Dartmouth Idol semi-finalists to perform this Friday

by Elise Higgins | 2/3/16 6:01pm

The semi-finals of the annual Dartmouth Idol competition will be hosted this Friday in Spaulding Auditorium. The 20 students taking the stage on Friday were selected on the basis of an a capella audition.

Walt Cunningham, music director of Dartmouth Idol, said that there was “no predetermined number” for how many students will compete in the semi-finals. Rather, the judges look for performers with strong voices and a desire to be in the competition.

The winners of this round, selected by a combination of judge and audience votes, will continue on to the finals on Friday, March 4. In the final round, the winner will be chosen solely by the audience.

In addition to receiving the title of Dartmouth Idol, the winner also gets to record a demo of two songs and a $500 prize. The first and second runners up receive $250 and $100 respectively. In recent years, Cunningham said that he has also been recording music videos with the winner because of the increasing importance of videos in the music industry.

Although Dartmouth Idol is still a competition, many previous participants talked about the encouragement and support they received from both other contestants and students around campus.

Last year’s winner, Tara Joshi ’18, said that competing in and winning Dartmouth Idol was a fantastic experience for her and that she “felt more and more integrated into Dartmouth.”

Virginia Ogden ’18, a member of the Subtleties, an all-female a capella group, and The Harlequins, a musical production group, is competing again this year.

“The team at Idol is so incredibly positive and supportive,” she said. “They want everybody to be the best they can possibly be.”

Joshi agreed with Ogden, saying that she especially appreciated the advice she got from older students.

“I was surrounded by upperclassmen who were involved with [Idol], and they were so encouraging to me and welcoming,” Joshi said.

This positive environment is exemplified by the fact that many previous contestants want to be backup singers even when they are no longer in the competition. Although Ogden only made it to the semi-finals last year, she participated in the finals as a backup singer. Although Joshi will not compete again in Dartmouth Idol, she said that she hopes to participate in this year’s competition as a backup singer.

In addition to backup singers, there many students make up Idol’s support team.

Cunningham said that the Idol process is really “all hands on deck.” Students participate beyond competing as band members, backup singers, dancers, judges, hosts, producers and costume designers.

Carina Conti ’16, Aaron Cheese ’18 and Nick Vernice ’18 will host the semi-finals. A mixture of current students and Dartmouth alumni, Nathaniel Graves ’13, Kaitlyn Sheehan Ramirez ’09 Tu ’16 and Jake Gaba ’16, will sit at the judges table.

The level of student involvement makes this competition unique. Ogden noted that this type of show is “not done at other colleges.”

Another key feature of Dartmouth Idol is its supportive environment and the fact that so many students perform in it year after year.

David Clossey ’16, business manager of the Aires, says that he has competed in Dartmouth Idol every year since his freshman year because he truly enjoys it and feels that he has “grown as a singer and as a performer every year.”

While some of the students who perform in Idol are involved with a capella groups on campus, many are not. Ogden said that when she first auditioned for Idol, she “did not think of [herself] as someone who could sing mainstream music” because her background consisted mostly of musical theater.

Clossey also noted the variety of experiences among the participants.

“What makes Dartmouth Idol so special is that there are kids from a cappella groups, but there are also kids who haven’t really sung at all at Dartmouth,” Clossey said.

He said that this welcomes students with a “wide breadth of musical experience and musical activities.”

Cunningham says that he pushes the performers to bring out the best in them. He said that he finds Dartmouth students “like to be stretched and taken to different levels of challenge.”

Clossey said that “as a performer, [Dartmouth Idol] pushes you outside your comfort zone,” but his and many others’ repeated involvement with the program proves that the experience is a rewarding one.

Cunningham believes that many students are drawn to the competition because it allows students to be themselves and focus on performing individually, rather than performing with a group.

General admission tickets for the semi-finals of Dartmouth Idol are on sale for $10 for the public and $5 for Dartmouth students. The competition will be in Spaulding Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m.

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