Stanford’s Got Talent returns after two years to support Camp Kesem

May 11, 2015, 1:44 a.m.
(JACOB NIERENBURG/The Stanford Daily)
Cardinal Nights hosted Stanford’s Got Talent, which showcased performances such as spoken word, musical acts and stand-up comedy. Donations and proceeds went to Camp Kesem. (JACOB NIERENBERG/The Stanford Daily)

After a two-year absence, Stanford’s Got Talent returned to campus Saturday night with a host of performers and guests such as the Stanford chapter of Camp Kesem, who helped sponsor the event.

“We’re really excited to bring [Stanford’s Got Talent] back this year,” said Trista Shideler, assistant director and community engagement coordinator of Stanford’s Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE). “What we wanted to do was highlight Stanford student talent.”

There was a wide variety of talent at the show, featuring stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry, and several musical acts. Close to one hundred people attended the event, which was free and open to the public. Donations were taken at the door to benefit Camp Kesem, a camp for children of cancer patients.

The top three acts, chosen by the audience, were the three-person rock band Code Name Karel, magician Kyle Eschen ’15, and singer / rapper Connie K. In the end, the night was won by Connie K—real name Conrad Kisunzu ’16—who performed Childish Gambino’s “3005” and The Weeknd’s “Earned It.”

For Kisunzu, Stanford’s Got Talent was a good way to work toward this goal.

According to Kisunzu, he has been singing for as long as he can remember. However, it was only within the last few years that he began taking his singing seriously, joining Everyday People in his freshman year. Despite having a great time singing a cappella alongside others, he mentioned that he wished to put more effort in as a solo artist, joining other singing competitions and even working on a mixtape.

“I’ve been trying to utilize Stanford’s opportunities for performers and artists to get their names out there,” Kisunzu said.  “I’m happy and blessed to be able to participate with people as talented as those at Stanford.”


A Cardinal Night out on the town

According to Shideler, this year was the first time that Cardinal Nights worked together with a student group in order to put on Stanford’s Got Talent.

“This was a really great opportunity to highlight Camp Kesem and what it offers to kids and their families. Working with Camp Kesem was a really easy decision to make, and I’m glad we have them on board,” Shideler said.

The decision to work with Camp Kesem was suggested by Kira Kalkus ’15, one of Cardinal Nights’ senior programmers and a Camp Kesem counselor.

“I feel like it’s really easy to maximize an opportunity like this, where there can be a lot of publicity and awareness brought to both the talent on campus as well as a good cause,” Kalkus said.

Cardinal Nights co-worker Karen Islas ’15 agreed with Kalkus and expressed a similar sentiment.

“Our goal was to create events that a lot of people would be really excited about and willing to bring all their friends to,” Islas said.

This year, Cardinal Nights has hosted several events in accordance with student groups, such as the Hands Tied party with Kardinal Kink and Black Love, the annual Valentine’s Day party thrown by Black Student Union. Kalkus says that Cardinal Nights is actively seeking to work with student groups on campus as a way of increasing both Cardinal Nights’ own profile as well as that of the student group.

“We love to partner with any organization on campus,” Kalkus said. “We want to show them that we’re there to support them and what they want to do.”


Making magic with Camp Kesem

Camp Kesem began as a social action project at Hillel in the spring of 2000. Camp Kesem, which is Hebrew for magic, seeks to help children whose parents currently have or have passed away due to cancer. In the summer of 2001, Camp Kesem became a fully-fledged camp with 35 campers. In the fourteen years since then, Camp Kesem has become a national organization with chapters in 23 college campuses across the country.

Some of the performers at Stanford’s Got Talent were members of Camp Kesem prior to hearing about the event, and decided to join in order to publicize the group. One such student was Alejandra MacDougall ’18, who recited an original spoken word poem.

MacDougall’s father was diagnosed with cancer when she was seven years old; to cope, MacDougall began writing poems, and in the following years she joined her local chapter of Camp Kesem. For MacDougall, performing at Stanford’s Got Talent seemed to be coming full circle.

Another Camp Kesem member, counselor coordinator Zachary Johnson ’16 was also very excited to be a part of the show.

“When Stanford’s Got Talent decided to do the event as a fundraiser for Camp Kesem, I knew I really wanted to try to be involved,” Johnson said.

Johnson spoke of his love for volunteer work. The original song he performed in his act was co-written with a camper at Camp Kesem; according to Johnson, the co-writer from Camp Kesem still carries around the song’s lyrics in their backpack.

“A lot of people realize that cancer can have a really large effect on a person’s life, but sometimes it’s overlooked that kids of people with cancer are also going through something incredibly life-changing,” Johnson said. “I’m eternally grateful that Cardinal Nights is willing to help out Camp Kesem like this.”


Contact Jacob Nierenberg at jhn2017 ‘at’

Jacob Nierenberg '17 is a coterm pursuing an M.A. in Communication on the Journalism track. The program is very busy and often precludes him from writing for The Daily, but he enjoys contributing stories and music reviews when he is able to. Prior to beginning the program, he completed a B.A. in American Studies. His hobbies include spending time with friends and listening to music, and he is always delighted to meet people as enthusiastic about music as he is.

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