Josh Groban brings audience to tears
Josh Groban, the Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and actor, mesmerized audience members by performing many of his classic numbers in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Concert Hall on Saturday.
This was part of the 20th anniversary of President Shirley Ann Jackson’s leadership at Rensselaer and also included the Coast to Coast East: Rensselaer Scholarship Dinner earlier in the evening.
Jackson first welcomed everyone and thanked Groban and Priem, then presented a short film directed by Groban’s brother, Chris. The film showcased Jackson’s dedication to “the science in art,” “the art in science,” and art education at RPI, as well as Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation, with which RPI has formed a new tie.
After the film, Groban entered the stage in a light blue tuxedo and sang this first song of his set, “Pure Imagination.” The intimate setting combined with Groban’s smooth voice truly swept audience members through a world of pure imagination. His powerful stage presence completely mesmerized students and even moved many to tears. Groban’s heartwarming song, “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up),” set the tone for the special evening.
In between songs, Groban shared the meaning behind his songs, stories from his past, and information about his Find Your Light Foundation. After one song, Groban paused to acknowledge his privilege, having the opportunity to experience a variety of art forms as a child and attending a public arts school in Los Angeles, California. He pointed to the fact that not everyone has the same opportunities as him. In fact, minorities currently have access to half as many opportunities as non-minorities to arts education. Studies demonstrate that students who are provided with an arts education are three times as likely to graduate college.
He aims to provide minorities and minority students with arts opportunities similar to those he had growing up through his Find Your Light Foundation. In his song, “Granted,” Groban sang, “If you have a dream, go chase it, If you feel hope, don't waste it, If you find love, embrace it … The story’s yours, go write it”—a fitting anthem for his foundation.
After one of his songs, Groban shared his nervousness for his first performance in middle school. He joked about his undeveloped voice at the time and his exhilaration when his mom and even a classmate, who had previously made fun of him, loved his singing. On a more serious note, Groban opened up about his own experience with mental illness and shared his understanding that taking the first step—asking for help—can be the most difficult step in recovery. His message of hope for battling mental illness was felt powerfully through his song “River.” Through this song, he shared the hopeful message that “we grow stronger when we break.”
When Groban sang arguably his most well known song, “You Raise Me Up,” he invited audience members to sing along with him. The violins in the orchestra layered with the harmonies of talented Rensselaer singers left audience members speechless. Even though Groban had asked the audience to sing along, most were awestruck, silent, and focused solely on his voice. Groban complimented the impressive acoustics of the auditorium and cast his microphone aside for his performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Despite singing the song with no mic, he could be heard throughout the auditorium.
Overall, the evening was a special treat for all who attended, and Groban’s electrifying performance was unforgettable.