After a grueling auditioning process and weeks of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, eight singers are ready to take the stage in front of hundreds of audience members. The lights will go up and the crowds will roar, but this is not another episode of "American Idol." This is Berklee College of Music’s biannual Singers Showcase, which will feature eigh tof Berklee’s top singers in addition to a live band and backup dancers. The event, which takes place this Thursday at Berklee Performance Center, is notable for its "Idol"-inspired audition process and historical significance.
This semester, the Singers Showcase features a tribute to R&B diva Whitney Houston, which will comprise the second half of the show. "Her passing is part of [the reason for the tribute]. She has really good sing-able music, and it’s an apropos time," says Professor Ken Zambello, who helped produce the show and participated in the judging process. Even those who aren’t singing in the show have drawn inspiration from Houston. "The theme from 'The Bodyguard'—how many times have I sung that?," says Will H. Lydgate, who plays bass in the live band. "I really like the soulfulness….It’s been fun for me to get a little bit deeper into her music."
Although attention will be centered on the star singers, the other contributing performers work to create a sensational multi-media experience. Choreographed backup dancers add pop flair to some performances, and the live band will play musical styles running the jukebox gamut from pop and rock to jazz and folk. To top it all off, electrical technicians have worked to develop a light show to complement the singers.
Unlike other musical performances at Berklee, the Singers Showcase features a competitive audition process inspired by "American Idol." "We had a meeting at the beginning of the semester, and about 100 to 170 [people] auditioned," says Vincent B. Cannady '13, who auditioned with "Breakeven" by The Script and will be singing the opening song on Thursday. After this initial round, singers prepared for callbacks, in which only 18 to 20 singers are given another chance to compete for the honor of singing in the showcase, explains Zambello. During callbacks, audience members were invited to text their vote for their favorite singer. In previous years, celebrity singers such as American Idol vocal coach Debra Byrd participated in the judging process.
In addition to selecting a famous singer or group to honor during the fall semester show, the Singers Showcase holds historical significance for Berklee. "This…is a historic show—it’s been going on since the 80s, and the team that produces it has been for the most part intact since then. They’re call the Yo Team," says Lydgate. According to Zambello, the "Yo Team" is the production team for Berklee’s student-oriented shows, including the Singers Showcase. "Somebody gave us that nickname 30 years ago when we started," Zambello said. "We don’t talk in English a lot, we just go, 'Yo! Yo!'"
After weeks of practice, Cannady and Lydgate are excited for the upcoming show, which they say will feature Berklee’s most talented singers and musicians across a wide range of classes. "It’s going to be a big full house, we've got some great singers, and we’re just going to play our butts off…. It’s the biggest show at Berklee," says Lydgate.