Coffee house goes green
UConn’s BE HEARD uses get-togethers for advocacy
Published: Friday, November 5, 2010
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 00:11
The UConn Office of Environmental Policy held their third BE HEARD Advocacy Coffeehouse of the semester in the Whitney Dining Hall last night. Liv Cowenhoven, a 7th-semester environmental sciences and geosciences double major organized the event, which advocated for a more sustainable approach to energy use at UConn. Nearly 60 people sat clustered at tables, writing letters to the chief operating officer, Barry Feldman, or the vice president of student affairs, John Saddlemire, addressing what could be done about the money wasted on electricity by leaving lights on in the Co-op 24 hours a day or never turning off the computers in the library.
The event started around 8:15 p.m., with Cowenhoven taking the microphone to present a short, but informative, PowerPoint on the history of previous coffeehouses and the issues to be raised at this semester's program. A quick recap showed that the first coffeehouse resulted in a tree-planting program that is set to begin next year, and in the establishment of a committee to create an environmental studies major for Bachelor of Arts students. In addition, the second coffeehouse got the wheels rolling on the bike-sharing program where students can rent bikes at the library, and on the planning and construction of more bike routes on campus.
"This is so rad, I did not expect a turnout like this," Cowenhowen said before the music began. "But I'm glad because as you can see, your letters really do make a difference."
A series of student performers were lined up for the event, many of whom had played at one or both of the previous coffeehouses. Pat Deary was first with his djembe drum solo, and his act was followed by Dominic Berger and his sidemen. This power trio, consisting of Berger on vocals and guitar, as well as percussion and keyboard, covered Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and a song by Cee Lo Green. Karolina Kaczmarcyk brought her interpretation of Taylor Swift's "Back to December" and her originally-written "Bright." Both songs showcased her breathy, yet emotive vocals that are well suited to pop music.
Next, Jason Wolkon shifted the mood with his electric guitar, playing two brooding songs, one of which was composed by his friend. Jen Guha, a campus music scene regular and founder of the a capella group Notes Over Storrs, took to the stage next. Her original songs showcased not only her immensely powerful and emotional vocals, but also a dark lyric mood that suited the powerful strumming and finger picking that are featured in her pieces. Pat Dreary reappeared on stage to read some poetry he had composed, and he played the drum for Julian Reese, who brought the addition of funk bass and rapping.
Tyler Bussey, a regular at the coffeehouses, performed a few folksy pieces on guitar and vocals, with Joanthan Shelley contributing descants and countermelodies on the trombone. Scott McColl and Stephanie Twedt became the comedic hit of the evening with their interpretations of Britney Spears' "Toxic" and "Hit Me Baby One More Time," generating laughter from the audience and even getting some members to drum along.
The performances rounded out with Patrick O'Brien, playing at instrumental on his keyboard with Für Elise and ending with selections from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." John Holden switched up the night with some old-fashioned blues guitar and vocals work. He performed the blues medley "One Way Out," popularized by the Allman Brothers, and Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," with his well-honed riffing and soloing proving to be up to the challenge. Shawn Lei was the final act of the night, playing the guitar and singing "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, a Vietnam-era song. Lei paired the song with a short monologue about how good it is to have freedom of speech in the United States, contrasting it with his experiences under communism in China, where he lived until he was eight.
"I'd like to continue these coffeehouses even after I do my last one next semester," Cowenhowen said after the conclusion. "I hope to pass on the torch after I graduate. These events work well and they're so much fun too." Cowenhowen also mentioned plans to collaborate with Idealists United on next semester's coffeehouse.