Dartmouth Idol Semifinals take place today at the Hop

by Habib Sabet | 2/2/18 2:22am

Some of Dartmouth’s most talented singers will participate in Dartmouth Idol’s semifinals tonight at Spaulding Auditorium in the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The competition provides singers from the student body the opportunity to showcase their vocal skills and compete for cash prizes and the chance to record and produce a demo. Although tonight’s event has judges who will provide commentary on the performances, the finalists will be determined by the spectators, who will be able to electronically vote for their preferred singer.

Walter Cunningham, director and founder of Dartmouth Idol, said that there was strong talent among this year’s competitors.

“This year was our largest audition group,” Cunningham said. “Every year the competition is stiff, and this year it’s no different. There have been years where I could kind of predict who I thought was going to make it [to the finals], and for the last few years that has not been the case.”

Participating students come from a wide array of musical backgrounds. Semifinalist Olateju Oyeleye ’20, a member of the Dartmouth Aires, said that while many semifinalists participate in a cappella groups on campus, there are also students who pursue other musical interests in groups such as the Dartmouth College Glee Club and the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir.

This will be Oyeleye’s first time participating in Dartmouth Idol. He said he decided to audition after past participants urged him to enter the competition.

“I really just like to sing,” he said. “I try to take any opportunity to sing, and I just thought it would be fun.”

While Oyeleye has primarily performed in a group setting, he said he hopes that his experience with the Aires will give him some confidence in front of the full crowd at Spaulding.

“The freshmen a cappella showcase at the beginning of the year is actually in Spaulding, which [seats] almost 1,000 [people],” he said. “It should be less nerve-racking because I’ve sung in the environment before.”

Victoria Campbell ’18, a member of another a cappella group, the Subtleties, decided to join the competition for the first time this year to try a solo performance.

“I’ve been in an a cappella group for four years and have done the whole group performance thing, which has been an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world,” Campbell said. “But I wanted to branch out of that and do something a little out of my comfort zone.”

Like Oyeleye, Campbell said she hopes that her experience singing in front of crowds with her a cappella group will help her prepare for her performance in the semifinals.

“I’ve never been by myself in front of a large crowd,” she said. “But [the Subtleties] have sung at things like Winter Whingding and the Orientation showcase, which were pretty big.”

The contestants have already demonstrated their abilities in an offstage audition round and were picked from a large pool of hopeful singers. For the audition, each contestant chose a song to perform in front of a panel of judges and were asked to perform vocal exercises. Cunningham said the decision-making process is rigorous during the audition phase of the competition, with a variety of perspectives available to evaluate the contestants.

“We actually bring in a couple of singers [who] are usually graduates who have been a part of the Idol in the past,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes I’ll bring in a professional singer. It varies from year to year, but we always have other input to decide who goes on to the semifinals.”

This year’s judges are Courtney Davis ’09, Tara Joshi ’18, Bryan Robinson ’16 and Deby Xiadani ’15.

Campbell said her experience with the audition process was enjoyable despite her nerves going in.

“[The audition] was good, and the judges were super kind in the room,” she said. “I auditioned with ‘Bluebird’ by Sarah Bareilles, and then he asked me to sing a line [from] ‘I Will Always Love you’ by Whitney Houston. [The line] caught me off guard, but I suppose it went well.”

Both the semifinals and the finals will be hosted by Aaron Cheese ’18 and Harrison Perkins ’18.

“When the finals come around, it’s much more of a show, and we’ll be more involved,” Perkins said. “We have a theme, which the director chooses, and we’ll be making entrances and introductions and everything will conform to the theme. It’s much more of a show.”

Perkins hosted the show his freshman year and decided to return as a host for his final year at Dartmouth.

“I really enjoyed hosting my freshman year,” he said. “It was just such a unique experience that I hadn’t had before, and I haven’t really had the chance to do something like that again. Hosting the show was sort of out of my wheelhouse that I don’t get to do enough, and I started my career here with [Dartmouth Idol] so I’d like to bookend my time here with it.”

The semifinals of Dartmouth Idol will begin tonight at 8 p.m. in Spaulding.