A Boogie wit da Hoodie, the rap- per/singer/songwriter behind hits “Look Back at it” and “Drowning,” headlined Deerfield’s 2022 Winter Concert on Saturday, February 19th. The news was announced during Wednesday’s School Meeting on February 9th in a creative skit performed by Head of School John Austin and Student Body President Hugo Nutting ’22. Hinting at an upcoming hoodie extravaganza at the Hitchcock House, the two announced that students would even be able to “boogie wit da hoodie” on Saturday. Following the announcement, students in the Hess Auditorium promptly erupted into roaring cheers.
While the student body fervently anticipated his arrival, A Boogie expressed his own excitement about coming to campus in an interview with The Scroll. “I’m really excited because I didn’t perform a show in a little while right now,” A Boogie said. Because this was his first perfor- mance in two months, he said, “I’m just worried about my energy tonight. My stamina, I’m gonna be having a battle that’s all.”
In regards to performing for a crowd of around 600 at Deerfield as opposed to a more typical arena containing thousands of fans, A Boogie appreciates a few aspects of the former. He expressed, “It’s more intimate with smaller crowds which I like to perform certain songs that I don’t get to perform all the time when I’m in front of a million people. Like “R.O.D.,” like one of those songs.”
A Boogie also enjoys the dynamic he can have with a smaller audience. He said, “I get to perform in a more eye-to-eye way with the fans right in front of me just singing along every word. I just I love it.”
A Boogie believes that the music a person listens to impacts what they do in life, or how they “move”. Specifically, he said, “I listened to Future and everything when I was younger and I started moving in a bad way. It was a good way too, but the bad ways, I wish I could’ve cut out and just stuck to those 100% positive effects. Even though all of us rappers talk about all of this negative stuff, I would just have to tell people to listen to the good side, don’t just hear all the bad stuff we say… that’s not what we want.”
Deerfield began hosting an annual Winter Concert in 2017. According to Coordinator of Student Activities Brian Barbato, Student Planning Commit- tee (SPC) Representative Claire Koeppel ’18 was determined to invite a DJ group to come to campus. After calling a few different agencies, she and Mr. Barbato ended up connecting with Phil Quist of the Creative Arts Agency (CAA). Quist also helped Deerfield book Lost Kings, a DJ duo, as the school’s very first professional concert. Since then, Mr. Barbato said Quist has been “amazing” in helping book Prince Fox in 2018 and The Him in 2019, both DJs as well. In 2020, CAA helped Deerfield connect with Maggie Lin- demann, the first vocalist to ever perform at a Deerfield concert.
“The wintertime at any private school, college included, is a challenging time. And our job is to keep people engaged and excited,” Mr. Barbato said. “[The annual concert] is a big part of that.” He continued, “The purpose of this is to let everybody know you all work really hard. So this is to kind of support what you all are doing and let you know that we do care.”
The process of choosing an artist involves the senior SPC representatives and usually begins in August. However, Mr. Barbato said, “This year, because of the unknowns of COVID and not knowing if we were gonna be able to pull it off this winter or spring, we had this as something that we wanted to do, but it was kind of sitting there on hold.” Because of this uncertainty, this year’s planning process was pushed back a few months. According to SPC Representative Siobhan Kelley ’22, though “[the SPC] has been talking about similar artists for a long time,” they “didn’t get the list [of potential artists] until about a month [before the concert was announced].” Kelley explained that all of the SPC members, especially the seniors, were “very actively” trying to get A Boogie after receiving the list and beginning to discuss priorities.
Despite the strong student support, booking an artist as popular as A Boogie was a serious commitment for the school, as Kelley said, “[A Boogie] was actually kind of shot down at first but the senior SPC Representatives, especially Hugo, wanted it so bad that we made meetings and came in with agendas and reasons why it was important.” Interim Assistant Dean of Students Drew Philie commented, “We needed to really have some deep conversations, but there was definitely some umph behind [A Boogie].”
Assistant Head for Student Life Amie Creagh said, “I think [Nutting and SPC Representative Matthew Fierro ‘22] have made a pret-ty compelling argument for why this is a good year to have maybe a next-level person come in just because of what students on campus have been through.” Ms. Creagh said about the Class of 2022, “They saw Deerfield pre-COVID and then they hopefully will be seeing Deerfield post-COVID. They are feeling that with being in that unique position, there’s a fair amount of responsibility in carrying on with some of what Deerfield culture is supposed to look like and what the traditions are. That resonated with me.” Similarly, Mr. Barbato felt the concert is a way for the school to thank students for “valuing each other and making small sacrifices” with COVID regulations.
An additional student argument for booking A Boogie was how different his performance would be compared to those in the past. Mr. Barbato said, “We’ve had the DJs, which were great, but that’s one style of music. I’ve heard our students talk about how they want variety, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we specifically went after A Boogie.” Kelley agreed, saying, “We’ve had artists come in the past that play similar music to what we have at dances. So I think this is going to be really exciting because it’s different from what we normally do.”
Mr. Barbato also acknowledged that the concert will most likely help with yield during the upcoming admissions cycle. He said, “You’re splitting hairs with so many of these schools,” but “[the concert] speaks to Deerfield being not just a place that’s great to say you went to, but it being a great place to be.” He continued, “Hopefully the students who are considering Deerfield recognize that we are the type of school who’s going to value your mental health and value your interests and make sure that we are constantly pushing that envelope.” Though a few peer schools have reached out to Mr. Barbato about the process of organizing a concert since hearing the news about A Boogie’s performance, Deerfield is still the only boarding school to hold annual concerts.
Based on some student reactions, the concert seems to have been successful in raising campus morale. Grace Caligiuri ’22 appreciated “how much more personal [the performance] felt than being at a regular concert because we were in such close proximity to [A Boogie].” Though she was unsure how A Boogie would feel about performing at a high school when he is used to larger venues, Caligiuri said, “He seemed to be enjoying himself and having fun, which got the crowd really excited.”
At times, Chris Gergis ’22 felt students were being aggressive when he and his friends were being shoved into the metal barricade in front of the stage. Overall, however, he enjoyed that “[A Boogie] was genuinely a very charismatic singer.” He continued, “I loved how he was interacting with the crowd.”
Despite some students’ positive reviews, others felt less satisfied with their concert experiences, such as Jenine Hazlewood ’22, who expressed her own discontent in a series of Instagram story posts. In the posts, Hazlewood said she noticed a number of non- black students singing the n-word and throwing gang signs during the performance. In all, she shared, “It makes me sad to see that we are still trapped in the cycle of using and abusing blackness to perpetuate white privilege.”
Especially because Hazelwood feels many black students are the same people “who made his career, who made him famous, who streamed his music from his very first single” and “who were used as a major selling point”, she was disappointed most of them “did not get the opportunity to meet him or enjoy his concert in the same way that white students did.”
Though students’ experiences at the concert differed, bringing A Boogie to campus was a significant feat that both students and administrators credited each other for. Ms. Creagh said, “The credit is due to persistent students and a Head of School that puts students first.” Mr. Philie brought attention to Production Services Coordinator John Laprade, who was “huge in orchestrating all of this and working with [A Boogie’s] tech team.” Kelley highlighted the work that Nutting put in, saying “Hugo did a lot. He wrote up a statement about why it was a priority and why we felt he needed to come.” She also emphasized, “Mr. Barbato puts in a lot of effort and really cares so I think he’s just another person to give a shoutout to.”
Lastly, Mr. Barbato made sure to acknowledge the efforts necessary in the logistics of the concert: “I can’t say enough about the people that you see walking around this place every day. In our dining hall, in our physical plant, in our security team. They care so much about our students that they don’t flinch in knowing this is a monumental task to take on.” He concluded, “It’s awe- inspiring to know that we work with such talented people who are giving up their time and their effort.”