Roughly 50 students gathered in Mairs Concert Hall on Friday night, eagerly awaiting the kick-off to MacroBurst, Macalester’s 24-hour art and creativity competition. The room buzzed as Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” played over the speakers, until finally Kate Ryan Reiling ’00, entrepreneur in residence, took the stage.

“Welcome,” she said, “to our first-third-annual-Funkathon-now-MacroBurst!” The third iteration of the contest—previously known as Funkathon, and limited to musical compositions—was newly open to artistic endeavors of all types, and given a new name to fit.

Onstage, she introduced the 11 competing teams and the 9 guest judges—notable alumni artists from around the country—before summarizing the ground rules: each team would have 24 hours to design and create an original artistic performance, up to four minutes long, to be shown, played, or displayed the next evening. And new this year, each would revolve around a theme: stories.

With that, the groups scattered throughout the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.

Up on the second floor, the trio known as 25 Squats were soon fooling around at the grand piano in their practice room. Seniors Sohini Ghosh and Ashanté Alford were both musicians, and had decided to form a team just after the announcement of MacroBurst. It wasn’t long before they invited Hosea Ogeleka ’20, a friend of Alford’s from the African Music Ensemble, to join them. As they brainstormed ideas, Ogeleka said they mostly wanted to have fun with their creation.

“Yeah,” Ghosh agreed, “having fun is more important than the competition.”

While the three friends contemplated their creative direction, downstairs, the group Winnie and the People were still getting to know one another, as they hadn’t all met before that night.

“I live with Katie,” said Anna Bruijn ’18, explaining the group’s origins, “and our house mate’s dog is Winnie. So she’s Winnie, we’re the people.”

Although Winnie was unfortunately absent, the other three members were Katie Lund ’18, Trevor Zapiecki ’19, and Marisa Peredo ’20, each of whom brought a unique skill ranging from sewing to drawing to coding.

“We have no idea what we’ll make,” said Zapiecki, “but this is the first year it’s open to all kinds of performances, so we wanted to show support for that.”

At first, the team batted around ideas about food-related stories, before deciding on something more literal: a children’s book. By 10 p.m., they’d split up—Bruijn and Lund going to write the story, Peredo working on the illustrations, and Zapiecki creating a soundtrack.

Inspiration would take longer for 25 Squats. They nearly finished composing a song (“We had half a verse left to write,” said Alford), when at 2 a.m. they scrapped it, beginning again from scratch.

By late afternoon the next day, the hallways that had been filled with cymbal crashes and piano riffs were now quiet, and a crowd of faculty, staff, and friends gathered in Mairs for the MacroBurst Showdown.

After a brief introduction, the performances began. 25 Squats waited nervously through the opening piece, then took center stage to perform their song, “I Wanna Eat,” an a cappella doo-wop number about the annoyances of food allergies. “Lactose intolerance is kind of wack,” sang Alford, while Ogeleka performed a percussion solo on his chest, knees, and legs. The trio burst into laughter as soon as they’d finished, nearly forgetting to bow.

Another band performed, and then it was Winnie and the People, who appeared onstage with pillows, blankets, and their book, A Bedtime Story for College Students. Peredo’s illustrations projected overhead, and Zapiecki’s ambient piano composition played through the speakers while they read the story of Kevin the therapy dog, who helped students at his school manage their fears about the world. “No one can carry their burdens alone,” read Peredo. “No one has to, either.”

They finished a few minutes later and sat back down in the crowd, exhausted but proud of what they’d made. For the next hour, the remaining groups performed compositions and screened videos, until the judges went to tally up scores, and then student workers carried out oversized checks to be presented by President Brian Rosenberg.

“Anyone who doubts the importance of creativity and the arts,” he said from the podium, “needs to see performances like this.” Then, with gold envelopes in hand, he announced the winners.

In third place: Sad Boi Mixtapes, for their folksy song “Shapes.”

In second place: 25 Squats. The trio burst into laughter once again as they traipsed up to accept their check and medals.

Finally, the winner, and the grand prize of a thousand dollars. After a suspenseful pause, Rosenberg leaned over the microphone: “Bedtime story for college students!”

“What!” Lund yelled from her seat. Zapiecki clasped his head in disbelief. Winnie and the People went up and accepted their prize with dazed smiles, posing for pictures with the other groups, their check, and their book.

As the auditorium emptied, the four remained behind. They sat onstage, looking around still somewhat stunned, trying to make sense of the last 24 hours. Eventually, their minds turned to that evening. It was only 6:30, they realized, and none had plans.

“I may go home and go to bed,” said Bruijn. “Plus someone has to tell Winnie. She’ll be very excited.”

February 20 2018

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