Sunset Coffeehouse Amasses Original Student Compositions and Jazz Improvisations

Sunset Cafe provided students with a relaxed environment where they could let their creativity flow.

Last Sunday afternoon, Timken Hall transformed into a haven of musical creativity during the annual Sunset Coffeehouse, also named the Sunset Café and Lounge. Holly Barnes, Instructor in Music, organized this gathering after her songwriting workshop, such that students may showcase their original compositions. Standing out for its unique blend of vocal solos, spontaneous jazz improvisations, and warm, inclusive atmosphere, the event left a lasting impression on attendees. Jess Jeon ’27 described her overall observations.

“[The mood was] super ambient. Mrs. Barnes and Mr. [William] Silvers, [Clift Music Librarian], did a really good job setting up the place. There’s a bunch of lights and a bunch of vinyls, which was really cool and added to the whole vibe. I really enjoy[ed] this event because everyone did a super great job and although [I didn’t know] most of the songs… it was really nice to hear a lot of people’s original compositions,” said Jeon.

Singer-songwriter Emily Wu ’25 performed two solo original songs at the Coffeehouse. She emphasized the importance of having an event dedicated to original artists as it served student songwriters with a rare opportunity to meet like-minded peers. She also thought her experience was “nostalgic” because the songs she performed were written years ago. She elaborated on her favorite moment from the event.

“I [enjoyed hearing] others perform and [watching] the audience interactions while I was performing. What’s really unique about audience interactions here, [especially] in small venues, is that there’s a lot of dialogue. It feels like you’re talking to a crowd,” said Wu.

Another member of the audience, Evie Lagrandeur ’26 claimed that the atmosphere in Timken Hall was “serene” and “content.” She was met by a pleasant surprise as she walked in the venue, commenting on a performance that struck her the most. 

“I really liked ‘[(You Make me Feel Like) A] Natural Woman’ by Lauren [Alaina] I thought it was really nice. Aretha Franklin is a really hard artist to cover because she has such a soul[ful] voice. But Lauren really did her justice in her rendition,” said Lagrandeur. 

Throughout the Coffeehouse, performers connected emotionally to the music they played. The Repercussions, an on-campus jazz ensemble, turned towards multiple classics and improvised on top of the melody. Their performance featured “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra and “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz. Saxophonist Brandon Fu ’25 emphasized the spontaneous nature of the performance.

“I think, overall, [our group’s performance was] very solid. I really liked the interplay we were able to achieve and this is a great step in our growth towards the end of the year. Jacob [Kaiser ’24] and I had a little bit of fun during the solo section of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. We just started goofing around. And that’s the beauty of jazz… I like to think that [jazz musicians] thrive in that deep and dark realm of uncertainty. [In the future, I hope to convey a sense of] playfulness, energy… and the spirit of spontaneity [to the audience],” said Fu.