NYU Shanghai Students and Alumni Unite in a Virtual Choir

We are not strangers screenshot
Feb 17 2020

As a tribute to the people of Wuhan and communities affected by the coronavirus, and as a message of unity for the NYU Shanghai community who now find themselves spread across the world due to the coronavirus epidemic, NYU Shanghai students and alumni today released a virtual choir rendition of “We are Not Strangers” a song familiar to generations of NYU students.

About 38 students from six NYU Shanghai classes – from the first-ever class to graduate in 2017 to the sophomore class of 2022 - recorded themselves singing the song from wherever they were located, from outside the NYU Shanghai campus to a dorm room in New York to a living room in Singapore. Dean of Students David Pe and Meizhi Ng ‘17 then worked with an editor to splice the video and voices together to form a virtual choir. Shane Shen of Ebay Productions in Shanghai, volunteered his time to assemble the video.

“We Are Not Strangers” is the theme song of the Reality Show, a musical show performed every fall on NYU’s three campuses to help first year students navigate the various challenges of university life, particularly at NYU. The cast consists of sophomores who have spent the summer after freshman year writing and rehearsing the show. “We see the same moon/Feel the same sun/And when we wake up/We’ll recognize/We are not strangers,” the cast sings at the end of every show.  

NYU Shanghai’s Reality Show alumni were enthusiastic about reuniting virtually to record the song. "When word of the outbreak first spread, it was incredibly isolating to find the world reacting with fear before compassion for the people of Wuhan and of China,” said Roxanne Roman ’17, who recorded her video in Washington, D.C. “Coming together in “We Are Not Strangers” with all the generations of the Reality Show casts was an emotional reminder of how important it is to face such hardships with grace and love.”

Students said they drew strength and inspiration from singing and reacquainting themselves with the lyrics of the song. “This disaster is another tough test of our humanity, it also reminds us again of the importance of love and care, to converse and listen, to respect and reflect, and most importantly right now, to not lose faith and carry on,” said Casillas Sun ’17 who sent in his recording from Atlanta, Georgia.

“I wish people can really get a message of hope and care in this new version of “We Are Not Strangers,” said Miki Bin ’19 who sent her contribution from Seattle, Washington. “Despite the distance, we are all human. Empathy isolates the political identities we have, and reconnects us as human beings.”

“This song has become an anthem for me ever since I first sang it, but more so now,” said Gurkriti Singh ’20, who recorded her track from Chandigarh, India. “We are all confused, disturbed, worried for our futures (especially seniors), but are reminded that our fellow students once wrote lyrics that told us to stay strong, alive, and most importantly, accepting of change. It's the strength of our belief that it will all turn out okay even if we don't know how that keeps us going, together. For me, that defines the steel-like resilience of our community.”

Tian Tian Wedgewood Young ’20 sang standing under the NYU Shanghai logo on Century Avenue. “Being back here in Shanghai during the coronavirus has been quite lonely. Despite the fact that millions of people are going through this at the same time, it’s been difficult to come together, for obvious reasons,” Young said. “But being able to sit outside our campus building and sing this song gave me a huge sense of relief. I’m so glad we did this, and I’m also very appreciative of how many members of our alumni took part -- we are very lucky to have each other.”

Some students said they felt awkward singing the song alone, since We Are Not Strangers was always meant to be sung as a choral piece. “It felt unfamiliar singing this song without my fellow cast members. My voice started to shake,” said Cindy Luo ’21 who recorded her track in New York City. “This song was never intended to be a solo…and some of our melodies are imperfect.  But together we’ve created something special -- a needed message of encouragement for our community and the people of Wuhan.”