Story by Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer
Whether it be the themes or the preparation or students’ families flying out for performances, there are few campus events that seem to unite Baylor like All-University Sing. Although many students are familiar with the preparation and hard work that goes into Sing performances, the judging process and scoring criteria can seem a bit mysterious. Here’s a quick breakdown of how Sing acts are typically judged.
Five categories are used to evaluate each act: entertainment value, musical quality, creativity, choreography and theme development. Each category has a different weighted value. Entertainment value is the highest with 30 points, musical quality and choreography come next with 20 points each, and creativity and theme development have the smallest weight with each 15 points each. Acts are not officially judged on Thursday nights, but judges’ scores average together across every judged night with the highest and lowest scores dropped. The overall final score ends up as an average of all judges’ counted scores.
When it comes to evaluating the acts, judges are chosen based on four area strengths: dance, music, theater and student affairs. Chelsey Art, a judge for this year’s All-University Sing, is a representing the student affairs category.
“I was actually chosen to be a judge this year because I previously served as the graduate apprentice for Student Productions,” Art said. “I had participated in Sing during undergrad and getting to be the graduate apprentice showed me even more of the behind-the-scenes work needed to create each act. No formal experience with Sing or show business is required to be chosen as a judge, but we’re picked based on our expertise in one of the four areas attached to Sing.”
Art said information regarding Sing policies and evaluation is given to the judges beforehand in preparation, and that despite having specific focus areas, judges look at acts holistically.
“As judges, we are given the policies and procedures in advance in order to give us an idea of what is expected of the acts as well as giving context to those who may not have had previous experience with Sing,” Art said. “Once we get to Baylor the day we are judging, we are given more information regarding each judging category and an idea of what aspects of each act we should be looking for. Even though each judge may have a strong background in one of the categories, we judge the act as a whole.”
Along with looking at the established categories, Art said an aspect that specifically stands out to her is when she can tell that those involved are invested in their performance and theme, and are having a genuinely good time.
“For me, a Sing act in which it’s clear that the members have bought into the theme and the experience are always going to stand out more to me than acts where it doesn’t look like the members are enjoying themselves,” Art said. “I think this plays out in how clean an act looks, facials that match the story or the emotion of an act and the ability to draw me in to their world to where I almost forget I’m watching an act on stage. I also love when groups are clever in their use of small details and aspects that advance their theme. And of course, vocals and choreography play an important role.”
Ryan Machen, who will also be evaluating Sing this year, served as a “club night judge,” meaning that he provided critiques for each act on the first night of all performances.
“I was contacted by the graduate assistant for student productions, Liya Scott, a couple of months ago with the request to be a club night judge,” Machen said. “Club night judges are unique – we judge on the first night of performances and our scores are not compiled with the other nights toward each group’s final score. The purpose behind our judging is to provide constructive criticism for the groups as they prepare for the truly judged nights. Club night judges are usually former Sing chairs or former members of the Student Productions committee – I was a member of Sing Alliance during my time at Baylor and was a Sing chair for multiple years.”
More than anything else, something that makes a Sing performance standout to Machen is when a group has high energy and is enthusiastic about their performance.
“For me, the stand-out groups each year win with energy. That, to me, is the X factor,” Machen said. “There is nothing like a high-energy Sing performance. To me, that trumps clean choreography, strong vocals or polished spectacle. It’s important to me as well that the group has a clear development to their theme. Nothing frustrates me more than watching a group perform a song that doesn’t fit well with their theme.”
Along with watching captivating performances and admiring the theme of each campus group, Machen appreciates Sing for how it unites students and families across the Baylor campus.
“I 100 percent believe that Sing brings the Baylor community together. For two months, the whole campus is abuzz with who is doing what theme and last night’s difficult rehearsal and who is going to make Pigskin,” Machen said. “Sing brought me most of my best friends that I still treasure to this day. In my unique experience as a Sing chair and also as a freelance choreographer, I have seen and experienced a lot of Sing. I’ve been involved with it for 13 years and my parents, my aunt and uncle, my sister and brother-in-law were also involved in Sing. It means a lot to me to this day and I hope that in a small way, my critiques to these new groups will help them to experience this program and get to have as wonderful of a time as I did.”
Art agrees and appreciates the honor to serve as a Sing judge after participating in All-University Sing herself during her time at Baylor.
“To me, it is such an honor to be a Sing judge. Sing has meant so much to me through my involvement both as an undergraduate student and in my time in grad school that being able to be involved again in a new way is so exciting,” Art said. “I believe that Sing has the ability to bring so many people together. Whether you are involved as a performer, crew, or audience member, as an alumni or a current student, or even as a grandparent coming for the 30th time or a child coming for the first time, everyone is able to be a part of something amazing.”