A new spin on SING

Grace Marion, current Sing chair for sorority Chi Omega, proudly wears her costume in preparation for Sing. Photo credit: Charlene Lee

The 2016 All-University Sing Season has descended upon Baylor , sending students, faculty and alumni into a two-week long frenzy until the lucky winners are finally announced.

Baylor All-University Sing began in 1953, featuring clubs’ and organizations’ performances on campus. The first performances were done on choir risers and consisted of eight groups singing just three songs each, all for an audience of 13. Just two years later, participation skyrocketed to 17 groups. With the creation of Pigskin Revue in 1958, All-University Sing began to evolve into the two-week long festival it is today.

However, the All-University Sing program continues to evolve even today, growing in many aspects. According to Sing participants, the bar is set higher each year for vocal quality, theme development and technicality of choreography. Participants have no choice but to step up their skills to create more competitive acts each year, stacking on more and more practice hours and riskier elements.

“The trend seems to be more and more often about telling a meaningful story, rather than singing five songs that have nothing to do with each other,” said Aurora, Colo. senior member Spencer Cutright, a member of Pi Kappa Phi. “Some have historical backgrounds, and some have more plot development than before.”

Since the beginning of Pigskin Revue, the importance for a competitive edge has grown through the years. Increasingly high standards for Pigskin force SING chairs across the board to demand more time of their members, working harder each year for that perfect performance. Additionally, after more than 60 years of SING acts, it’s becoming more imperative that groups perform shows with fresh, original themes.

“We are trying to be more innovative and creative in our act. It’s more than going out there and singing five songs,” said Cutright. “It’s about choosing good songs and singing them differently. It’s using everything that you can to try to separate yourself from the pack.”

The Baylor Lariat spoke with Bellaire junior Grace Marion, a Sing chair for Chi Omega, and Rowlett senior Drew Allen, a Sing chair for Phi Kappa Chi, to learn how they’ve been preparing for this week’s All-University Sing.

A Day in the Life of a SING Chair

How much time and effort has gone into the process of creating your act?

Grace Marion (Chi Omega): We started meeting together last February. It was the day after Sing ended; we were very eager. We had picked our theme by March. We knew what we wanted to do and developed it until the day we could submit it, on May 1. It was submitted, got approved, and we put it to bed over the summer. We came back and just picked it right up.

You’re constantly submitting things throughout the whole semester. You have to think of every detail. It stays at an escalating rate from the time we get back in August until now.

Drew Allen (Phi Kappa Chi): The whole process started last school year. As soon as Sing ended and we won, we were all really excited. At that point, we immediately started electing new Sing chairs. Late last spring, we started talking about what kind of message we wanted to send with this act. We thought about what story we wanted to tell as opposed to what theme we wanted. With Phi Chi, we’re focused a lot on the type of message we want, and that’s something we really care about.

So we got that nailed down last spring and we spent the summer looking up song ideas. Over the summer you don’t really do a lot, but it’s definitely on your mind. I listened to songs on the radio for ones that might work. Once the fall comes around, there are deadlines that start hitting. Getting artists for the backdrop and getting the costumes figured out. There are so many little things that you don’t think about. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s definitely more work than I thought it would be.

What is new and different about your act than in years past?

Marion: This year, we have definitely gone for a very different kind of act. Not necessarily compared to every other Chi O act that we’ve done, but definitely compared to last year. It feels very different, so it’s been very fun to do. There’s contrasting ideas from last year to this year.

Allen: I think the bar keeps being raised on group sing and the vocal quality. If we want to have a competitive act and one that’s going to be enjoyable, we need to have some really solid group sing parts. Maybe in the past that wasn’t as true, but I think that’s something we are trying to incorporate, to make group sing an interesting aspect of the show. I think that’s evolved from years past.

What inspired you to be a SING chair?

Marion: I did a lot of dance and cheerleading in high school, and was a leader in both of those. I had a lot of fun doing them. I’ve come to Sing every year almost since I was in elementary school because of family friends, so I’ve been exposed to it pretty much all of my life. I’ve seen so many acts and have had such big adrenaline rushes from watching them. I love that feeling at the end of an act that was really good where you can turn to the person next to you and say “Oh my gosh, I have chills!” So I really wanted to get the chance to do that onstage and be a part of the production process and making someone else feel that same way.

Allen: I got pressured into being SING chair by my roommates. I really like Sing, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be a SING chair. What convinced me to do it was that I took a lot of hours my first three years so I could have a light senior year. I realized that I needed something meaningful to do, and being Sing chair would be a good way for me to do that. I can give back to my fraternity and give back to Baylor.

How have you felt in the days leading up to the performance?

Marion: It’s a lot of trial and error. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been surprised by. It seemed like everything would be put in place by now. You have the whole thing choreographed, and you have all the props and backdrop done. Everything is done, so you should be cleaning and teaching. It seems like it should run swimmingly, but it’s a lot of, “That didn’t look good, let’s try something else!” and seeing if it looked good or not and tweaking. It’s a lot of tweaking!

Allen: There’s the thought that we know we can do a little better than how we’ve been performing it this week. I’m trying to get the guys to realize that. We want to make them understand that they’re doing great and we want to encourage them, but we know they can do a significant amount better. Getting them to get over that last hump can be frustrating. We want them to get better because we know they can do it.

What has been the most rewarding part of the experience?

Marion: Getting to feel the support from the girls. It’s really hard to lead a group of 162 women, and it’s really cool when they’re the ones that go out of their way to make sure you know how appreciated you are. They’re the ones who will bring you Sonic anytime and the ones who will get your dinner, even the ones you barely know. That’s probably been the best part, getting to see the girls who really care deeply about making sure that we feel appreciated and fed. They do bring a lot of food.

Allen: You spend a ton of time with your fellow Sing chairs. There were a few that I wasn’t very close with at first. It’s been cool getting on a friendlier basis with them that I wouldn’t have been able to do without Sing. The most fun part was the little breaks we get during practice to play basketball or soccer together. It’s also just been good experience for communicating to groups and a great leadership opportunity.