When a Hoya names notable alumni, famous politicians, diplomats and lawyers are usually at the top of the list. Not quite so obvious are the names of successful alumni musicians. Despite the fact that Georgetown has produced a slew of successful musical talent that includes Grammy winners and big recording stars, most of these figures remain unknown to us.
Nine years ago, Teddy Zambetti (CAS ’80) set about to change that. Zambetti, a professional musician and in-house composer for Sirius XM in New York City, is one of the founders of the Georgetown Cabaret: a group that coordinates a yearly off-campus student rock concert.
During a 2005 launch party for the Georgetown Entertainment and Media Alliance chapter in New York, alumnus Kristen Thien (GSB ’93) suggested the idea of a cabaret for alumni. Zambetti was intrigued by the idea, but he wanted to take it ever further. After gaining approval from GEMA, he contacted famous musical alumni and brought together a showcase of both alumni and current-student musical and comical talent. The result was the first, sold-out GEMA Rocks Concert in New York City.
Now entering its sixth year — and its fifth year at the on-campus Davis Performing Arts Center — the concert has become a staple of the fall calendar. GEMA Rocks gives Georgetown students the chance to see their fellow Hoyas’ talent. This year’s concert will be held on Sept. 12 and 13. It will feature over six generations of Georgetown talent.
Among the performers are Michael Zakarin (COL ’05, GRD ’13) of the alternative group The Bravery, international dance star Jeza (COL ’09), guitarist Doug Derryberry (SFS ’89) and a selection of other alumni of various ages and musical styles. The concert also features a host of current students alongside the Georgetown Improv Association, which will provide the comedic aspect of the show. This year’s show honors Bill Danoff (FLL ’68), the famous songwriter responsible for “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Afternoon Delight” and other classic hits.
Richa Battista (GSB ’86), the founder and chairman of GEMA, believes that the show is arguably one of the most unique experiences on campus.
“It brings together over six generations of graduating classes, which is remarkable. And equally as important, it is an extensive and rare collaboration among the alumni, administration, faculty and students,” he said.
Zambetti thinks that the coming together of these alumni for such an event is important for those who might feel disenchanted with the university. He recalls the story of Greta Gaines (CAS ’89), a musician, television star and professional snowboarder whose visit to the Hilltop to perform for GEMA was her first visit since she graduated in the 1980s.
Battista and Zambetti both stress that the show is not a talent show, but a professionally produced concert with professional artists. “Students are constantly impressed by the talent around them,” Zambetti said, and Battista explains that students consistently approach him to express how amazed they are by the talent they see on stage.
“To see multi-generations of Hoyas up on stage together — there is an emotional reaction to it that is hard to describe,” Battista said.
After this year’s concert, Zambetti plans to continue his quest to connect alumni and students in the arts to further the quality and importance of Georgetown’s music scene. He hopes to eventually receive a response from one alumnus who has yet to play due to numerous scheduling conflicts. He thinks Bill Clinton would fill out the brass section quite nicely.