Student artists flourish in spite of pandemic challenges

Wake Forest’s talent shows out in the fantastic forms of music and writing


Connor McNeely, Opinion Editor

Jaylen Spears, Roxie Ray, Mark Sucoloski and Andy Woehr contributed to the writing of this article 

On Dec. 21, 2019, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, China. From that point onwards, there has been a stretch of time in which we as students have experienced a profound loss. Our social isolation had led to the disappearance of new friends and the possibilities of new lives we might have created for ourselves. We have each had to let go of the part of life that truly encompassed what it meant to live freely.

But in the ashes of that sacrifice, ample time for reflection arose. The students of Wake Forest are extremely talented; everyone knows this. Yet some of them didn’t even know it themselves. Throughout extensive periods of quarantine and holiday breaks away from our home in Winston Salem, many experienced and inexperienced artists set to work on their various crafts, using talent to both create and discover.

One of the most exciting developments has been the emergence of a piquant student band with an even spicier name: Sex on the Quad

Formed by sophomores Roxie Ray and Jaylen Spears, this musical duo grew amidst the turmoil of last spring’s lockdown. With the aid of nightly Zoom calls and drives to Bucksnort Tennessee — the middle ground between the band members’ residences in Maryville and Knoxville — Sex on the Quad became a story of burgeoning success via the dynamic combination of two gifted musicians. 

Today, the band has grown to include seven new members: Max Shekman (vocals), Jessy Ren (keyboard), Virginia Wooten (guitar), Rashad Raad (saxophone), Matt Breslin (triangle), Lydia Evans (otamatone) and Gabe Edelstein (harmonica). Together this unique musical community has braved the turbulent times of the pandemic and put on a dozen socially distanced gigs in the Wake Forest community, playing certified classics like: “Pit Chicken”, “Sonetta’s Sonnet”, “Natty O” (outro), “Divisional Doo-Wop” and “Deacon Dolla-dolla Bills.” 

If you see any of the Sex on the Quad members, don’t be shy, reach out! They’re cooking up some more hits just for you!

Increased alone time has also led to deep and profound meditation. Sophomore Andy Woehr has harnessed this opportunity in order to cultivate personal expression. By means of sharp, introspective poetic verse — Andy has managed to use writing to connect with others in a way that fulfills our shared humanity. His poems both embody and give depth to our school motto, Pro Humanitate. 

“[My work] addresses the tendency that I and many others have to be laser-focused on getting to the top, reaching the next level and obsessing over faux meritocratic achievements,” Woehr said of his new poem, “The Rising.”

Andy hopes to publish a more cohesive body of work in the future, but until then you can check out Mosaic of Shattered Minds, his first collection of poetry, on Amazon.

Sex on the Quad isn’t the only musical talent afoot on the campus of Wake Forest. Junior Mark Sucoloski has been taking advantage of the prolonged isolation of the pandemic by using the time to finish his debut album. With the help of world-renowned Nashville producers, Andrew Vendelis and Simon Reid, Mark has written and produced an album that cuts right to the heart, dedicated to the people who have suffered and lost during this incredibly challenging time. 

Sucoloski said of his new album, “My hope is that this music can make life just a little bit easier for people all over the world.” By drawing on a vast array of discographies, such as the Zac Brown Band, the Eagles, Mitchell Tenpenny, Maroon 5, Luke Combs and Train, Sucoloski aims to disprove the idea of musical division. 

“Every move I made on this record has its own unique purpose and is meant to highlight varying different kinds of music,” Sucolowksi said. “If you are someone who enjoys a variety of music, I promise this album is for you.”

 For such an experienced and talented young artist who has opened for country music superstars like Bich & Rich, and CMA Fest artist Matt Dylan, this is sure to be a hit record and something that you don’t want to miss out on.

COVID-19 has caused an irreparable amount of damage to the most important aspect of human life: time. As individuals, we have all been barred, in some way or another, from what we consider to be the purposes of our lives. But the vital thing to remember is that there are ways in which we can get it back. There are ways that we can use what we consider “wasted” time to achieve meaning and purpose. 

These students, these artists, have created — and have thereby found themselves in their processes of creation. We should all strive to unlock our artistic potential. We might end up making a few friends along the way.