Urban modifies annual events in response to COVID-19


Mira Chandriani, Staff Writer

With COVID-19 rapidly spreading, Urban’s entire third trimester has turned into Virtual Urban. Along with students taking their classes online, traditional spring events are changing. Read on to learn more about the modifications to the upcoming spring events.

Affinity Show
The Affinity Show is scheduled to fall during Week 8, 5/14-5/15, in the Urban calendar, but Aku Ammah-Tagoe, Dean of Equity and Inclusion, said it will not occur as planned. Dabney Park ‘20 and Lizzy Hayashi ‘20 will be planning and coordinating the show this year. Traditionally, the Affinity Show has been put together by the U Period MultiCulti, but with Urban operating on the new virtual schedule, MultiCulti has been unable to meet to plan the show.
Ammah-Tagoe imagines a “smaller event … live-streamed, or filmed, or presented in some other format” because Urban will be staying virtual for the rest of the school year. “It will feel different in some way because we won’t all be together,” Ammah-Tagoe said, “but I hope it still feels very personal.”
When asked what message she would give to the Urban community, Ammah-Tagoe said the Affinity Show is “a really important and cool event that we have in the spring, so I [am glad] that we can have it this year.”

Blues House in Your House (formerly Blues Jam)
Student committee has been preparing to put on the student-led Blues Jam concert in Week 6, 5/1, but it is not going to happen as designed because it will likely be entirely digital.
Asante Spencer ‘20 said, “Blues Jam is still gonna happen … in some capacity.” StuCo has been brainstorming possible ways to still hold the event, particularly exploring using software where bands will be able to collaborate and individual performers will either live-stream the performance or submit a video prior to the concert.
Additionally, StuCo is not limiting Blues Jam to only musicians but is opening the floor up to dancers, actors, etc. With the performance happening virtually and many different talents being showcased, the name has been changed to “Blues House in Your House” for this year.
When asked what message she would give the Urban community about Blues House in Your House, Spencer said, “it’s still happening. People should be checking their emails because there are sign-ups coming out very very soon, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me!”

California Studies
California Studies is a unique, experiential class offered to seniors that focuses on water systems in California. However, with the shelter-in-place ordinance limiting everyone’s lives, “this year it’s very different,” Richard Lautze, Cal Studies Teacher, said. Instead of taking the Urban school bus to visit people in their fields of study to learn from them in person, those speakers are coming to the students virtually, “kind of in a magic bus,” Lautze said.
In Weeks 10-12, the Cal Studies class goes on a camping trip, finishing their other classes by the end of Week 9. On that camping trip, “your whole focus is on one thing. We’re all just focused on water and where we are. And we don’t have any other homework. Our homework is our work. It’s all the same,” Lautze said. However, since Urban will not reopen this trimester, Lautze said he “would entertain the idea of doing the camping trip that we would normally do in the summer because I love it.”
When asked what message he would give the Urban community about Cal Studies, Lautze said, “working with Urban seniors after all of the work that they’ve done and having them come and focus on one topic — and really dig into that topic — is truly what I think Urban School has been built on.”

Class Days
Class days were scheduled for Week 5 but unfortunately, they have been canceled and turned into instructional days because of the shelter-in-place ordinance. Riley Maddox, 9th/10th Grade Dean, said that because Urban will be staying virtual for the rest of the trimester, he hopes the school can find a way to do a day of online community-building.
When asked what message he would give the Urban community about class days, Maddox said, “I think it’s a bummer that situation dictated that we couldn’t have that time together. I would reflect on things that you as students and maybe adults were looking forward to for those class days, and I would think [about] how to have those experiences. Where can we find community online? That’s the big question.”

Girl Talk
Every year, Lick Wilmerding hosts Girl Talk, a performance put on by students at Urban and Lick “for people who identify with the feminine experience to be able to articulate or express their experiences through singing, dance, and more commonly through written monologues,” Sasha Hunt ‘20, a co-leader of SWEAR and an organizer of Girl Talk, said. This year, it’s scheduled for Week 6, 4/30, during the shelter-in-place ordinance, so it will be canceled if not postponed or performed virtually.
While there is the possibility of holding Girl Talk virtually, Hunt said that “a lot of the beauty of participating in Girl Talk is getting that audience reaction and feeding off that energy that the audience gives you. There’s so much support in the auditorium. You can feel it, it’s very visceral. I think that doing it digitally via a livestream would detract from that experience.”
When asked what message she would give the Urban community about Girl Talk, Hunt said, “Girl Talk as we know it, as we had originally planned, has to be canceled … However, we are gonna try to brainstorm other possibilities, whether that be collaborating with Lick or just within the Urban community.”

One Acts Festival
“One Acts will happen. Period,” John Warren, Theater Teacher & Director, said. One Act performances are scheduled for Weeks 9-10, 5/19-5/30, and Warren said he and the student directors in his One Acts class have been in conversation about performances going virtual. Some options that Warren and his class thought of are a “film festival that could be some combination of live or some other form of video performance,” a live stream so that performers can perform while people are watching, and even radio plays.
Because the One Acts class is currently unable to meet in person, students in the class are “simply working to prepare to direct [and] doing a great deal of brainstorming,” Warren said. On Tuesday, 3/31, and Wednesday, 4/1, 62 students auditioned for a One Act part through zoom.
When asked what message he would give the Urban community about One Acts, Warren said, “please participate. Please dive in and allow us to, or participate with us, to create a festival of some kind that involves a large amount of the community to have fun together, to explore artistically what these plays can look like in very strange times.”

Prom is a staple event in all high schools — Urban even has an all-grade inclusive prom — but COVID-19 is changing that this year. Prom, originally planned for Week 7, 5/9, is officially canceled because the city of San Francisco will not be allowing gatherings as big as Urban’s prom. “We are focusing our efforts on providing ways for seniors to connect with each other in case there is a chance for small groups of students to get together in person,” Charlotte Worsley, Assistant Head for Student Life, said.
When asked what message he would give the Urban community about prom, Billy Krassner ‘20 said, “to grades freshmen, sophomore, and junior, you will have another prom, that’s a good thing about Urban. … Seniors, it’s a sad thing and we have a lot of other things that are being canceled, or possibly canceled, and I think we kind of just have to get used to it. But I would also say don’t lose hope. … Stay hopeful. Stay positive.”

Spring Music Concert
“It’s gonna happen. We, and the performing arts, are committed to making a spring concert [in Week 8, 5/17] happen,” Scott Foster, Music Teacher, said. Even though Urban is exclusively operating through Zoom, E period music ensembles including Chamber Orchestra, Urban Singers, and Jazz Bands have still been collaborating to create music.
Through Acapella, an app that allows musicians to record, synchronize and share songs, “people can make really quick recordings and send them back and forth, so although they’re not playing at the exact same time, they’re able to play with one another, just with a 4 to 5-minute delay based on their recordings that they’re using,” said Foster. Foster said students are not only using Acapella to practice but that it is possible they will use the app to put on the Spring Music Concert. If performing through Acapella or a different virtual platform is not feasible, it’s also possible that the Spring Music Concert will be postponed to the summer.
When asked what message he would give the Urban community about the Spring Music Concert, Foster said, “look forward to it. It’s going to happen. We don’t know what form it’s gonna take, but whatever it is, it’s gonna be full of dedicated musicians [who are] right now in rehearsal. People are really putting effort in … So look forward to some sort of spring concert this year.”