This holiday season, Penn is heading to Carnegie Hall.
On Dec. 14, five student performing arts groups will sing, act and dance inside the storied New York City venue—and they’ll be joined by alumni performers, too.
The whole thing started with Stephan Hartman C’87 W’87, a Wall Street investment banker who’s also a huge fan of a cappella. Hartman says he goes to every a cappella concert he can find in New York—college, high school, professional—and he’s watched the Princeton Nassoons perform at Carnegie Hall multiple times. Every year, he kept coming back to the same question: “Why can’t those guys at Penn do something like this?”
Then Hartman remembered his Wall Street mentor’s advice that “sometimes ‘those guys’ have to be ‘us guys,’ and we have to just go do it.” So he did.
To produce “A Very Quaker Holiday,” Hartman teamed up with three other alums—Anthony Anchelowitz C’18, Lolita Jackson E’89 and Joshua Slatko C’00—and Laurie McCall, who is director of the Platt Performing Arts House. They selected a large host committee (including SNL alum Vanessa Bayer C’04 and Broadway/Hollywood producer Marc Platt C’79), who helped spread the word to their friends and networks.
The co-chairs also invited five student groups to perform: Arts House Dance Company, Bloomers Comedy, Counterparts, Mask and Wig, and the Penn Glee Club.
Tickets went on sale in October and sold out in three days. The organizers opened a waiting list, but that quickly filled up, too. (Since the performance is in Weill Recital Hall—Carnegie’s most intimate space—there were only 268 seats available.)
Working with a volunteer team has kept costs low, and Hartman expects the event to generate at least $20,000 in profit, which will be donated directly to the Platt House so it can soundproof several rehearsal rooms.
“I’ve produced many events: film festivals, parties, sports events, music,” Hartman says, “and I can say that this is the smoothest-running first-time event I’ve ever been associated with.”
He hopes to make it an annual tradition—and to find a larger venue next year, likely still within Carnegie Hall, and with proceeds still heading back to the Platt House. And as the event grows, Hartman says he also hopes to livestream “A Very Quaker Holiday” to make it “a true red-and-blue bonding event” for alums around the world.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that life is about shared experiences with those we care about,” he says. “Shared experience is what this event is about: our past shared experience, and the new experiences we’re creating here together with this.”
—Molly Petrilla C’06