Nestled on green grass and illuminated by twinkling fairy lights, the Epstein Family Plaza transformed from its usual dusty section into the middle of the Viterbi Engineering Quad. Students marched through the Plaza and huddled on blankets near the center stage ahead of Viterbi’s 2022 fall concert, which promised “a laid-back, fun night” of live music from fellow USC students.
September 30 marked both the end of the month and the start of something new for Viterbi – it was Viterbi’s first fall concert at USC, organized by Viterbi Admission and Student Engagement in conjunction with the Association of Graduate Students of Viterbi. VASE and VGSA work with Viterbi students to coordinate and organize social, professional, and academic events on campus.
Juli Legat, deputy director of events and programs for Viterbi’s student engagement team at VASE and a graduate student in communications management, initially pitched the idea for the concert.
“I’m responsible for transitioning new students…I plan a whole bunch of onboarding events for students, not just for new students, but also for continuing students,” Legat said. “It’s kind of like this ‘welcome back to campus.’ We are really happy to have you and we want to try to provide lots of opportunities to engage and meet other students and feel truly connected to our school.
The Fall Concert was the final event in Viterbi’s Welcome Experience lineup.
“I definitely had a vision for it,” Legat said. “[Which] was something very cool and laid back…I really wanted it to be something that the students could just enjoy…and more than that, chat with their friends and just have a place to hang out with each other while the music is playing.
Legat’s vision certainly came to life. Students lay on blankets, tarps and chairs, chatting to each other as senators and VGSA representatives introduced the bands and operated food carts serving free popcorn, nachos and cotton candy to students. Other VGSA members handed out free Viterbi T-shirts to students entering and exiting the Plaza and held field games like Corn Hole and Giant Jenga.
Musical performances by USC students took center stage. Gabriel Mozes, a junior majoring in aerospace engineering, opened the evening with an original indie pop set about love, heartbreak and the excitement of being young.
“This [was] in fact, this is my first time performing in front of people,” Mozes said. “[So] it was nerve wracking, but i enjoy it a lot. It was great fun… There’s something special about singing your own music because it means so much to me, all the songs I write.
Casual Chaos, a punk rock band, loaded up the atmosphere with an indie rock set where they covered classic alternative and indie rock songs and performed an original track.
“I had a very fun opportunity to speak at Casual Chaos,” said Sam Thananopavarn, a freshman computer science student, who was in attendance. “I’ve never had that kind of experience before as a college student – you know, the kind of experience where you can talk to band members.”
Interspersed between sets, VGSA members brought audience members onto the stage for anecdotes and stand-up routines. Aleyeh Roknaldin, executive vice president of VGSA and a doctoral candidate in industrial and systems engineering, worked as co-MC for the night.
“I really like that some of the performers are Viterbi graduate students and showcase the different interests you may have because sometimes in engineering it can be really intense… So many people have different talents and hobbies outside of being an engineer, and it actually helps them become a better engineer. Creativity is so important,” Roknaldin said.
For the final performance, a mixed group of USC students and outside musicians took the stage. This band pumped up the energy of the crowd in a more laid-back atmosphere with a series of hour-long pop covers.
Ajani Harris, a vocal arts and opera junior who was part of the show, shared how much he enjoyed the event.
“I would love to see more schools do the same, like a welcome concert,” Harris said. “It was a really great opportunity for us to play and for people to come out and support what was going on.”
Although VASE and VGSA currently have no plans for another concert, their first fall concert in Viterbi turned out to be a successful experience. Not only did the concert allow students a moment of respite between midterms, but it also gave them the opportunity to showcase their skills and talents beyond their major.