By Kelsi Peace, Features Editor
Before performances “Shift into High Gear,” Shalesia Rhodes is already talking about reuniting her fellow hosts and hostesses at a cookout.
“I pray that Sing Song is not the end of our bond,” said Shalesia, junior music education major from Longview.
This year’s group is undoubtedly close-knit — while some are jittery with nerves, others anticipating the thrill of the performance and others fretting over dance moves, they all share one common emotion: love for one another.
Luke Baty, junior music major from Orchard Park, N.Y., and Sing Song host, said he expected his role to be a learning experience, and to reward him musically; he did not expect to bond with the five other hosts and hostesses.
“I expected us to come in here, do our thing, and not really form relationships with one another,” Luke said. “But it’s the exact opposite. I feel as close to these people as people I’ve known a long time.”
The others, Evan Black, senior integrated marketing communication major from Denison; Jeremiah Gibson, senior youth and family ministry major from Garland; and Randy Royse, junior music major from Bedford, agreed that the group has clicked well. Hostess Shaylee Busch, senior interior design major from Cedar Park, was not available for comment.
Preparing for their roles as hosts and hostesses, which includes a solo act, duet, men’s number, women’s number and four group acts, has become almost a part-time job in past weeks.
Jeremiah estimated practices have been about 20 hours a week recently; Randy said even some Saturdays were spent practicing.
Each member of the group comes to Sing Song with different experiences and dreams. Jeremiah tried out for host for the third time this year knowing, he said, he would regret not trying out one more time.
“This has been a dream of mine since I got here — since I saw Sing Song for the first time,” Jeremiah said.
Shalesia has never seen a Sing Song performance and had never heard of the production until a friend told her about tryouts the day before.
“Something just told me to go to Kendall’s office and see if I could sign up for a time,” Shalesia said.
For Evan, becoming a Sing Song host became a goal his senior year of high school when he saw the show during Preview Weekend. Evan worked backstage last year and participated in class acts in previous years. He has played the violin since fifth grade, sang in his high school choir and had parts in a few musicals.
“They really push us to try to stretch our voices and grow and break old habits,” Evan said. “Since I’m not a music major, I’ve had plenty of random little bad habits that I’ve picked up. It’s hard to break.”
Luke has spent most of his life on stage, in shows, musicals and choirs. He watched Sing Song from the jazz band section his freshman year and decided he wanted to be a host.
Randy, too, has spent a lot of time on stage. She said she tried out to give back the talent she was blessed with. She sang in the freshman act and was a penguin with Sigma Theta Chi her sophomore year.
Now in the final week before the show, the hosts and hostesses are tweaking their performances and encouraging each other, using methods like humor (from Shalesia) and optimism (from Jeremiah). They rehearsed onstage for the first time Sunday.
“For about a half hour, we just kind of walked around on the stage and gawked at everything,” Jeremiah said.
While Jeremiah works to overcome nerves and take on a “rebellious” attitude for his solo, Shalesia prepares to dance in heels. She’s not nervous. Randy is but mostly about staying healthy despite her sick roommates. Evan anticipates the a cappella number with SHADES and worries about dancing and making mistakes into the microphone. And Luke focuses on not focusing too much — he doesn’t want to over analyze.
Kendall Massey, Sing Song director, is making sure the group looks to God and is well taken care of.
“Unless you’ve done Sing Song before, you’ve never really done anything like this,” he said.
All the hosts and hostesses agree that they can’t wait for the show to open, to hear the crowd and feel their hard work pay off.
“When you perform something in front of a live audience,” Luke said, “everything just seems brand new because instead of performing for the same eight people every night at rehearsal, you have all the emotions of 4,000 people weighing down on you and focusing on you. You can have so many different responses now.”