With Sing Song season quickly approaching, the hosts and hostesses describe their experiences and what it takes to put on their stellar performances.
As class and club acts practice for the event of the season, six fresh-faced students have already begun perfecting the necessary vocal exercises, choreography and solo arrangements as part of one of Sing Song’s highest honors – serving as a host and hostess.
Starting from scratch, this team begins by learning a classic one-hit wonder and turns it into a harmonized and dramatically different tune. Followed by impressive choreography and costume changes, the team practices for weeks as they follow in the legendary footsteps of the hosts and hostesses before them.
Barrett Lewis, senior management major from Abilene, said while pressure is on to produce a good show, the honor of being named one of the hosts exceeds the fear of being compared to previous hosts or his fellow co-hosts.
“There’s not pressure to be better than one another because we’re all a team,” Lewis said. “There isn’t a competition between singers in the way that it would appear in a more professional setting. I’ve never watched Sing Song in the mindset of comparing singers from previous Sing Song’s. I guess there could be some people in the audience that could be nit-picky like that, but overall no. I don’t think there’s any pressure like that.”
Although each singer has special talents and unique vocal ranges, the team is learning how to give and take the spotlight.
Reuben Byrd, senior physics major from Abilene, said the entire process is a learning experience and learning what talents you do and don’t have.
“One of my biggest fears is not being as good as the people I’m singing with,” Byrd said. “Like, I know I’ve been singing for a long time and it’s whatever, but in songs with all six of us, we each have our own part. And I’m afraid to be compared to my fellow singers. Or what if I majorly screw up my part and, yes, we’ve been practicing, but I’m realizing what it’s like to just trust one another.”
Compared to singers like Kristen Gillis, junior vocal performance from Hutto, Byrd said while he has sung for quite some time with choir groups on campus, the pressure of singing alongside vocal majors was something he had to learn to overcome.
“My sister was a hostess at a different college that does things similarly, and she was a vocal major,” he said. “And I always thought ‘oh, that’s not me. I’m not like that.’ But then, last year I was friends with all of the hosts, and I thought, ‘Oh, well maybe I can do it too. I can sing, and I can do the same things they can.’ So I thought about it for a while, and I was hesitant to audition, and I did it and now, we’re here.”
Keely Smith, senior music major from Fort Worth, said one of the greatest benefits to singing contemporary pieces is to see what other talents their voices have.
“Yeah, it’s been great,” Smith said. “I mean I live with Kristen and Kendall, and I have been in choir together and so, that relationship has already been there. But, this is different because it brings a different style of singing to sing alongside with them and not just sing classical music. This is more chill, fun kind of singing, so it’s a little different. You don’t get to see that side of their voice as much, and I think that’s pretty cool. And it was really interesting to have Christian and Barrett in this group because I didn’t think or know them that well, so it’s been cool to sing with them and get to know them more.”
In the midst of blocking out their fears and figuring out who sings what, Christian Winter, senior theatre major from Escondido, California, said one of the main components of being a host is knowing how to act the part. Whether it be acting in love in a duet or pretending to be lonely in a solo piece, Winters said one of the hardest things to ‘nail down’ is how to shift moods between songs.
“Being a theatre major, there is a lot of acting you have to do,” Winter said. “You know, in one song you have to be really sad, and in another you have to sing like you’re going through hard times as a group, and that really takes a lot of acting in our voices to really pull it off.”
Like all Sing Song performances, the hosts and hostesses sing well-known songs from artists like Adele, Katy Perry and Michael Buble. Kendall Stubblefield, junior vocal performance major from Pearland, said although it’s fun to sing catchy songs, she is afraid people will negatively compare their version to the original.
“While they can compare us to each other, I’m more worried about what we’re singing to the original artist,” Stubblefield said. “I think that people who come to Sing Song have a pretty open mind about who’s on the stage. It’s just that whenever they hear that we’re going to be singing one of their favorite songs, they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s going to sound like this,’ and if we sing it a different way, they’re going to be disappointed, and that’s what I’m worried about.”
“Yeah, it’s an automatic response to compare us and have people pick out their favorites,” Smith said.
Gillis said while she is proud to be on the team, she did feel a bit alone being the only woman of color in the group and is afraid of not sounding as impressive as previous black hostesses – maybe she won’t be picked as someone’s favorite. Battling with the idea of feeling alone in the midst of a predominantly Caucasian team, Gillis said she hopes her efforts can encourage the production team and other students of color to audition in the coming years.
“I’m afraid of being lost in the crowd. I know I’m struggling with this, but when I first auditioned, I thought I would see more people like me,” Gillis said. “And when I got here, and they picked me, I was kind of shocked to see that no one looked like me. I didn’t have someone else like me on the team. I know it shouldn’t matter, but to be honest, like I auditioned because of the past hostesses, and I didn’t want to be the token black person. That’s a real thing. It’s not a joke.”
“Yeah, like if you were to take a random sample of six people at ACU, you’d probably get a group of us,” Winter quickly replied.
“I mean, obviously the university won’t always be this way, and it’s definitely trying to be more diverse, so these are just some of the efforts we can do now,” Stubblefield said.
“I just wish more students of color can not feel so intimated to audition,” Gillis said. “If it wasn’t for the girls I knew, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I’ve never done Sing Song, so this is my first time.”
With the hopes of putting on a great show in less than two weeks away, this unlikely team will begin costume changes and choreography memorization before the opening night on Friday, Feb. 16. Even though most of the singers come from a musical background, Lewis said he thinks students with any singing background should audition in the coming years.
“Sing Song really brings people together and the university together,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t matter what your major is or where you come from, if you like to sing and want to be a part of this tradition, I say ‘Go for it.'”