Art Is a Gratifying and Crucial Way to Build Community

Felipe Cerón, Entertainment Editor

Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) writes about how HBS students defied the odds showcasing two performances to close 2020 on a positive note.

2020 was a different year from what people expected it to be. And that is the biggest understatement I have written this year.

2020 changed lives, tested lives, took lives and left an indelible mark in each one of us. Nevertheless, not all was bad. New problems need new solutions and 2020 was an example of this, since most people have never faced anything like it. The good part about new solutions is that they help us grow, even more when it is something that we face as a community.

One particularly interesting conundrum was how to cope with grief when faced with a pandemic (check out HBR‘s That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief, selected one of the top three articles in 2020). My personal conclusion from the article is that it is to your advantage to accept new unchangeable catastrophic situations fast. Try not to spend time in denial or being angry, but find ways within the new realm of possibilities to not just get by, but to make the best of it. There are always possibilities for growth in tough situations.

One of the industries that was hit hard by the pandemic is art because without an audience, there is no art, and with Covid there is no audience. At the same time, art remains important, because even though it cannot sustain life, it brings meaning to it.

That is what HBS students tried to convey through two shows, the A cappella Holiday Special and Cabaret hosted by HOTS (Heard On The Streets) and HBS Show clubs, respectively. These clubs serve as a platform for expression, to disconnect from daily stress and just being silly with friends, while creating quality products and building lifelong friendships. Both are open to everyone in the HBS community, whatever the level of experience and artistic interest.

These shows were particularly challenging given the current situation. Deciding on the format, rehearsing within the everchanging guidelines and maintaining a cohesive unit were particularly demanding for the clubs’ leaders. Through hard work and commitment both shows turned out to be successful, ranging in the thousand views. Family, friends and the HBS community enjoyed them. Additionally, HOTS donated 30% of the ticket proceeds to “The Boston Resiliency Fund”, that supports Bostonians most affected by the pandemic.

HBS Show, founded in 1974 and now headed by Spencer Dahl (MBA ’21), Mimi Sheng Khan (MBA ’21) and Caroline Frisch (MBA ’21), encapsulates life at HBS within a certain context and presents twice a year: Cabaret in fall and a full-scale musical for spring, which theme changes every year.

HOTS, founded in 1987 and now headed by Justin Kim (MBA ’21), Jeffrey Wang (MBA ’21) and Alice Wang (MBA ’21), rehearses weekly, engages in social activities and gives two concerts per year.

Lori Ossip (MBA ’21) mentions a difficulty faced for the HBS Show: “We were set to record on a Saturday, however, two days prior one of our cast members self-isolated out of an abundance of caution after exposure to Covid-19. The Cabaret team scrambled to fill her two numbers so that everyone else could still perform. My friend Natalie Riemer and I worked with Spencer, Mimi and Caroline until late into the night choreographing an entirely new dance routine. My friend Justin Kim patiently worked with me on Friday afternoon so we could nail a harmony in our new duet. The creative collaboration was exhilarating and motivating. We were working in crisis mode, coming together to “make it work” in whatever way possible. We created an environment where we could not judge anyone for throwing out a cooky idea because we did not have time to filter our own ideas. It was so rewarding to hear the laughs of our fellow castmates upon filming day, knowing that we were able to come together and produce something great.”

Kim reflects on the positives that the new experience brought: “Putting together a virtual concert actually required more work on all members. Each of us learned how to use an online software for recording, recorded our individual vocal parts on the platform, and then some of us spent many days and nights editing these recordings to adjust for different mic volumes and other imperfections that would go unnoticed at a live concert. That said, a virtual performance also came with some benefits as well. First, we all learned new skills that we could one day use to produce our own recordings or music videos. More importantly, we reached a much broader audience outside the HBS campus.”

These groups of people demonstrate that there is more than just coping with grief during a pandemic. They seem to be screaming, “do not just cope, laugh and rejoice!”

All hopes from these two clubs are set on showcasing some live art in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled!

Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) is a Chilean who previously worked in consulting and retail. He is a musician, and he is an avid fan of film and television. Having a laugh over a beer, getting in a challenging workout, and reading inspiring books are among his favorite pastimes. While he thinks sparkling water is the best beverage ever created, he is also currently the owner of the most luxurious home bar in SFP.