Titans of all ages flocked to the Intramural Field Saturday evening to enjoy hours of entertainment at Cal State Fullerton’s annual Concert Under the Stars. In addition to providing live music, the event also commemorated the university’s 60th anniversary with a Diamond Jubilee theme.
As the sun began to set, donors, alumni and faculty filed to their assigned tables on the front half of the field as the first-come, first-served lawn seating quickly filled up.
Administrative assistant for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Celia Reynolds and her daughter Teresa Reynolds, a senior analytics major, arrived over two hours before the show began to make sure they could get front row spots on the lawn.
“I’ve been coming every year since (2005),” said Celia Reynolds. “I like the fireworks. I like the music.”
Celia and Teresa Reynolds were in for a treat when professor of music Bill Cunliffe brought out the College of the Arts Jazz Ensemble to prepare the audience before the main program began.
As Cunliffe energetically conducted them, the ensemble brought to life a well-paced set consisting of punchy, big-band style tunes accompanied by slower, more mellow ballads.
The field was abuzz with conversation and laughter during the ensemble’s pre-show set. With students putting their talent on display for hundreds to see and a field full of families, alumni and students enjoying one another’s company, it didn’t seem to matter that there weren’t many stars in the sky.
CSUF alumnus and president and executive director of the Black Chamber of Orange County Bobby McDonald has watched Concert Under the Stars since he arrived as a student at CSUF. McDonald has watched the show grow as more students have graduated and returned to the event.
“I’ve been here since 1970 and I’ve watched different artists like Jubilant Sykes and Rod Gilfry, come here, they are a part of the alumni and they come back and bring that talent back, and that’s so awesome,” McDonald said.
McDonald wasn’t alone in his enjoyment of seeing community members return. Third-year ecology major James White volunteers every year as part of the President’s Scholars and is always happy to see familiar faces.
“I remember two volunteers from last year were here this time in the crowd. They’re alumni now too,” White said. “It’s not just alumni on the stage. They’re all over the place.”
With a full lawn and the jazz ensemble off the stage, the lights dimmed and the show began with two energetic opening numbers before alumni Lauren Stevens and Ryan Nearhoff took the stage to tell the story about how their relationship came to be at CSUF, dedicating their songs to “the everlasting relationships formed at Cal State Fullerton.”
Titan pride continued to shine as alumna Erin McNally took the stage with Tuffy and company for a fun (albeit cheesy), fully-choreographed number expressing love for their favorite mascot with chants of “Oh Tuffy, you’re so fine. You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Tuffy.”
The energy on stage flowed into the audience when attendees danced in front of the stage as the show went on.
Those dancing were given an oddly timed breather amid the music when, in what felt like a non sequitur, alumnus Tim Alexander was met with applause as he lauded CSUF for its support of undocumented students and pledged $500 toward a scholarship to help students affected by the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Unfazed by the brief, but seemingly welcome interruption, the energized audience members continued to dance as the show jumped into its rapid-fire medley of music through the decades.
Both in front of the stage and back on the lawn, the audience showed their love for the performers and their talent by dancing, singing along and cheering whenever a recognizable song came on.
CSUF Financial Aid employee Irene Lim danced along for the entirety of the show, singing when she could.
“When they started playing all that disco, it was the best,” Lim said.
Performing nearly 50 songs almost nonstop, the students and alumni of the College of the Arts showcased not only their talent as musicians and vocalists, but their endurance as performers and entertainers as well.
Roughly an hour and a half later, CSUF President Mildred García joined the students and alumni on stage for her closing remarks and to take part in the final number “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” before dancing her way off stage.
“It was really nice to see our president being able to be part of the crowd and entertain all of us and be part of everything,” Lim said.
As the festivities came to a close, the sky exploded with a grandiose fireworks display. Onlookers throughout the audience gazed as the whole north side of campus lit up as one final hurrah for the night.
After the fireworks dissipated, audience members made their way home through the wafting smell of fireworks, and an air of friendliness accompanied conversations and laughter between the Titan community.
“We’re not stoic, we’re not stuffy,” McDonald said. “Tuffy yeah, but not stuffy.”