By RONIC NGAMBWE
Every spring semester, the Campus Programming Board transforms the Anderson Center into a concert venue featuring artists such as AJR, X Ambassadors and T-Pain. I had never been to a spring concert, and quite frankly, never thought I would, until a friend sent me a screenshot of this year’s headlining artist: Jesse McCartney. Unfortunately, the concert was canceled to limit the spread of COVID-19.
If you were a teenager in the early to mid 2000s, you most likely have heard of Jesse McCartney or his song “Beautiful Soul.” I vividly remember singing along to this catchy song, which has an unforgettable beat and even more memorable lyrics. The song, which was released in August 2004 on McCartney’s debut album as the lead single, hit the Billboard Hot 100 at number 72 that December, eventually peaking at number 16.
I remember singing along to “Beautiful Soul” with friends, gushing over how beautiful he was. The words of the song sounded more genuine than other love songs I listened to. His ability to sing about love with depth and such sincerity made me fall in love with him. While his later music started to become a bit more shallow, focused on physical appearance and a little less on one’s “Beautiful Soul,” I still listened to him from time to time.
Jesse McCartney was set to perform on March 20. Monday of that week, I bought tickets for me and my friend to go see our childhood crush perform live for the first time, probably for the cheapest price we would ever see him live. With glee and excitement, I snapped a picture of our tickets and sent them to her. “Got ‘em!” I texted. That same Monday, the spread of COVID-19 led some universities in New York City to cancel in-person classes. Although I didn’t find this out until later, it wasn’t alarming to me. I didn’t connect this to the concert until Wednesday. By then, schools in Virginia and the District of Columbia including UVA and American University had canceled their in-person classes and events.
Sure enough, late that afternoon, a school-wide email went out to all students, faculty and staff announcing a three-week closing that would subsequently result in the cancellation of all campus events and move classes to an online format. I was devastated. This was going to be my first spring concert and I was going to see someone I had listened to nearly all my life perform live for the first time. Not only that, but it was going to be among the many memorable experiences I was going to add to my list of unforgettable college experiences. An email from Crystal Rawls, the assistant director of Student Activities and Engagement, explained an offer to either refund the tickets or allow us to hold on to them for some unknown time in the future when the concert could potentially be rescheduled.
There were already too many unknowns as it was: were we going to be able to resume campus activities at the end of the three weeks? Was I going to graduate on time? Was I going to be able to walk across that stage? Unable to decide and realizing that I actually couldn’t make this decision on my own, I asked the friend I was going with what we should do. “Do you think it’s worth the wait or…” She didn’t think it was worth it. The overwhelming amount of unknowns and the rate at which the coronavirus was spreading made it impossible to really hope for anything. I still have the tickets. I’m having a hard time letting them go. I almost want to keep them even just as souvenirs.