“Glee” and “High School Musical” would have us believe that the singing audition process involves jittery students, some abashedly melodious and others disastrously discordant, performing for a row of humorless judges, not to mention their glowering peer competition. Not so for the prospective members of this year’s a cappella groups, who formed a cluster outside the audition rooms.
“The day of the audition, I spent an hour or two in almost every bathroom on campus, singing,” said Claire Marshall ’17. “The acoustics in there were really good. I also sang at the top of my lungs in hallways of 200 Church.”
Though Marshall chose “Should’ve Known Better” by The Beatles for her auditions with a cappella groups Notably Sharp, Quasimodal, Slavei, and New Group, she’d toyed with the idea of belting out Norah Jones or Bob Dylan.
“I’ve done a wide range of genres, and I wanted to try out for a variation of a cappella groups,” Marshall said. “I love choir…and fun, poppy a cappella songs.”
By contrast, Lydia Elmer ’17 said that her singing comes from a more varied repertoire.
“I don’t have a main focus,” she said. “I have a background in folk music, but I also sing blues, jazz, pop, and classical. I sang ‘My One and Only Love.’ I didn’t rehearse a ton—I sing the song a lot, so I sort of just pulled it out of my arsenal.”
Liam Tran ’17, who auditioned for the Mixolydians, has a more pointed taste. “I’ve always loved singing classical music,” he said. “I sang ‘Go the Distance,’ from Hercules, and I didn’t really practice for very long because it’s just so near and dear to my heart.”
Samara Prywes ’17 too reached into her repertoire and took out Fun.’s familiar “Some Nights.”
“I did ‘Some Nights’ as a solo in high-school choir, so it was comfortable,” she said. “I kind of just practiced it a few times in the shower.”
All this mounting stress reached its apex outside of the audition rooms, where auditioners huddled together in near-delirious anxiety waiting for their opportunities to prove themselves.
“Outside the room, it was really noisy— we were definitely distracting to the people inside,” Marshall said. “It was a mob scene with lots of excited energy. I wasn’t preoccupied with what I was about to sing, and I wasn’t very worried. It was definitely a really supportive environment. There was impromptu harmonizing, people wondering what everyone else was singing, and people rehearsing together.”
Marshall also laughed remembering the sheet she and her peers had been given before the New Group audition: a questionnaire with prompts to “draw yourself twerking on a picnic table” and inquiries as to the student’s favorite beverage, “alcoholic or non-alcoholic.”
“The energy of auditions can always be nerve-wracking on both sides,” said Gigi Breland ’14, a New Group member who helped lead auditions for that group. “The room that we used was really tiny, so it created a very intimate space, which could’ve added to the potential nerves. We tried to keep the energy light and fun by asking the freshmen little ‘tidbit’ questions.”
Julia Zachary ’17 spoke to that nervous energy.
“The atmosphere outside the room was fairly tense and noisy, as there were a lot of people waiting to try out,” she said.
Tran also noted the apprehension of waiting outside before an audition.
“I’ve always thought that waiting outside of an audition room would be very nerve-wracking, and honestly that’s just how it felt while I was waiting,” he said. “I guess my nerves just began to build up.”
Inside, though, was a different story. According to Zachary, the audition leaders did an excellent job of keeping the mood relaxed and unintimidating. She realized that these people weren’t scary casting directors, but instead were fellow students looking for new collaborators to work on great music.
“It felt exhilarating to get up in front of a group of people I’d never met— a group of people who are evidently incredibly talented and awesome,” Zachary explained. “I was very anxious, but the groups made me feel comfortable, even when I messed up or got confused.”
Marshall said she had a similar experience.
“Inside, all the group members were clapping enthusiastically,” she said. “At the end there was a little formality; they couldn’t be too explicit about how you did, just to keep it professional.”
Despite any awkwardness between the auditioners and the group, auditioners stayed focus on the task at hand.
“I was the first girl to audition, and the third overall audition, for Notably Sharp,” Prywes said. “It was a little weird— they were on one side, and I was by myself in a huge, open space. But it was fine. And afterwards I thought, ‘I got the first one over with, so I can do the next one.’”
Zachary was also relieved after singing.
“I felt great after trying out because I felt that my auditions had gone well,” she said. “I also felt more comfortable with singing in front of a group of people who were new to me. I even made them laugh a few times, which increased my confidence.”
According to the audition leaders, the anxiety and stress that the freshmen went through resulted in some captivating performances.
“I was pleased with how many freshmen came out to audition,” Breland said. “We had a lot of great singers with strong voices. The class of 2017 seems promising.”
Although some will await the fateful text or email callback notification with bated breath, others take a more relaxed approach.
“I don’t think I’ll be crushed if I don’t make it,” Elmer said. “It’s all for fun, anyway—and I can always try out again next year.”