Coffeehouse thrives in a reimagined hybrid format


Aalia Husain

Upper schoolers enjoying student performances from the quad at Coffeehouse

Tess Weinreich and Ella Adamec

Last Friday, April 23, at long last the Potomac Upper School hosted Coffeehouse —a beloved Upper School tradition that many feared would not happen in this unusual school year. The event had to be postponed and reimagined: seniors and juniors enjoyed the show from the quad while freshmen and sophomores tuned in via livestream. 

The afternoon was stacked with spring sports competition against Sidwell, leading Coffeehouse committee members to delay the start of the show until the games were over so that student athletes could attend. 

“I was coming in hot from a Friday afternoon lacrosse game on Gumtree, and these two events, especially because of the great student body turn out at both, made for a night that was certainly one of my favorites at school this year,” said sophomore Andrew Lay who performed “Life’s a Mess” by Juice WRLD on the piano. 

Compared to the coziness of previous years (if by cozy you mean the entire student body packed into the Crossroads), this year’s lawn concert was more laid back. According to students who have performed at Coffeehouse before, the larger outdoor venue and smaller audience created a new experience. 

““There were less people there in person, so it was definitely less nerve-wracking. I kind of think it’s nicer to have it inside when we’re all together and close, but it was still nice to be together as a community,” said senior Zhané Moledina who performed “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor and John Legend alongside fellow seniors Izzy Engel and Natalie Moosher.

Students off-campus had the opportunity to attend and even perform in Coffeehouse virtually. Senior Alex Vuono chose to pre-record a reading of her original poem, “The Cliff,” to be played at Coffeehouse. Although Alex has shared poetry at the event before, she noted some key differences that came with preparing the audio recording. 

“Planning and prepping was not that much different really until the day before, and coordinating with the Coffeehouse committee as well as Mr. Westermann made it a very smooth transition,” she said.

“I did have the advantage of being able to do multiple takes before I chose the perfect one, so that did ease the stress of it all a little,” she continued.

Although performers enjoyed the more relaxed ambience of this year’s Coffeehouse, the new setting presented certain challenges in acoustics, lighting, and unexpected tech interruptions. (Anwar Karim’s mother calling him mid-rap was a highlight of the night.) Because of the delayed start, students whose acts were slotted for later in the evening had to perform in the dark, back-lit by math classroom fluorescents. 

Additionally, students in the show had to adjust to the “new normals” of performing during the pandemic. 

“I forgot to take off my mask at the beginning of the performance and I only realized once I started playing the piano and had to play with one hand and take it off with the other,” said sophomore Gracie Courtauld who, with her classmate Ella Adamec, sang “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. 

Despite the bumps in the road, the event provided a much-needed sense of community for Upper Schoolers. After months of brainstorming alongside administrators, the Coffeehouse Planning Committee may just have established a new Potomac tradition.

“We talked about adding a spring show so that we could keep Coffeehouse in the winter and add a spring show outside like this was. But that’s up to the people younger than me on the committee for next year,” said senior Natalie Moosher, a member of the Coffeehouse Planning Committee.

The committee hopes that, perhaps next year, incoming freshmen and rising sophomores will be able to enjoy the experience of a cozy in-person, all together Coffeehouse.