Idol Semifinals see 30 student singers

by Aimee Sung | 2/3/14 3:34pm

Director Walt Cunningham prepares for the 7th annual Dartmouth Idol.
Source: Julietta Gervase

Tonight, 30 of the College’s best singers will compete in the semifinals of Dartmouth’s seventh annual Dartmouth Idol contest. The competition, first brought to the College by Gospel Choir director Walt Cunningham, has grown in scale over recent years, with 25 semifinalists performing in 2013 and 23 in 2012.

Cunningham, who has remained Dartmouth Idol’s director and producer, said that the show builds community on campus.

“As one of Dartmouth’s goals is to be an all-inclusive community, I felt Dartmouth Idol was another great way for us to embrace and celebrate diversity by engaging students across campus, both in and out of the arts world,” he said.

Since the original auditions, Cunningham has edited about 60 songs to prepare for the semifinals.

Two tracks are edited for each contestant — a guide track just for the performer and the background track played during the performance.

Cunningham is assisted by last year’s winner Nate Graves ’13 and former semifinalist Jelisa Grant ’13. The production team also includes the Hopkins Center’s director of student performance programs Joshua Kol ’93, Sean Gao ’13 and Kaitlyn Ramirez ’09.

This year, Dartmouth Idol saw 61 students try out, Grant said. After the semifinals, six of the 30 will advance to the finals, which are scheduled to take place on March 7.

Cunningham said he looked forward to this year’s semifinals because the 30 participants are some of Dartmouth’s finest vocalists.

“If you were to ask me who would advance to finals, I really could not tell you,” he said. “And that’s exciting for a producer and director.”

All four class years are represented in the semifinalists, and many of the contestants are involved in Dartmouth’s music scene, from orchestra to a capella groups. Some have sung in previous Dartmouth Idol competitions, while others have little musical experience.

Sarah Wang ’14, a semifinalist, who participated in the semifinals during her freshman and sophomore years, said she wanted to take advantage of her last opportunity to perform in Dartmouth Idol.

“In the past I had such a great time working with the Dartmouth Idol production team, and I felt that my senior year I should take advantage of all of the resources that the team offers,” she said.

David Clossey ’16, a semifinalist who sings in the Dartmouth Aires, said that he is excited to hear from students who he has never heard sing before, especially performers “who may only have sung in the shower.”

While Dartmouth Idol showcases campus talent, it can be a challenge for singers to bring out their best performance while singing well-known songs.

“One of the hardest things is to make the song your own,” Clossey said. “All the songs being performed in the semifinals are familiar to the audience in some way, and you don’t want to mimic the original artist.”

The judges from tonight’s competition, handpicked by Cunningham, include opera singer Elizabeth Roberts ’00, choreographer Richard Stephenson ’12 and Robbie Rodriguez ’14.

The semifinals round, hosted by Jake Gaba ’16, Yesuto Shaw ’15 and Katelyn Walker ’14, will take place in Spaulding Auditorium at 7 p.m. tonight.