to move.

How the dancers’ arms reach out and lift up to the sky connects me to the feeling of hope for change and the commitment to standing up for what is right.

Deborah Damast

Weiss adapted and arranged the song to teach the various parts of the lyrics to the singers. Each singer learned their vocal part and recorded themselves singing along with the instrumental track using an online program called Soundtrap.  

“Recording a group vocal number like this is definitely a challenge to do remotely, but the students enthusiastically stepped up and sang the song beautifully,” said Weiss.  

Damast constructed her choreography to match the highs and lows of “Stand for Change”: “How the dancers’ arms reach out to the next Zoom box and lift up to the sky at the end, all connect with me to the feeling of hope for change, and the commitment to standing up for what is right,” she noted.

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NYU Steinhardt Music Community Partners with Black Theatre United on "Stand For Change"

The group's new theme song was written and produced by members of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions community.