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Songwriter's Showcase

By Eva Mandelbaum and Gabriel Bernstein

Picture this: it’s an idyllic spring Friday night. The evening breeze flows through your hair, twinkling string lights sparkle almost as bright as the stars above you, tiki torches glimmer next to you, and the beautiful voices of White Plains High School students singing their hearts out greet your ears. Sound like a dream? The very first in-person Songwriter’s showcase since prior to the pandemic was truly as magical as it sounds. From the ambience to the emotion this event held, this evening was one that every audience member will surely remember.

The White Plains High School Songwriter’s Showcase outside in the Senior Courtyard on a lovely Friday evening

The Songwriter’s Club is a welcoming group of students who excel at utilizing their illustrative minds to create and share their music. Many students collaborate by using different instruments to experiment together which bodes well for how they connect to each other. An example of this is displayed by Victoria Hagen, one of the Co Presidents of the club, in an interview where she said, “I have seen people who are very creative and there is everyone helping each other out. It is a very warm environment.” In the duration of this year, the Songwriter’s Club was forced to meet on zoom which proved difficult if you are a club that focuses on instruments and music. Setting up times to meet for practice became next to impossible due to the current circumstances. In fact, most of their recent showcases were solely virtual due to social distancing. Despite these roadblocks, their passion for

musical experimentation is limitless.

Senior Victoria Hagen performs an original song.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has put everyone’s lives on hold, and it’s been a struggle for White Plains High School songwriters who have been longing for a chance to sing to a live audience for months. One White Plains High School Songwriter’s Club member, Mel Telesmanic, explained that they have not gotten the thrilling experience of a live Songwriter’s Showcase since last January. “There’s nothing like being live,” they shared. “As much as I love doing the virtual showcases, nothing compares to us being live in person.” Another senior in the club could not agree more. “It’s the senior’s last showcase so I feel like having it in person really sort of brings the emotion (not saying that the virtual showcases weren’t fun) but it’s just like, you gotta celebrate a little,” J Melendez added.

It is a norm for the showcases to occur four times a year, however for this year, it solely occurred once in person. The members of the Songwriter’s Club had the whole year to collaborate resulting in their finest songs. There were many people there and it was in the senior courtyard instead of the Little Theater. You can tell from the atmosphere that people were waiting the entire year just to listen to the two hours of blissful music that the songwriters club presented. Their last physical showcase was January of last year, months before the pandemic hit us. To many, this showcase was more than just a presentation because it displayed how hardworking these people were despite the fact that the songwriters have been fully virtual almost the entire year. The outcome of the showcase was important to those who devoted so much precious time to their craft. In the end, the audience was astounded by their performance.

"The Nerves" (Lawson Roach, Ayden Williams, Mel Telesmanic, J Melendez, and Abe Caceres), a beloved former Songwriter’s Club band, performs as a surprise to audience members

With performances including everything from mellow love songs to hard core rock, the eclectic range of music Songwriter's Showcases entail is what makes them so truly special. Opening strong with Noah Maitland’s originally crafted to perfection “Love sick” that left audience members swept of their feet, to the experienced and incredible senior Victoria Hagen’s “Growing Pains,” to end the show with a bang, the showcase would not have been possible without the 22 acts of talented high schoolers. And of course, the showcase would not have been complete without the support of the Black Awareness and SEED Clubs and their snack tables.

The SEED Club sells snacks for charity.

The Black Awareness Club

The crowd finally had their last song played to them. Everyone was watching as the seniors kept bawling, the crowd questioning whether the seniors were hugging out of pure joy from the success that the showcase brought, or if they were hugging out of sorrow for leaving their club behind. Some pondered that maybe it was a mixture of both. These bittersweet feelings that coursed through the crowd enforced that we were to sit down and clap for them. We also cheered them on because we could tell that they hit a lot of roadblocks due to the circumstances presented by this school year. Small roadblocks like scheduling became nearly impossible for the Songwriter’s Club which must have been hard to adjust to. We could tell that this would be a memorable last stop for the seniors, and we could feel empathetic for how hard it must be for them to move on despite making so many memories with so many good people. As Co-President of the club, Amy Mandelbaum said, “I think it was really important for the club members especially the seniors who are leaving because we got a proper sendoff which I’m very appreciative of. And I think it was also important for all of the other club members especially the newer ones to get to perform in front of people. And I think it was important for people in the audience because it was really exciting to hear some live music again.”

The first in-person Songwriter’s Showcase of the year was truly one to remember. Mr. Polanco, the Songwriter’s Club Advisor for 20 years has shown immense dedication to his Songwriter’s Club members. “The year 2020 hit us all in a very personal fashion,” He passionately stated at the Showcase. “and many of us have lost family, but last March of 2020, we had a show two weeks prior to the world shutting down, and my kids simply say ‘Mr. Polanco, Bill Withers has just passed away. Let’s get together and do something remote for Bill Withers.’ We did Lean On Me, and from that, we just caught fire. We went from there and did virtual shows for the spring and came back for a virtual show in November and another one for the winter and we are back at a live show, our 20th anniversary.” Despite incredibly difficult circumstances, Mr. Polanco has continued to ensure that club members had the chance to perform.If you are looking for a welcoming group to share your musical passion with and experiment with the different genres of music, the Songwriter’s Club is always open to new members.

The seniors lining up for the crowd's respect.

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