By Cassandra Stathis
Even performing through the video conference software Zoom, R-Factor contestants were still able to impress the crowd. Rider held a virtual R-Factor concert on April 1 to help soothe student anxiety with music. The competition started off with Associate Dean of Campus Life Nicholas Barbati and fellow R-Factor judge Karin Torchia, who hosted from 2012-2014, reminiscing about the very first R-Factor. Audience members had remained mute and with no video, and when it was their turn, contestants had their time to shine.
Barbati started by saying how he had a “memory like an elephant” and thought nobody would show during the first season of the competition. He also had concerns about the show being too hard to judge because of all the talent present during the virtual show.
The concert was no challenge for Barbati, however, as he said there were no difficulties when it came to organizing.
“The event was really easy to put together,” he said. “When we were looking for ways to engage our students, it was so wonderful to be able to revisit some of our extremely talented student performers that have created so many memories for the Rider Community in the past.”
As a Dean of Campus Life, Barbarti has also experienced the struggles of transitioning to remote interaction.
“I have certainly missed working directly with students so this was a tremendous way to reconnect and all be together,” said Barbati.
When it came to having to switch the event online, Barbarti said that the change took some getting used to, but that there were positives to be found.
“It certainly did feel different but it was so great to reconnect with Karin Torchia who judged R-Factor with me from 2012 to 2014,” Barbati said. “We always have so much fun together and we were thrilled to do this for our students. Hosting is certainly more challenging than it looks. With that said, I have so many wonderful memories of the performers that made it easy to revitalize connections with the student performers and give context to their performances.”
Performers included junior elementary education major Jenna Dean who had amazingly used her keyboard during her performance.
Next was senior musical theater major Anna Sanzone, who was a part of three past seasons and now had the opportunity to reinvent herself. When she originally performed in R-Factor, she sang a variety of Ariana Grande songs but switched to songs from the ‘70s. Sanzone had described R-Factor as “a place to be yourself.”
Senior neuroscience major Caleb Holt, who was the 2018 R-Factor Winner, also performed with his keyboard. Barbati said that “if R-Factor had a Mount Rushmore, [Holt’s] face would be on it.”
Finally, senior environmental science major Alina Bardaji, who was the 2019 winner, played some of her original songs on the acoustic guitar.
Bardaji practiced for the event, a part of the process she finds enjoyment in.
“I guess I don’t really think of it as practice as much as I think of it as just doing what I love,” she said.
Performing in person as opposed to virtually also runs the risk of having technical issues, which unfortunately Bardaji experienced.
“It made me feel a little self-conscious if I’m being honest,” she said. “Not everyone has access to good internet which is one of the reasons why I love performing in person so much more.”
Bardaji, however, was very happy at the chance of still getting to see her fellow R-factor contestants perform.
“I love that we are able to connect to each other while being so far apart, but sometimes it’s more challenging than we would like,” she said.
While some may have felt more comfortable to perform virtually, Bardaji felt the opposite.
“It actually felt more uncomfortable performing virtually than it does performing on stage,” said Bardaji. “I’m the type of musician that loves to see people’s faces when I’m playing because it gives me the ability to connect with them in a way that you can’t do when their cameras are turned off. I didn’t feel the same type of energy virtually, mainly because most of the people had their video switched off most of the time.”
At the end of the event, Barbati and Torchia gave students the opportunity to use the Zoom chat room to catch up and talk to one another, finishing with “We circle all around art. It links us all as one.”