Decyo McDuffie serenaded the Soulfest crowds with “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé and a jazzed up “Skyfall” by Adele in 2018 and 2019. All of his nerves washed away as he stepped onstage and interacted with the audience, he said.
“That's what I love about jazz,” McDuffie said. “You're using the music to speak to the people.”
The 21-year-old entomology senior, returned to Soulfest, a free multicultural celebration funded by Florida Blue Key, for one last time, only without a crowd. It was only him and the camera.
Due to COVID-19, the show will be presented Sunday at 6 p.m. with recorded performances and live hosts on the UF Mediasite. Students can find links to the site on Soulfest’s Instagram and Facebook pages the day of the show.
This year’s theme is “Timeless Affair” recognizing 20 years of the event encouraging artistic expression, authentic storytelling and diverse talent at UF, Daisha Peek, the Soulfest director, said.
“This show has been a pillar for the UF community,” Peek, a 22-year-old public relations senior said. “Watching the show in all facets come to life is the most enjoyable part.”
This year’s performances will include one dance group, one poet and five singers. Three acts will be awarded for Best in Show Single Category, Best in Show Group Category and the Denise Griffiths award, commemorating the former UF English senior and poet who died after being struck by a vehicle in January. Griffiths performed at Soulfest last year, and spoke on the importance of unity through hardships.
“She gave a poetry slam that was very powerful and moved everyone in the room,” Peek said.
On Sept. 27, each person was given the option to record their performance or attend the filming that day in the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Before they could perform in the center, students had to verify they were cleared for COVID-19 through One.UF and were required to wear their mask at all times, unless they were on stage alone.
Sabor Latino, the official dance team for the Hispanic Student Association, was required to wear masks during the performance because of the dancers’ proximity, said Daisha Peek, the Soulfest director.
Other artists like actor and singer Fabine Michel, a 22-year-old UF theater senior, performed in the comfort of her Orlando living room. After losing several opportunities with talent developers and agencies, she chose the song “I Look to You” by Whitney Houston, as a cry for help.
“I feel like 2020 has just been a hot mess for everyone,” Michel said. “I've been overwhelmed with school, and I'm thinking about my career and what's next.”
With the hopes of being the “Female Tyler Perry,” Michel said she aspires to be an entertainer and own a record label.
Daniel Gallup, a 19-year-old UF political science sophomore, brought hope to the Phillips Center stage with his original song “Beyond the Horizon.” The song encourages listeners to appreciate the simpler things and look positively to the future, he said.
“It just seems like a really appropriate song for the time that we're living in right now,” Gallup said.
Gallup was known as “the guy with the guitar” during his freshman year in the Broward Hall Rec Room. He hosted singalong sessions to “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson, and naturally became the “request machine,” for amateur and skilled vocalists who desired to chime in.
As a high school theater kid and member of the band Sixth Avenue, Gallup said he missed being on stage and the empty audience didn’t bother him.
“I don't have any expectation of winning,” he said. “I'm just really excited that I get to share my music with a new audience.”
Sabor Latino, a Latino dance club at UF, starts their routine at the 2019 Soulfest, which is hosted as a part of Gator Growl in an effort to showcase and celebrate the diversity and talent among the students at UF.