A capella odyssey: a talentless guy chases his dreams

I have been to the concerts and watched as they have performed songs, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually become one of them. This year I had my chance and tried out for several a cappella groups on campus.

I will be honest: I do not have a good voice or any rhythm. I cannot hold a tune. I have no timing. I cannot keep a beat. And I cannot read music or compose it.

My only musical experience was eighth grade chorus back row, where I was asked to sing quietly. Despite all of this, I had full confidence that I was going to make a complete and utter fool out of myself, so I figured I would document the experience for the campus’ paper of record.

For all the auditions I would be required to sing a song of my choice. I needed a song that showed my talent, so I was left with few options. However, I did manage to come across a song that had exactly what I was looking for: Rio’s 1950s hit “Tequila.” The song was perfect; it had a good beat and only one lyric, the word “Tequila.” I rehearsed several times. I started out slowly singing the beat and then I threw a little finger snapping in to make it catchy. As I plunged into the chorus and my only word, I started to sway a bit. I thought holding a lighter up might be a little over the top. After singing the song several times I realized something was still missing. Then after belting out another verse, it came to me – my voice cracked. That was it! The voice crack showed my innocence and the fact that I still have not gone through puberty. The song was now complete. I was ready to audition.

When I got to my first audition, for the Octet, I patiently waited outside with other students trying out. They were all very nervous, whereas I was cool, calm and collected, because I knew I had nothing to lose. So, perhaps, I did not have the high anxiety level that everyone else auditioning had. However, once I got into the room and saw all the members of the Octet staring at me, my nerves quickly kicked in. I was more nervous than I have been in a very long time.

Like a true performer, however, I had to go on with the show. After telling them a little about myself and warming up the old vocal chords, I started singing “Tequila.” I hit all the high notes. My voice did not crack at all this time. I felt pretty good about the audition.

My second audition was with the Ephlats. They introduced themselves to me and asked me to perform a tonal memory piece. It was at some point during the tonal memory piece when I realized that I had little to no chance of making Ephlats. After I performed “Tequila” for them, there was a general look of disbelief amongst the group. I did not think it went that badly, although I had to ask twice before they told me when callbacks were.

My third audition was for Good Question. They tested my singing range. I learned my voice’s low note is a C, like most of my grades. I was then asked to read music and sing to it. Do I look like John Tesh? I failed that part of the audition miserably. Then came once again my big solo, “Tequila.” At least they tried to hold in their laughter. I felt like becoming a member of Good Question was a stretch. I was down to my last audition, with the Springstreeters.

There is a certain mystique that surrounds the Springstreeters. When I told people I was auditioning for the Streeters, many laughed. However, I felt that if I went into the audition and tried to sing as little as possible I would be the newest Streeter. Record photo editor Matt Hoffman ’04 accompanied me along to the audition. He was witness to what I like to think of as one of the greatest musical performances of my life. I left all in the music room that day. I held nothing back. That was my first mistake.

As I went through the audition, slowly the Streeters began to realize there was a reason I was in the back row of my eighth grade chorus. As I burst into “Tequila,” the room fell silent, and it wasn’t one of those good silences. One of my suitemates, Tim Crawley ’05, also a Streeter, was at the audition. The entire time he could not even make eye contact with me.

When I told the Streeters the audition was part of an article for the Record, Crawley shouted, “Thank God!” The Streeters felt much relieved that they did not have to let me down easily. I think they felt okay to laugh when Hoffman started cracking up during my song.

I might have been done with all my auditions, but now came the question of whether or not I would get called back? The night before they released the callbacks, I had trouble sleeping, but that was mostly because of some fish I ate in the dining hall that evening.

On Friday morning, I marched into Baxter Hall and went straight for the wall with the list of callbacks. I went through each list with my fingers crossed. I did not see my name on the Octet callback sheet. Both Ephlats and Good Question did not invite me back either. Then I saw that the Springstreeters had not listed me as a callback. I figured there must have been a mistake. However, each list turned out to be correct.

I would lie if I told everyone that I was really upset. I had a good time making a fool out of myself and now I can say I tried out for four acapella groups. Of course, when I tell the story I will say that they all called me back.