Shayne Richmond was a junior in high school when he first performed spoken word for a Black history month program at his school. His writing progressed, and his AP English teacher encouraged him to keep performing.
“After that, I just sort of took it and ran with it,” said the sophomore finance and marketing major.
Students like Richmond competed in a hybrid version of Terps Got Talent at the University of Maryland last week. The event is a talent show, and it’s part of Art Attack, a weeklong festival run by Student Entertainment Events.
Presented on a YouTube playlist, the show covered many categories: solo musicians, dance, variety and music groups. While some students performed at Stamp Student Union with masks, others submitted videos. Viewers voted for their favorite act, and the winners were announced on Friday via Instagram.
For most of the student artists, however, it was more about the experience than the competition.
Richmond’s winning piece, “Losing,” was about everything he has lost over the past year.
“We’ve been home all the sophomore year, so that’s like a year that feels like it’s been lost. And then even this semester, I did an eight-month election, I did a campaign and eventually lost that too. And then I lost my grandmother,” he said.
One line that stuck out from Richmond’s performance was, “I even lost the liberating happiness within.”
Going through the pandemic has made Richmond think about what everyone has collectively lost. He wanted his piece to include a hopeful message.
“I wanted to make sure that people out there, as they were listening, could always see we can always take a situation or a word that has negative connotations and flip it and make it so that it’s positive,” he said.
Junior public health science major Lisa Anoruo is the vice president of Afrochique, the winning dance team. Her team entered the competition to spread awareness of different dance styles in African culture.
“We wanted to find a new way to pretty much further our mission, which is to promote … diversity on campus by showcasing our African dances,” she said.
The group performed their first dance to “Hasta la Vista.” The team wore masks and performed in front of cameras, but their high energy could be felt through the screen.
Anoruo said she was just happy to be dancing and performing with her group again.
“Dance gives me some kind of power,” she said. “Through dancing, through this team, I’ve been able to meet a wonderful group of people and learn different styles, different backgrounds and just connect with my own roots.”
Deborah Brown, president of Avirah, an Israeli dance team, said her team formatted the performance like a music video.
Dancing to the song “Miriam Ha’nevia,” the teammates performed in small outdoor groups or from home. The videos were then edited together by artistic director Aliza Mintz.
“Being virtual was definitely a challenge for us,” said the junior operations management and business analytics and supply chain management major. “But it gave us a lot more opportunities.”
Stand-up comedian and sophomore English major Anna Artazova was excited to be back on stage, even a virtual one.
“For me, it wasn’t really about competition or anything else. I was just like, ‘Oh, my God,’ I haven’t performed on stage in a year and I finally get to do it again,” she said.
Artazova said she started performing because it helped her come out of her shell. She feels more confident since she started writing and performing stand-up comedy.
“I just wanted to be more comfortable with myself and the outside world,” she said.
Student musician Jared Cunanan, whose artist name is Cuni, has wanted to perform in Art Attack since before the pandemic.
“In my own little way, I guess I’ve actually done it,” the senior cell biology and genetics major said.
He played his original song “ashes,” which is an unreleased single from a project he’s currently working on.
Cunanan said music is his artistic outlet.
“My music is always kind of like the main thing that supports my, I guess, ability to be enthusiastic about other things,” he said.
Senior philosophy, politics and economics student Saba Tshibaka said her performance of “Mystery of Iniquity” by Lauryn Hill was personal to her.
“Rap is definitely a part of me. It’s something that I’ve been listening to since I was born,” she said. Tshibaka even got a tattoo of Hill’s album cover when she turned 17.
Tshibaka chose this song because the roughly six-minute piece and its subject matter reminds her of the importance of speaking up.
“I think right now, a lot of people are scared to speak, they think that it’s like going to be more negative backlash than positive impact,” she said. “And I think that the song is a really easy way for anyone to kind of speak out and draw some attention to some really messed up stuff.”
As more people are vaccinated and in-person events slowly return, hybrid events such as Terps Got Talent present student artists with more opportunities to showcase their work and share their unique talents.
“Being able to just get up on stage and share that emotion, that raw image with people, if we can paint a picture that everyone can sort of relate to, is something that really drew me to spoken word,” Richmond said. “Watching other people and to do it and see everyone else’s reactions while you’re doing a spoken word is just something that’s indescribable.”
This story has been updated.