Performing for the Troops: Steinhardt Student Spotlight

Mackenzie Testa (BM ’20), a sophomore in NYU Steinhardt’s Music Business Program, joined Capital Movement Inc. and Armed Forces Entertainment to perform her original works – “I Only Want You” and “Love Has Taken Over” – for army troops during a Southwest Asia tour to military bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Djibouti. We spoke with Mackenzie about the international tour and her experience performing abroad.

Please describe your experience performing in Southwest Asia?

To say this was an experience of a lifetime is an understatement. To be able to do what I love most – perform – for such a special group of individuals was priceless. While abroad, we toured the military bases and learned about its day-to-day duties. We would then perform in the evenings followed by a meet and greet session, which allowed us to hear the troops’ stories. 

How did you feel performing your works while on an international tour?

Overwhelmed! This tour was a whole lot of “firsts” for me. It was my first time ever touring, traveling to these countries, and performing my own set with my original pieces, so to have all of these new experiences happening simultaneously brought up a huge mixture of both nerves and excitement. Performing my own songs for such big audiences, though, was just amazing.

What feedback did you receive from troops watching the performance?

The troops at each base made it very apparent how grateful they were for us coming out to perform for them. They said that these performances are a huge part of what keeps them going over there, and gives them a little piece of home while they’re missing their loved ones.

How did your time at Steinhardt so far contribute to your work on the tour and your career as a performing artist?

Being a student in Steinhardt’s Music Business program has taught me the value in being flexible. Music is an ever changing industry, and to be successful, you must be willing to evolve with it. This program helped prepare me for the unpredictable nature of touring. It’s never going to be perfect; whether there be problems with travel, sound systems, weather, and more, it requires a lot of patience and flexibility to endure. The professors of Steinhardt’s Music Business programs stress building these qualities in each of us.

I also believe that the well rounded nature of the music business program has allowed me to think as both an artist and business woman, which is imperative when trying to work with people in various positions in the industry. The more I’ve understood from a business perspective about the industry, the easier it has become to work artistically.

What impact will this experience have on your career?

This tour above all was a learning experience for me. It showed me that I do in fact love traveling and touring, even though it can be crazy at times, and that my favorite kind of performances are the ones where I can tell that I’m directly impacting the audience in a positive way. Performing for a specific cause reminds me of the immense value music, dance, and art holds, and I feel that this tour has impacted the kinds of shows I wish to seek out in the future for performance opportunities.