Ready to Express Yourself? ASU students showcase talent at new cultural performance series

The stage is set at the Memorial Union North Stage every Monday for students to display their love for the arts.

ASU students gather to watch cascading guitar strums, unique, colorful brushstrokes and powerful cultural performances as Express Yourself takes place at the Memorial Union North Stage every Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The new cultural performance series, which started in February and kicked off for the first time this semester on Aug. 22, features ASU students with a love and talent for the arts. The new on-campus event series allows performers to use expression through platforms such as music, visual art, spoken word performances or even comedy.

The show is put on every week by Culture at ASU, which is an organization that strives to celebrate each student and the unique qualities and customs that they bring to the ASU community.

Kellyn Johnson is the coordinator for student cultural engagement. She said she hopes that these shows will spread the word of creativity and expression throughout the ASU community.

"I think our big push is to try to create a platform where students can share their voices, their ideas and their artistry," Johnson said. "It may be a musical performer, it may be a monologue if you're an actor, it may be that you're doing a karate demonstration. It's the talents that the students are passionate about, and we want to help share that with the rest of ASU."

The most recent show, on Sept. 12, displayed the talents of the band 76th Street, Bollywood singer Ajay Balaji and guitarist and vocalist Alexa Graves. 

76th Street kicked off Monday's show with a cover of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall. The indie-pop duo, consisting of communication and film junior Haley Gold and business communications junior Spencer Bryant, performed covers of songs as well as original music with Bryant on guitar and Gold on piano.

The duo has performed over 100 times in the last year at venues around the valley such as Crescent Ballroom and The Rebel Lounge. They also performed at the MU Takeover last month.

"We're so excited to be back playing at our school," Gold said. "We're performing at a show that's by Sun Devils, for Sun Devils. It's always fun for us to be on our own campus."

The second performer was Bollywood singer and computer engineering freshman Ajay Balaji. Balaji is an international student from India.

Although Balaji has not been on tour like 76th Street, he said he was just as excited to perform at ASU on Monday.

"Most of my songs are Bollywood, but today actually I performed an English song for the very first time on stage," Balaji said. 

Among Balaji's Bollywood-style setlist, he sang a cover of "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perry.

The third and final performer of the day was guitarist and vocalist Alexa Graves.

The upcoming indie-pop solo artist performed some of her original songs, including Heart to Heart. She also sang a cover of "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers.

Student performers and artists are selected each week and any ASU student is welcome to sign-up if interested.

Previous performers will be welcomed back to perform again once all students who have expressed interest have had the chance to display their talents at the event.

The Culture at ASU organization said that the Express Yourself series is expected to be established at other campuses this semester, as well. More information on other campus times and locations will be coming soon.


Reach the reporter at hkbrand@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @hayieysays

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