You’re not likely to find Sydney Sabbagha playing live music in front of an audience. Instead, you’ll find her behind the scenes, orchestrating what musicians makes it onto the stage.
Hope College’s Student Activities Committee, or SAC, runs a wide range of campus events, and one of those is Coffeehouse. Coffeehouse takes place in the Bultman Student Center Great Room, and features college students for an hour-long set as they play for their peers as they socialize and study.
Sabbagha is a co-director for Coffeehouse. She makes sure that all of the performances go off without a hitch. The position has many benefits for a music enthusiast like Sydney, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t busy.
Coffeehouse is a weekly event that happens every Thursday night at Hope College. That means that there are nearly thirty performances over the course of the year. Even more, there are two acts per night, so Sydney and her Coffeehouse team have to track down sixty acts for their weekly event. That’s not an easy feat.
“We usually do [auditions] at the beginning of the semester,” said Sabbagha as she sat in the Student Life office preparing a string of lights for that night’s performance. “A lot of new students come in… it’s just so fun to watch them play.”
During an average Thursday night, you’ll find Sydney preparing for the night’s performance before any audience member has even sat in their seats. She is the correspondence between the technical staff and the talent, making sure that there are no miscommunications. Once the musicians have done their sound check, she and her other co-directors are will step up to the mic and give a welcome to the already packed room, and give a brief introduction to the performer. Following that, Sydney will float around between socializing, doing homework, checking in with the sound technicians, and talking with the performers.
Since it is a tradition that has been happening at Hope for many years, Coffeehouse is one of the most popular and consistently attended events on campus. Sydney has been a co-director for the past two years. This has meant that she has managed the transition from having the performances in the intimate coffee-shop-like venue of The Kletz to the massive performance space in the new Bultman Student Center.
With new tech challenges and having to set up many more chairs and tables, this was a large transition for the Coffeehouse team. But Sydney and her co-directors were successful in adjusting to the brand new space. They have even gone above and beyond in their marketing, designing an appealing new logo and distributing it far and wide on posters and stickers.
Sydney appreciates the ability to do an event like Coffeehouse every week. She knows it is something special, and knows it has a lot to do with the size and culture of the college.
“If we were at a huge school, I don’t think it would have the intimate setting of a Coffeehouse that we have every week,” said Sabbagha. “It’s such a unique thing.”
See upcoming Coffeehouse performances on the Hope College calendar.