Dartmouth Idol finals: Profiles of the six finalists

by Will Tackett | 3/2/16 6:01pm

Tomorrow evening six students will take the stage for the Dartmouth Idol finals in front of a sold-out auditorium. They will compete for the coveted title of “Dartmouth Idol,” $500 and the opportunity to record a two-song demo.

Jimmy Ragan ’16

Ragan, who has been singing his whole life, comes from a “singing family.”

He got involved in singing more formally with choirs at his school and church before participating in musical theater during high school. He considers himself to be classically trained ­— his voice does not have the conventional pop sound that many artists do today.

“What I feel like I excel at and what I like to do is singer-songwriter ballad stuff where I can really milk a note and add a lot of different emotion into it,” Ragan said. “Slow works better for me than fast.”

Ragan said he likes to sit down at the piano when he sings, especially when he performs solo. He entertained the idea of playing the piano while singing for Idol but ultimately decided to let the live band handle the music for his song.

“To have live music behind you while you’re singing is really cool, I’m pumped for that,” Ragan said.

On campus, Ragan is an avid hiker and member of Alpha Theta and is involved with many V-February events.

Nikhil Arora ’16

Early in his music career, Arora was more serious about his violin playing, which he picked up in third grade, than singing. But “somewhere along the line I just realized how much I loved to sing,” he said.

Like Ragan, Arora was initially trained as a classical singer, taking voice lessons and performing in a choir in high school, including participating in the Texas All-State Choir process. Arora still retains some of the classical influence in his voice, even when performing more pop-oriented numbers with the all-male a cappella group the Aires.

Arora said some of the numbers he has had to sing in the competition so far have been a little out of his comfort zone, but he thinks that the challenge is the best part of the competition.

“I think this competition is more than just singing something you’re comfortable with, I think it’s about growth and really challenging yourself as a singer,” Arora said.

Arora is musical director of the Aires, a member of Psi Upsilon and a tour guide.

Grace Carney ’17

Music has played a part in Carney’s life for as long as she can remember.

“I did toddler drum circles and things like that,” Carney said. “I started singing I guess with my family. My dad’s family is really big into singing.”

She played classical cello for 12 years and sang in choirs when she was younger. She now sings in a Boston-based band, Grace and the Carnivore, with her brothers.

She describes her voice as “sort of jazzy and soulful,” citing Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Etta James as influences.

“I take those jazz singer influences and then translate them into more alternative music,” she said.

This is Carney’s third year participating in Dartmouth Idol. She likes that the competition offers her the opportunity to perform solo as opposed to performing with her band or a cappella group. This year, however, she is excited for her duets.

“There are so many talented people here, but it’s hard to find time to collaborate with them and this is an opportunity to do that,” Carney said.

Carney is a member of the all-female a cappella group the Rockapellas.

Stephanie Everett ’19

Everett got into music by singing with her parents and in her church before participating in musicals in middle school and choir her junior year of high school. She listens to a lot of country and soul music, two genres that have had an impact on her style. She cited Leela James and Darius Rucker as two of her influences.

“When you sing, you can bring up any kind of emotion,” Everett said. “It’s just a fun activity that’s not stressful at all.”

Everett has also appreciated the opportunity to work with students that she would not otherwise have met, as well as the chance to work with the directors.

“It instantly boosts my mood when I see them,” Everett said.

Everett plays on the women’s soccer team and sings in the all-female a cappella group the Decibelles.

Chelsea Lim ’16

Lim never had formal voice training. She grew up singing in the shower, doing karaoke and singing with her older sister, as well as doing musicals and plays in elementary school. She describes singing as “a hobby that’s developed over the years.”

Lim joined the coed a cappella group the Dodecaphonics her freshman year, but left due to other commitments. She still sings occasionally for worship groups like Logos, but primarily sings on her own time. Lim said that Idol’s support system, including director Walt Cunningham, helped her build more confidence in herself.

“Getting a lot of support and guidance from amazing people like [Dartmouth Idol director] Walt Cunningham and the Idol team has really made a difference and boosted my confidence,” Lim said.

When performing, Lim focuses on conveying the emotions of the song she is singing.

“Whatever it is you are supposed to feel in the song, I try to channel a related experience to make it as personal as possible,” Lim said. “I try to take the audience on a journey with me as I’m singing.”

Lim is involved in pre-professional clubs like Smart Woman Securities and Dartmouth Consulting Group and does Zumba for fun.

Sean Haughey ’17

Haughey began his music career taking piano lessons when he was little.

“I did the same thing that both my brothers did — older and younger — so my older brother started singing around the piano one time, and we all just kind of picked it up,” Haughey said.

He never sang formally until joining the all-male a cappella group the Cords his freshman fall.

Haughey appreciates the support that he has received from friends as well as the other singers and production members involved with Idol.

“They’ve been really generous with their time and asking us if we need anything and being very accommodating despite the fact that we don’t really need anything; we’re just happy to be here,” Haughey said. “Or at least I’m just happy to be here.”

Besides the Cords, Haughey is involved with the improv comedy group the Dog Day Players, club basketball and the club soccer reserves team.

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