Local talent shines bright at Chico Unplugged


Whitney Hayes, and Weston Andrews sing some heartfelt christian songs. Photo credit: Sean Martens

It was standing room only Thursday night at Madison Bear Garden, where a vibrant crowd consumed the cozy upstairs lounge to catch a glimpse of local talent featured in Chico Unplugged.

The singer-songwriter showcase began five years ago when Chico State’s SOTA Productions sought to further the connection between the university and the local music scene. The coveted annual event has transcended even its own expectations, blossoming into a celebration of the unique artistry within Chico’s music community.

All local musicians were welcome to take part in the series of three preliminary rounds spanning over a three-week period. It’s within these three rounds that acts first introduce two original songs to the audience as well as a panel of independent judges. At the end of the night, two winners are crowned, earning serious bragging rights as well as one more performance in the coveted Winners’ Showcase.

Whitney Hayes and Weston Andrews sing some heartfelt christian songs. Photo credit: Sean Martens


Christian vocalist and Chico native, Whitney Hayes, took home one of the winning spots at the third and final preliminary round of this year’s contest. Hayes, a sophomore at Chico State studying interior architectural design, left it to her stunning vocals accompanied by Weston Andrews on guitar to entrance the energetic crowd.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to hear all of the talent and sharing the music that I’ve written,” said a grateful Hayes on the forthcoming Winners’ Showcase.

As a part of the additional performance, the designated winners will be competing for a chance to record two songs with the Chico State Mobile Recording Unit in their state of the art recording studio.

David Vert plays some harmonica. Photo credit: Sean Martens


SOTA Productions’ Mario Sako credits this opportunity as one of the events more special attributes.

“It is really quite exciting to see the artists develop over a short period of time,” Sako confessed. “Chico Unplugged provides an excellent bonding and networking opportunity for both students and the local music community.”

The sky’s the limit for participating artists, many of whom have gone on to headline venues across the globe. Combining both professional development and newly forged relationships, former contestants have seen their music flourish in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Texas and across the pond in Stockholm, Sweden.

August Packard, a transfer student from New Mexico, sings over some nicely composed acoustics. Photo credit: Sean Martens


Notably, the investments of the team of Chico State students tasked with the organization and production of the event contributed to its exclusive vitality.

“We want to keep music and the creators of music alive,” Sako said, summarizing the driving force behind the success of Chico Unplugged. “This is one way we can help make the world a better place.”

A total of six acts are set to charm those in attendance once more in the Winners’ Showcase to be held at Madison Bear Garden on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.


Rylee Pedotti can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.