‘Sons of Elon, Daughters, too’: Seniors join in virtual performance of Elon alma mater

The unpredictable events of this spring that led to an online conferral ceremony opened up the opportunity for a unique performance by 30 members of the Class of 2020.

Polly Cornelius, senior lecturer in music, is tasked each year with finding an outstanding singer to perform the alma mater during Elon’s Commencement.

This year, she found nearly 30.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift to remote learning in March and eventually the postponement of an in-person commencement for the Class of 2020 due to health and safety concerns. Plans this spring shifted to an online ceremony to celebrate these graduating seniors and officially confer their degrees. That ceremony would need to include the alma mater, of course, and Cornelius was called upon to identify a top singer to perform.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, we can do so much better than that,'” said Cornelius, who coordinates all voice lessons at the university.

Cornelius reached out to all seniors from the Department of Music and from the Music Theatre program about lending their voices to a virtual performance. Twenty-eight singers recorded themselves singing an arrangement of the iconic Elon song by Dan Gibson ’08, with Ross Cohen ’20, serving as music director. (Cohen would also perform the national anthem for the ceremony.) The audio and video tracks were then handed over to Jessica Burchett ’20, a music production and recording arts major, and Miles Caraballo ’22, a music education major with experience producing virtual choir performances, such as the rendition of “Rise” by his own “corona choir” earlier this spring.

“We all worked hard on making this special,” Cornelius said. “It’s so magical. It’s a gift to the faculty, it’s a gift to the families, and it’s a gift to the Class of 2020. It’s something that I’m very glad we did, but something we will hopefully never have to do again.”

The performance was unveiled as a surprise during the conferral ceremony at noon on Friday, May 22. Even those who contributed their vocals to the performance had not seen the video before it was shared with the Class of 2020.

“I am glad we could make something positive out of what has been such a scary and uncertain time for our students,” Cornelius said.

Participating singers from the Class of 2020

  • Jessica Avellino
  • Jessica Burchett
  • Cera Baker
  • Rebecca Bartlett
  • Kiki Burns
  • Mikayla Cohen
  • Ross Cohen
  • Noelle Cornelius
  • Jaylan Evans
  • Brandon Halvorsen
  • Jacob Hartman
  • Kaitlyn Heit
  • Maddie Hudelson
  • Eric Jacobson
  • Sarah Leonard
  • Marisa Nahas
  • Sam Pearson
  • Max Prissert
  • Andrew Purdy
  • Michael Reed-Price
  • Marella Sabio
  • Natalie Sakoi
  • Liat Shuflita
  • Lexi Steinman
  • Taylor Trotta
  • Olivia Tummillo
  • Emma Vance
  • Jasmine Walters
  • Tara Williey