Elon University students of all years lounge cross-legged next to each other on bean bag chairs, snacking on fruit, biscotti and homemade cookies. What may seem like it could be an afternoon at Irazu is, in reality, the first Sacred Sounds Coffee House in the McBride Gathering Space.
“This is your room and your experience,” said Carrie Seigler, the night’s emcee and the multifaith and intern coordinator for the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. “We are all here to come together around a mutual love of the arts.”
Though not a house at all, McBride was transformed by the glow of string lights hung from the ceiling and the smell of fresh baked goods. One by one, participants approach the microphone centered at the front of the room and share everything from original songs to favorite poems.
“It’s a way to welcome everyone back to Elon in a more community-oriented way,” said Emily DeMaioNewton, a junior and intern at the Truitt Center. “It’s also a way to help first years get to know people in the community in a more relaxed setting.”
DeMaioNewton took to the stage as well, performing the poem, “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out” by Richard Siken. She commented on how she sees this night as an important opportunity to connect with people from a wide variety of diverse beliefs.
“It really lets people get to know each other in a more intimate fashion,” DeMaioNewton said. “And allows them to meet people outside their own faith.”
For junior singer and songwriter Lea McNamara, the event provided an opportunity to connect with the attendees of the Coffee House on a personal level.
“I usually write all my music on the piano or guitar, but this time I didn’t touch either,” McNamara said to the audience. “I actually just learned how to play this song this morning."
McNamara is a member of Twisted Measure, the oldest a cappella group on Elon's campus. However, tonight she took the stage without the other members by her side. The Coffee House was the first opportunity for her to perform her new music live and share it with the Elon community.
While McNamara, who goes by "LEA" for her solo career, is no stranger to performing in front of crowds, she said supportive events like Sacred Sounds make it easier to perform without the help of Twisted Measure behind her.
“It’s a very vulnerable experience when you’re by yourself,” McNamara said. “You’re giving yourself and your whole experience up to the people watching you.”
Throughout the event, Oak House gift cards and Truitt Center tee-shirts were raffled off, but attendees seemed to agree that the most rewarding part of the experience was the connections with the performances and each other.