After arriving back at the U.S. Military Academy in late May, the members of the Class of 2020 were divided into cohorts and placed under a 14-day controlled monitoring period before their graduation ceremony June 13.
The precautions put in place to limit any potential spread of COVID-19 upon their return restricted the amount of interaction they could have with their classmates and drastically curtailed how much freedom of movement they had.
To help the members of the class cope and stay entertained while they waited for the end of the controlled monitoring period, the academy’s Directorate of Cadet Activities’ Cultural Arts Department worked to develop activities that would keep the more than 1,100 second lieutenants entertained in their rooms.
Using the technology provided them via Microsoft Teams, DCA was able to put on a virtual DJ battle featuring three local DJs and three concerts featuring notable musicians.
DCA also hosted a movie night featuring “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a video game tournament for the members of the class.
“Realizing that the cadets were going to have to do some social distancing and probably stay in their rooms, we decided to provide entertainment for them during that time period to help promote wellness, discipline and resiliency; and give them some memorable experiences,” Aundrea Matthews, the cultural arts director for the Corps of Cadets, said. “The cadets loved it and thanked us for it and thought it was very good to have something while they were in their room. It gave them some memories.”
The first concert took place June 5 and featured New York native country artist Matt Mulhare as the opener. He was followed by rising country star Riley Green, whose latest hit was “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.” The two artists both played a few songs before Green took part in a question and answer session moderated by Class of 2020 President 2nd Lt. Joshua Phillips.
Green spoke about his career and the role discipline and hard work played in helping him get to where he is. He also added that after the conclusion of his current tour, he hopes to play at West Point in the near future.
The next concert featured Bryan Bautista, who was a semifinalist on season 10 of NBC’s The Voice. He performed for the class June 7.
The final concert of the series featured Isaac Slade, who is the co-founder and lead singer of the band The Fray. It was his first time performing for the Class of 2020, but he had previously visited the academy in 2017 when the current firsties were plebes and performed at the First Class Club.
Slade decided to take a different approach to his concert and instead of staying in one place and playing a few songs, he wandered throughout his neighborhood stopping every once in a while to play hit songs such as “You Found Me.” He also sang a duet with his wife.
As he walked, Slade talked about his life-long journey to find what it means to have a commanding presence and what he has learned from leading his band for almost two decades.
He also discussed his songwriting process and his faith journey that led to his writing of “You Found Me.”
“When the folks over there asked me to a part of tonight, I was almost overwhelmed with the honor of hanging out with you guys,” Slade said during a question and answer session moderated by Phillips. “I have so much respect for what you’ve already done and what you’re about to do.”
The concert series was the first of its kind by a university and the hope is to continue to leverage technology platforms to develop leaders of character, Matthews said.
The full concerts and questions and answer sessions that followed can be found here.