Benefit Concert Held in Honor of Alumnus

Photographer: Alexander J. Cohen

By Isaac Cohen

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IN MEMORIAM: Flowers imprinted with “Never Forgotten, Steven” and “Let’s Cure ATRT” were part of the decor during the concert. Photo by: Isaac Cohen

The Sweetwater Music Hall was filled to capacity by members of the Tam community on November 26. The concert that night honored Tam alumnus Steven Rodriguez, who passed away on October 17 due to brain cancer. A line of students, alumni and parents stretched nearly around the block and tickets quickly sold out.

Tam students and adults performed a variety of pieces that ranged from rock and roll to poetry. The auction and ticket sales went to both the Rodriguez family and the organization Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

When seniors Rachael Ferm and Devon Lawrence started to organize the concert, they expected Rodriguez to witness it. “We thought that he would be able to watch a recording of it or see pictures or maybe be there through Skype,” Lawrence said. “But it’s good to know that he knew it was going to happen before he died, because he knew he left a lasting impression.”

Ferm and Lawrence met Rodriguez through Conservatory Theater Ensemble (CTE). “He was a director in my freshman drama class, so I always looked up to him,” Lawrence said.

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PAYING RESPECTS: Tam senior Anthony Lavezzo performed with his guitar during the benefit concert in Rodriguez’s honor. Photo by: Isaac Cohen

“He just really had a unique energy that we would always crave being around. And when he left for college we stayed in touch but not nearly as much as we would have liked to,” Ferm said.

The concert began with a video compilation of moments from Rodriguez’s life put together by his friend Joe Weber, class of ‘12. “It got people laughing and in good spirits and I think it changed the vibe to being more celebratory as opposed to being kind of mourning,” Lawrence said.

Rodriguez’s friend Julia Atkin, class of ‘13, spoke about his death, ushering in the rest of the performances.

Student performances featured tributes by Rodriguez’s friends and members of the Tam community, including Anthony Lavezzo and Tim Hockenberry, father of senior Jack Hockenberry, who performed on the piano and sang. “He is really well known nationally, even internationally, and it was really touching for everyone to see him choke up and not be able to finish the ‘Forever Young’ song he sang by Bob Dylan,” Ferm said.

The local band Marble Party closed the concert in a more festive mood, getting the crowd moving with indie rock.

The concert raised about $22,000 combined from the auction and ticket sales. Rodriguez’s family was not initially planning to attend, but they ultimately decided to. “They were extremely touched and extremely grateful. I think it was really hard for them to be there and see all of the photos and songs,” Ferm said.

Lawrence spoke about the effect of the concert on the community. “I was talking to [drama teacher] Ben Cleveland after the concert and he [said] ‘This is a night that everyone will remember. This is a very memorable event.’ And I think that [the concert] made a big difference in feeling like [Rodriguez’s] death was acknowledged and appreciated and that his life was celebrated by the community.”