‘Idol' finalists face off Friday
"There were a lot of really good people this year," he said. "I felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself, being too competitive as opposed to having fun."
Whitaker's decision to embrace the fun of the competition worked in his favor. On Friday, Whitaker will be competing in the finals alongside Phoebe Bodurtha '15, Nate Graves '13, Nkenna Ibeakanma '16, Jamilah Mena '14 and Camilla Rothenberg '13. The finalists will perform a range of solo pieces and duets with a live band accompaniment.
The finalists come from a range of musical backgrounds, from those who have received formal training to others who simply grew up singing in the shower.
Ellen Pittman '14, who attended the semifinals, said the diversity of talent is what she most enjoys about the competition.
"There are a capella people in it, but there are also people who don't do musical things on campus who get to show their voices," she said. "Otherwise you wouldn't get the opportunity to hear them."
Audience members receive ballots at the end of the show to cast their votes.
"I definitely do listen for someone who can sing well, but also people who performed well and seemed to embrace the experience of being onstage," Pittman said.
Segacy Roberts '14 said her voting criteria is mainly about the finalist's stage presence.
"At this point, everyone can sing," she said. "So it's really just about engaging the audience and making us feel like we're watching a performance."
During his performance, Whitaker took the microphone off the stand and replaced it with his blazer as if it were a coat hanger, attendee Silpa Raju '16 said.
"Most people in the audience didn't even know him, but they gave him a standing ovation," Roberts said. "He was just fantastic. Everyone was so excited for him."
Ibeakanma, who performed a Beyonce song, came close to overshadowing Beyonce herself, audience member Aimee Gatz '16 said.
"Upstaging Beyonce is kind of a hard thing to do, and I think she succeeded," Gatz said.
Pittman, a member of the Subtleties with Mena, was impressed by her performance.
"I wouldn't say she's quiet, but she's not one of the biggest, loudest personalities of the group," Pittman said. "We all know she can sing, but we were blown away by her stage presence."
Bodurtha wowed audiences with the strength of her voice, as did Graves's final note, Raju said.
"I don't even understand how that's physically possible," Raju said of Graves' ending.
Graves is set to perform a duet with Whitaker in the finals.
"I thought everyone did well, but there were some people who really gave me an emotional response," Ying Lin '16 said. "One girl literally gave me goose bumps."
Whitaker said his mother is traveling from Philadelphia to watch him perform.
"I'll just put my best foot forward and be able to look back and say I tried," he said.
Mena agreed that the emphasis is not simply on winning.
"I think we're working hard to produce something beautiful," she said. "I hope the audience enjoys our stylization, I think that's a big part of being a performer."
The sold-out "Dartmouth Idol" finals will take place in Spaulding Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Friday, with free overflow seating in Moore Theater. Winners will receive $500 and an opportunity to create a demo with Walt Cunningham, College Gospel Choir director and producer of the show.