Tiger Zhang (W ‘20) looks back on his time at Penn fondly, recounting memories of his favorite activities with his favorite people. He graduated from Penn this past May with concentrations in Finance and Accounting, and is looking forward to going into investment banking in the future. When talking about his Penn experience, however, he highlights the impact his extracurricular activities have had on his college years.
Tiger was involved in a number of activities, including some pertinent to his academic interests, such as his role as portfolio manager for the Wharton Investment Trading Group, business manager for the Osiris Senior Society, and member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
One of his most significant involvements, however, has been singing with the Pennchants, Penn's premier vocally–male a cappella group. He joined during his first year, and ultimately became president of the 15–member club.
Tiger describes his role of president as mainly “putting out fires,” although it includes a number of responsibilities—from coordinating rehearsals and tours to setting up meetings with sponsors (he was even able to establish a corporate sponsorship of the Pennchants uniform).
Tiger has a hard time choosing his favorite memory of his four years with the Pennchants, mostly because so many come to mind. He mentions he has had amazing experiences, and recalls trips the Pennchants had together, visiting different schools to sing with their a cappella groups.
“We all go—drive there or take a train there, something like that, you know, very college–fashion type of style—and kind of hang out with the other group and sing with them. It’s almost always just a guaranteed really, really fun time,” he says.
He mentions that this time last year was a significant moment for the Pennchants: they signed their corporate sponsorship, released their first music video, and celebrated their 30–year anniversary. To celebrate, Pennchants threw a commemorative concert and had the opportunity to spend time with alumni of different generations.
“We had our founders come back; we had so many different alumni from across the world and so many different generations of Pennchants come back and all go on stage and sing that same alumni song that’s been passed from generation to generation. That was just the defining moment of, ‘Yes, that was all worth it, this was amazing,'” Tiger says.
Even though it was a challenging time due to the number of Pennchants' ongoing projects, the fun experiences and unity within the members made it all worth it. For their music video, the Pennchants had the opportunity to work with Kevin Chiu, a producer who has worked with other a cappella groups at Penn. Tiger mentions that it was difficult to coordinate: they had to wake up early right after Spring Fling, coordinate a number of extras, and even learn choreography ("We’re singers, we’re not dancers, right?”) to create the best product possible.
He mentions that it was incredible to see how the project turned out after hours of hard work. Tiger recalls a moment when shooting the last scene, the Pennchants and their extras were able to reserve the Hamilton Courts Pool. He laughs as he remembers the way the weather changed dramatically as soon as the video wrapped.
“Then the funniest thing is just like, it was a beautiful day that day, and the moment that we wrapped up our final cut of the music video in that pool, it started pouring—the weather just turned,” Tiger says. “It all just worked out in the end and it was so tiring, but so, so worth it, and our video won a couple of awards as a result."
Looking back, Tiger expresses how disappointing it was to see his last semester end so abruptly. Instead of focusing solely on the fate of his senior year, however, he also expresses disappointment that the new members of the Pennchants lost their first semester with the group. The COVID—19 crisis has caused dramatic changes in how we interact with each other and go about our daily activities, and performing arts organizations on campus suddenly were faced with the challenge of figuring out ways to apply their traditional activities to a virtual setting.
Tiger acknowledges the difficulty in coordinating these online activities, but the Pennchants have been able to find a way to remotely connect with listeners.
“Basically, what we’re doing is we are releasing a series of seven videos—the first one has already released—and then we're releasing pretty much twice a week. What the behind–the–scenes of that looks like...everyone on a very coordinated recording schedule for audio, video, for postproduction of the audio and video as well,” he says.
Traditionally, performing arts organizations charge a small fee to enter their shows on campus, mainly to fund these groups. In this situation, however, Pennchants wanted to provide entertainment to people at home at no cost. Instead, they partnered with Philabundance to create a positive impact through their performances.
“[Philabundance] serves over 700,000 people, children, families, [and] adults that go hungry across the greater Philadelphia area. We’re essentially running a joint campaign to try to promote them, [and] land them some donations,” Tiger says.
Even through this unprecedented situation, the Pennchants found a way to transform their typical on–campus activities. Their goal is to stay connected while also contributing positively to the Philadelphia community. Their online concert series, "Social Distance-SING!", supports Philabundance’s mission. Every single dollar donated to the organization provides two meals for people in need across Philadelphia (contributions can be made here).
As his days at Penn have concluded, Tiger can’t help but be thankful for the experiences he has had and the people he has met. His Penn experience was fulfilling, not because of what he learned in an academic setting, but because he had the chance to experience activities he enjoyed with amazing people. He encourages people to think beyond academics, and truly find something that makes their Penn experience enjoyable and fulfilling.
“When I think about my time at Penn, it’s almost never like that one exam that I did really well on, or really poorly on, but it’s all the memories that I’ve made with my friends," he says.