Behind the Scenes

Sarah Thawer X Nikolina Kupcevic collaboration pushes boundaries with psychedelic virtual event experience

By Rachel Hickey

Sarah Thawer X Nikolina Kupcevic collaboration pushes boundaries with psychedelic virtual event experience

JUNO-nominated drummer Sarah Thawer and local designer Nikolina Kupcevic brought raw, high-energy, chaos to a one-hour jazz fusion performance framed by psychedelic artwork for Good Company Productions latest Live @ 44 event. The series pairs live musical performances with visual artwork from different local designers, making for a completely new and unique experience each show. 

We are constantly inspired and amazed at what each collaboration brings, and this pairing did not disappoint. We had the opportunity to chat with both Thawer and Nikolina to get the inside scoop on their unique creative process for this spectacular show and how they brought the affair to a new level of immersive experience. 

The perfect storm 

For each Live @ 44 event, the visual set created is unique to the artist's interpretation of the musician’s music, making for a truly joint showcase of music and art, together. This collaboration made for the perfect storm – both artists valuing boldness, creativity, and pushing the boundaries of tradition.

“The collaboration happened naturally, we were both very open and didn’t hold back on any ideas,” said Kupcevic.

Thawer agreed, noting that “it was an absolute pleasure working together, our vision for a kind of cartoon-like, colourful, lively, fun experience aligned seamlessly.”

This seamless collaboration came from the prominent overlap of shared values, instilled in both artists from a young age. After learning more about each artist’s background, it seems that the key to this authentic approach is to hold strong to those core values and commit to what feels right in your artistry, no matter what.


Breaking tradition

When it comes to creating something spectacular, the path to success means taking the path less traveled. 

For Thawer, performing has been a part of life since childhood. Growing up in a musical family with instruments around the house, Thawer took a strong interest in playing the drums, playing her first live show at the age of six. While she didn’t follow the typical path and was a completely self-taught drummer until age 18, this helped her face trials ahead.

“I got rejected from every university I applied to because I didn’t have the right qualifications on paper,” said Thawer, who also faced the challenge of convincing her traditional family this pursuit was no fool's game. Sure enough, Thawer studied jazz and world music at York University and received the Oscar Peterson Scholarship, the highest award given by the institution, shattering every barrier in her way. 

“People can be mean,” said Thawer. “The best thing to do in response is to have confidence in yourself, own your weirdness, and be bold – your authenticity will come through and that’s what will bring you success.”

Aligned with this truth, Kupcevic, a Marketing and Business grad from Wilfrid Laurier University strives for authenticity and mindfulness in her work.

For Kupcevic, art has always been a natural passion, finding inspiration in immersive experiences. First influenced by painting on canvas and now pushing the realms of digital art, printmaking, and set design, Kupcevic is an expert at curating  interactive, experiential art that is bold, dynamic, colourful and most importantly – thought-provoking. 

“Music is my favourite form of art,” said Kupcevic. “It’s so immersive and always brings me back to the present moment, it’s magic. That’s exactly what I try to encompass in my work."

The magic 


Magic is exactly what audience members experienced at the latest Live @ 44 show, as the collaboration demanded every second of the audience's attention. Kupcevic’s immersive, 70’s inspired psychedelic art paired with Thawer’s raw energy left audience members on a high as they became fully immersed in a fusion-filled performance. 

Working together, the pair gave each other full creative freedom and were open to creating an experience like no other. Kupcevic’s set not only included endless eye-catching elements, she also used greenscreen projection to layer even more into the show. “I was able to produce live animations for this experience, which isn’t something I ever would have tried if we weren’t doing the show online,” she said, complimenting the jazz-fusion sound perfectly.

“To me, jazz signifies improv, and fusion incorporates the hip hop, funk, Indian and jazz music I grew up on,” said Thawer, who took the stage with her band as they played a mixture of jazz standards with their high energy twist. Throughout the performance, audience members heard inspirations from influential musicians like Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams and Anderson Paak, a drummer who takes center stage as a performer like Thawer. 

The perfect pairing of raw, bold energy, the combination of art and music brought the at-home experience to a new level, giving audience members a chance to escape from reality for a while and enjoy the present moment. 

Be bold

This event is just the beginning of a new frontier for both artists. Thawer continues to evolve as a solo musician and plans to record her new work as soon as it is safe to do so. Kupcevic continues to build her career as a designer, and create more in the event space, bringing more completely immersive experiences to an even wider audience in the future. 

To keep in touch with these great artists, and stay in the loop for the next Live @ 44 show:

To get the full experience, the stream has now been posted live on Good Company Productions YouTube channel, so check it out! Until next time, keep being bold, authentic, and hold onto those values that make you, you.

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