When one hears the phrase "electric violin," any number of images come to mind. Unless you're hopelessly obsessed, Taylor Swift probably isn't one of them. The same goes for dark wash baggy jeans. And certainly not a Chevy Camaro. Yet these were the songs, the duds and the wheels of the headline performer at this week's Tuesday Night Live.
On MySpace, he called himself Bulgarian Papi. Others remember him as a quarterfinalist on America's Got Talent. But most know him simply as Svet.
"I love to manipulate sounds," he told the crowd at Friends Hall, numbering about 45 students at its 9:15 p.m. start. Born in Bulgaria in 1986, Svet began dabbling with the violin at age 3. He said he was classically trained on a 120-year-old violin before moving to an electric version of the instrument, which is amplified like an electric guitar.
"We found Svet at a National Association for Campus Activities conference last fall in Lancaster, Pa.," College Programming Board member Amanda Pontone said. "We go to these conferences to find talent and activities to bring to Ramapo. My main focus is to find interesting performers for the TNL series. Svet was a big hit when he showcased there and I knew people would enjoy his performance here."
His portfolio includes the best of pop, R&B and hip-hop, as well as more traditional sounds. Svet presently tours across the country, performing as the opening act for the likes of Usher. On Tuesday, he had just made a 22-hour road trip from a gig in Miami.
"It was a little warmer down there," he said. "When I got to New Jersey I was still in my shorts. Instant goose bumps, everywhere."
The Tuesday Night lineup certainly turned up the heat. Opening for Svet was 4GotteN SuitCase, a student a cappella group at Ramapo that revives the doo-wop harmonies of the 1950s with a modern twist. 4Gotten Suitcase drew fervent applause for their takes on "Jessie's Girl" and "Runaround Sue."
Svet followed with a sweeping, Celtic-sounding piece that quickly went up-tempo, backed by a choral track and heavy bass beat from his DJ. It was only a matter of minutes before Svet had the audience clapping enthusiastically from their seats.
The claps turned to whoops and screams as he moved from Ne-Yo's "Let Me Love You" to Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" all the way back to the 80s with a rousing rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
"I was really skeptical at first, the idea [of a hip-hop violinist] seemed bizarre," sophomore Mikey Dunn said. "But I walked in and was bouncing in my seat."
Svet included a few original pieces as well, showing off the beatboxing and singing skills that round out his musical talent. One song, meant to replicate the sounds of old video games, got laughs from the 90s kids in the crowd. And the night wouldn't have been complete without Svet's final number: "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Swift.
Svet also discussed his first audition for "America's Got Talent" and his surprising choice to stay in college after being accepted to the show the first time.
"When I was a senior in college, I went to audition for ["America's Got Talent"], I waited in line for 12 hours. I went in front of the producers and they only pick nine people out of 3,000, and I was one of the nine," Svet said.After being chosen, he found out that the audition was on the same day as an economics exam and chose the exam over the audition. He returned to audition in St. Louis and made it through to Vegas in season seven.
The response following the show was widely positive.
"I've never heard an electric violin," said freshman Brianna Kropp outside Friends Hall. "I thought it was pretty cool."
Gal Ghivoni, also a freshman at Ramapo, mirrored her sentiments.
"I thought it was really awesome how he integrated a lot of different types of music into one show," she said. "I'm a big fan of classical music and violin so I thought it was really cool."
Students were equally impressed with the Ramapo talent in the opening act.
"They were really good," raved freshman Katelyn Reilly. "It's amazing how they can do that with their voices."
Attendees seemed to be in agreement that, while Tuesday Night Live is traditionally a lightly-attended affair on campus, it delivers worthwhile entertainment.
"Give it a shot, it's a lot of fun," Kropp said. "If you go with your friends, you'll see a performance that you've never seen before."
TNL is hosted by CPB, with weeks alternating between student open mic nights and outside performers.
"Students can expect more comedians for the rest of the semester," Pontone said. "We booked all the artists for next semester and we tried to make it a variety of performers, such as magicians and hypnotists."
Arts and Entertainment Editor Danielle Reed contributed to the information in this article.