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Skidmore College

A Skidmore musical tradition: Skidmania ’73

November 28, 2023
by Catherine Hamilton ’25

The Skidmore community celebrated a rich array of music from 50 years ago and the talent of student musicians while supporting local community organizations at one of Skidmore’s most beloved campus traditions — Skidmania ’73. 

An outgrowth of Beatlemore Skidmania, Skidmania has expanded the repetoire to a more diverse set of music and music-makers since its relaunch last year. Creative spins on hits from 1973 were performed by Skidmore students along with faculty and staff; they included “Funny How Time Slips Away” by Al Green and Willie Nelson, “Yes We Can Can” by The Pointer Sisters, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel; “Drift Away" by Dobie Gray; and “Don't You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder.

The year 1973 is often associated with the birth of hip-hop, and Skidmore's DJ Grace Star and The Wave offered an upbeat hip-hop tribute — through both music and dance — to the cultural awakening that would follow over the next half-century. 

Ali Hafez of  the band Ace performs “Dream On” by Aerosmith in the opening of Skidmania ’73.

Ace (Ali Hafez '27) performs “Dream On” by Aerosmith in the opening of Skidmania ’73. Bella Friedman '24 designed the Skidmania '73 logo.

 

Proceeds from Skidmania ’73 benefit Skidmore Cares, which supports agencies in the local community. Like last year, Skidmore alumnus and trustee James Zankel ’92 is generously matching all revenues from the two-day event.

Students, employees, alumni, parents, and many members of the Saratoga Springs community attended the sold-out performances in Arthur Zankel Music Center on Nov. 17 and 18. Skidmania took full advantage of the amazing concert space, including colorful lighting specific to each piece.  

Watch a recording of the first evening of Skidmania '73 here.

“We are here to celebrate the music of 50 years ago. All of this is driven by the talent, imagination, and spirit of our wonderful Skidmore student musicians,” Jeremy Day O’Connell, associate professor, chair of the Music Department, and the event's organizer, said in opening remarks. 

From there, the microphone was handed over to Abigail Walters ’24 — a senior history major — who served as emcee for the evening. Between songs, Walters and a handful of other students educated the audience on the political, social, and musical histories of the pieces. The commentary was written by the students in Professor of Music Sarah Day-O’Connell’s first-year Scribner Seminar, Music: Mix and Remix.  

DJ Grace Star and The Wave perform a hip-hop tribute at Skidmania.

DJ Grace Star and The Wave perform a hip-hop tribute at Skidmania.

Students Emaline Relyea-Strawn ’25 and Jess Noble ’24, who performed a stripped-back version of “Desperado” by the Eagles, commented on the magic of performing at the multigenerational event. 

“I loved putting our own spin on the Eagles’ iconic harmonies. I grew up singing this song with my dad, so it was amazing to perform it in front of him on a stage like this,” said Jess Noble ’24, a music and management and business double major and lead singer of the song “Desperado” by the Eagles.  

The musicians hail from a variety of academic backgrounds. Relyea-Strawn, for instance, is an international affairs and environmental studies double major. She is the recipient of a prestigious Filene Music Scholarship that provides talented students musicians a generous four-year scholarship and allows them to pursue any major at the College while enjoying private music lessons. Relyea-Strawn played the piano and served as a vocalist alongside Noble.  

The Gaslighters offer their take on “If You Want Me to Stay” by Sly & the Family Stone.

The Gaslighters offer their take on “If You Want Me to Stay” by Sly & the Family Stone.

“One of my favorite parts of Skidmania is how much fun it is. It is so special to perform on such a big stage and have bleachers full of Skidmore students behind you, excitedly clapping and singing along,” Relyea-Strawn said.   

That joy was magnetic: During a cover of “Piano Man,” performed by the Skidmaniacs and featuring psychology major Charles DeVos ’25, the whole crowd was singing along.  

Other notable performances included a cover of Aerosmith's “Dream On” by Ace (Ali Hafez '27), who opened the evening with a walk through the crowd, and a soulful rendition of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” by the 404, a band composed of Ben Jeske ’26 on the piano and Damon Core '26 on vocals.  

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