Unplugged and Raw: A concert by students, for students

An MTV Unplugged-inspired concert for student musicians to show their talents and share their music experiences with peers

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Griffin Riley | The Daily Wildcat Jesse Toiber performs covers and original music at UA Unplugged on Sept. 20, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. UA Unplugged is put on by the Wildcat Events Board, a student event planning organization in ASUA run entirely by students.

UA Unplugged is an intimate concert experience highlighting student musicians and bands from the University of Arizona. The event was held Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Cactus Garden Stage on the UA Mall.

This concert was hosted by the Wildcat Events Board, which is part of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. Tony Julian, the concert coordinator for WEB, finds the musicians and sets up the concert. 

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UA Unplugged began last year as an idea stemming from the original '90s MTV Unplugged concert series show. Wanting to bring a laid-back concert experience to campus, Julian decided to produce a concert to fulfill that idea on campus. With many students interested in performing, and with help from the Music Department on campus, the event took off, according to Julian. 

“I wanted to get more student-musicians seen for what they want to do,” Julian said. “There are opportunities for them to do it, but this is something for them to also go do.” 

The concert happened only once in 2017, but with more student musicians wanting to get involved and crowds getting bigger, UA Unplugged will take place two more times this year, according to Julian. 

Julian and his team of other WEB coordinators set up speakers, the stage and chairs for the crowd to sit in. Audiences can also bring blankets to sit on the grass and enjoy the music.  

The group Amplified A Cappella will be opening the show, followed by six acts. Each musician or group will be given a 15-minute time slot to perform, more performance time than in the previous years’ shows, according to Julian. 

“This is another way to get their name out on campus if they’re passionate about it, whether they want to do it after college or whether they just want to do it right now for fun,” Julian said.

One artist being featured at UA Unplugged is Sophia Rankin, a second-year music integrated studies major. Her love of music began when she was very young, stemming from playing the piano with her grandfather who had Alzheimer’s disease. She was able to connect to him through music, according to Rankin. 

Learning to play classical music on the piano and being exposed to different kinds of music growing up led her  to find a love for songwriting. 

“I always just had these ideas that would float around in my head, and I didn’t really know what it meant until around middle school or high school when I really started putting words to paper,” Rankin said. 

Rankin began performing in local shows, including the Tucson Folk Festival and charity events around Tucson, when she was 15 years old. She came across UA Unplugged after searching for events like the Tucson Folk Festival and hearing about UA Unplugged through the Fred Fox School of Music. 

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Rankin has also opened for other UA concerts, Bear Down Music Festival and Spring Fling. Rankin does covers of her favorite songs and recently started performing original pieces. 

“[UA Unplugged] wants you to come out and do whatever you want to do,” Rankin said. “It’s kind of the environment that it’s okay to come out and sing a song that no one will ever know.”  

UA will be hosting two more music events in the spring semester: the Bear Down Music Festival and Spring Fling.


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