Though ASUNM Student Special Events has been forced to adapt to virtual concerts to “protect the pack” amid the pandemic, the featured artist didn’t disappoint on Feb. 12 as UMI showcased live acoustic music and guided meditation over Zoom.
Tierra Umi Wilson, known professionally as UMI, is a 22-year-old singer/songwriter based out of Los Angeles who made a name for herself when she toured with fellow artist Cuco back in 2019. Her virtual concert on Feb. 12 was only available to University of New Mexico students, and about 100 students attended.
According to Joe Polack, the executive director of SSE, the idea for the event stemmed from UMI’s previous shows that included meditation alongside a live performance.
Due to COVID-19, SSE had to change how they host events because of the limit on social gatherings, which are discouraged by CDC guidelines. However, they kept the happiness and wellbeing of UNM students in mind when scheduling virtual events like UMI’s show.
“What we’ve gotten a lot of feedback about is (how) our events have had a really great mental health impact — it brings a sense of community back,” Polack said. “Nothing can replace that truly live event experience, but if we can help students in any way ... in my opinion, that’s a win.”
Over the past year, concerts and tours have been widely canceled due to the pandemic. In response, some artists have opted for hosting virtual shows. Still, some students have expressed their sadness for the loss of in-person concerts.
“I remember being very excited for (UMI’s virtual event) because a lot of the concerts I planned to go to in 2020 just didn’t happen,” Alannah Trujillo, a freshman at UNM, said. “Not a lot of other artists were doing anything like this, so it’s something that I found as an act of kindness as a fan.”
Trujillo said she first found UMI on Spotify about a year ago when she was still in high school. Songs like “Butterfly” and “Remember Me” caught her attention, so she was excited to hear that UMI was hosting a concert at UNM. She said she found out about the event through social media and immediately signed up.
“I started meditating in high school when I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. I found a five minute meditation on YouTube one day, and it changed my life,” UMI said. “I remember crying after finishing the meditation because the peace I felt was so profound.”
UNM students who attended the event said they enjoyed the incorporation of meditation into UMI’s set and wanted to practice it more in their daily life.
“The meditation overall helped me realize that this is something that I should at least be doing every day, whether that be five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes,” Cameron Sandoval, a senior at UNM, said. “Just take a small portion out of your day. Just reflect, relax, control yourself, control your body.”
UMI said she chooses the unusual practice of starting her concerts with meditation because it enhances the experience for herself and her audience.
“I think everything in life can be enjoyed more when the mind is still,” UMI said. “I feel that when I meditate with those who I get to sing for, it helps them connect with my music more because they can become more present.”
Polack said SSE is hoping to host more events like this one, which balance students’ enjoyment with their mental health and physical safety.
“I would love to pack Johnson Field like we normally do every year with 10 to 12 thousand people. I can’t even describe to you the roar of the crowd as our headliner is coming on,” Polack said. “But at the same time, we have to be safe right now. It’s about finding that middle ground, and we’ve been able to do that in some regards.”
Hannah John is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @yesitshannahj
Daniel Ward is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @wordsofward34