Sing-ins in the rain: A cappella serenades new members

A myriad of a cappella groups flooded the first-year dorms last Thursday in the highly anticipated tradition of “singing-in” new members. Not even the downpour outside could dampen the enthusiasm of the singers, who were eager to welcome their new members in what Jessica Bauman ’02, the business manager of the Accidentals, calls “one of the most fun parts of the a cappella year.”

The sing-in tradition, which most a cappella groups have followed for longer than any student can remember, gives new members a taste of the fun they can expect as part of an a cappella group. “We have a ton of fun doing it,” said Peter Krause ’02, the director of the Octet, one of the all-male a cappella groups on campus.

Before the actual sing-ins can begin, the leaders of the a cappella groups assemble for a tense meeting in Bernhard Music Center, during which it is decided which groups will receive which singers. According to Krause, “Tensions run really high that night on both sides, as groups hope they get their top choices just as the frosh hope they get theirs. It’s the culmination of a long and very stressful process.” He added that many groups were a little more stressed this year because of the delays in the entire auditioning and decision procedure as a result of the September 11 events.

Eventually, leaders emerged triumphant from the meeting, ready to share the good news with their members. Clutching a list of names and room numbers, the groups set off to find their new members. Finding the new members isn’t always easy, as there is no set place they are expected to be; they are usually told, “If you make it in, we’ll find you.” Often, the group drags them outside from a party or invades their entry. Either way, says Krause, “it’s often in front of friends and others, so it’s a nice event for them.”

This year, the night of the sing-ins was quite a moist affair, but none of that impacted the level of excitement displayed by the groups and their new members. The Octet headed back to Wood for a quick training session. The group only performs their sing-in song, “What Do I Have to Do?” by the Violent Femmes, once a year. The small room on the second floor of Wood was packed with Octet members. “I’ll teach you this song in two minutes,” Krause yelled over the voices of his group.

Daniel Morales ’02, another member of the Octet, was eager to get started. “This is an opportunity for us,” he said. “These are impressionable young lads, in the prime of their youth. Sing-ins are a formative experience and a seminal one.”

Other members of the group expressed equal excitement, but some were also apprehensive about the year to come. “We have six new frosh,” Ohm Deshpande ’04 said. “I’m a little intimidated.” But he quickly added, “I’m very excited, too. We’re all about hanging out and singing – it’s a very good time.”

Within five minutes Krause was satisfied with the group’s rendition of “What Do I Have to Do?” “[We] have somewhat of a tough time singing on pitch or in tempo,” he said. “We just kinda absorb our new members. . .I wouldn’t change a thing.” The group was off to find its first victim.

The “victims” that night shared the groups’ feelings of nervousness and excitement. “I had to wait an unnaturally long period of time, countless moments of unbearable torture,” said Adam Zamora ’05, a new Springstreeter. But the Streeters did not disappoint. At midnight, Zamora was told to come outside into the quad, where the group lifted him into the air and serenaded him with Enrique Iglesias’s “Bailamos.” “We all huddled together and swayed as we sang. . .it was a totally incredible feeling,” Zamora said. “I can’t wait for the next four years at Williams as a Streeter.”

Many freshman members doubted that they would even get in their a cappella group of choice. “I really did not think I was going to get in,” said Meghan Giuliano ’05, a new member of Good Question. “I had just gotten in [the shower]. . .the next thing I knew, all of the GQ girls had burst into the bathroom and started singing me in!” Giuliano grabbed her robe and leapt out of the shower, only to find Fred Hines ’02 crooning Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” in the middle of the bathroom. “I was so excited. . .when they all said, ‘You’re coming with us!’ all I could think of as a reply was, ‘Can I get dressed first?’” Giuliano said.

“I was high-fiving every in sight, I was so psyched to see them,” said Ari Schoenholtz ’05, a new Springstreeter. The Streeters sang Paul Simon’s “Born at the Right Time” to Schoenholtz. “They really welcomed us in and made us feel like part of the group,” Schoenholtz said of the Springstreeters.

Kaimana Goo ’05, a new member of the all-female Accidentals, was in her entry when the Accidentals surprised her with “This Island Earth.” “I can’t stop smiling!” she said as she followed the rest of the group outside to find the next new member. Her entrymates shouted their congratulations down the stairwell as she left.

Since the new members have no set location, sometimes they can’t be found. “One of the most frustrating parts. . .is if we search high and low for someone and cannot find her (which happens at least once a year),” said Bauman. One of the Accidentals’ new members was notably absent on Thursday night. The group tried her dorm, all three floors of the library, and the music building. They even called Security to try and track down the last place she had swiped her card, but no luck. Finally the Accidentals resorted to a sing-in via voicemail. “Silly us decided to sing her in on the downstairs phone in the library especially loudly — the librarian was not very pleased with us,” Bauman said.

Both old and new members of Williams a cappella groups would agree that sing-ins are an unforgettable experience. “The night of sing-ins is like. . .debauched revelry meets the ultimate fighting championship,” said Justin Deichman ’01, the former director of the Octet. “It’s like the Academy Awards,” he added as he watched the group congratulate a new member.

Krause agreed: “Everyone always remembers the night they got sung in.”