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It’s no secret that UC Irvine is a well-known university: in just the past few years, we’ve received accolades and rankings that have put our campus on the map. The Times Higher Education named UCI as the top American university less than fifty years old, and U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s best public universities put us up at number nine. So, what exactly are we known for?

Most people will say our strengths lie in the academic — our stellar Henry Samueli School of Engineering, or the prestigious Paul Merage School of Business. Still others will cite our research endeavors, the famous unboiling of the egg and our numerous Nobel Prize winners.

But what about those who find their calling outside of the research labs and lecture halls, the students who instead pursue their passions in front of an audience? There is a robust artistic community on our campus, dancers and musicians and writers and everything in between, all looking for their own slice of recognition, too. There’s a space for them, and it takes its form in UCI’s biggest talent competition, Soulstice.

Soulstice is a student-run talent competition, born out of the originators’ desire for an event that showcases all the different kinds of talent that UCI has to offer. Soulstice provides an opportunity for UCI’s most talented to share their passion (and their Soul) with a spirited audience of Anteaters and friends, an audience that reached over 3000 people last year! With diverse categories of Solo/Duet, A Capella, Band, Fusion and Dance, Soulstice is set to be a night of engaging and incomparable talent.

With the show returning for its fifth year on February 18th, we want to take some time each week to highlight talent acts from each category, and spend some time exploring their preparation process for the big show. This week, we talked to Chungmin Winchip, project leader for Good Company, a group competing in the Band category.

The band, made up of Winchip on synth, Nancy Tanaka on piano, Dylan Romaine on bass and Imon Santos on vocals, chose a name with their own unique dynamic in mind.

“It was always apparent that, as a collective, we were always in good company,” said Winchip. “Upon verbally saying this, we decided that ‘Good Company’ was going to be the name of our act.”

The group of “wonderfully talented friends” has a funky and eclectic vibe onstage; Winchip describes his own influences as stemming from genres like funk, R&B, jazz and hip-hop. Theses all come through in their performance — Romano slapping on his upright bass, Tanaka freestyling masterfully on the piano, Winchip laying down a charismatic beat and Santos crooning over it all, scatting and rapping in his warm and confident tone. It all comes off as effortlessly cool, like your nerdy band friends all grown up.

Good Company are no newbies to Soulstice; both Romano and Santos have performed in past Soulstices, and Winchip served as a talent director on the Soulstice committee for two years. This intimate connection to Soulstice on the planning side has given him some incredible insight when preparing his talent act for this year’s competition.

“What it (comes) down to (is) creating something that the audience will want to see and enjoy hearing. A big part of that is doing something that they haven’t seen or heard before, so that they’re in their seats thinking, ‘Wait…What? How?’” said Winchip. “(Where they) just really feeling where we’re coming from as artists and enjoy the experience in its entirety. The relationship between performance and audience is important.”

With the show a little over a month away, every single talent act is in the finishing stages of finalizing the details of their acts. In his group’s potentially stressful last few weeks of rehearsal and preparation, Winchip focuses on the parts of Soulstice he’s most looking forward to.

“I am ecstatic to be playing for the show that taught me so much (…) and showed me what it’s like to deal with a legit show that I believe has the potential to become one of the greatest things UCI has to offer,” said Winchip. “But what I’m most excited for is playing on a big stage with some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever known, and giving a performance I hope the audience will never forget.”

Good Company’s funky vibes will be up against the mellow vibes of Greens and Greys, the poppy Orange Casual and the synth stylings of Skydive, all competing in the Band category.

Stay tuned for more sneak-peeks at some of the amazing acts being featured at UCI’s biggest talent competition: Soulstice, coming to the Bren Events Center on Thursday, February 18th.

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