Winner: The UCLA Affiliates Award for best production entry
By Salus Kim
Natalie Brainin said she knew from her first year at UCLA that she wanted to perform as a soloist in Spring Sing.
The third-year ethnomusicology student and singer-songwriter performed in last year’s Spring Sing as part of two different production groups – her sorority, Delta Gamma, and Resonance A Capella. But this time, Brainin will take the stage alone with her keyboard.
Brainin will perform “Forever,” an original song she wrote earlier this year to preach self-love.
“One of the main messages I wanted to portray with the song is that you need to love yourself before you can love someone else,” Brainin said. “The only love that will really last forever is you loving yourself.”
Inspired by anything, ranging from her dreams to poems, Brainin said she practices every day in her apartment and strives to write a new song every month.
“(Playing music) is definitely a constant thing in my life,” Brainin said. “It doesn’t feel like something I have to think about. It’s something I want to do.”
Even though Brainin’s primary instrument of choice is the piano, she can also play the guitar. She said that by playing music, she is able to compose more.
“I’ll find a cool chord progression through practicing another chord progression and usually I’ll link that to an idea and I’ll have lyrics accompany it so I know exactly what to do with it,” Brainin said. “It really just depends on what I’m doing and what’s happening in my life.”
Although she said her music is acoustic alternative, Brainin said her songs are also influenced by pop and jazz, the latter of which comes from a jazz combo course Brainin took at UCLA this past year. Ultimately, Brainin said her music is reflective of the singer-songwriter genre and tries to keep her music at a more coffee shop vibe.
Last year, the singer performed twice, once with Delta Gamma and once with Resonance A Capella. However, Brainin said she has always wanted to perform solo.
“It was my goal when I was a freshman,” Brainin said. “I really wanted to get into Spring Sing and even if I didn’t get in, I knew I was going to try at least for all four years.”
Working alone, Brainin said she misses the fun social aspect of performing with a group and said the process of going solo is different.
“It’s been interesting in the sense that I make all the decisions and feel that independence – just believing in myself and knowing that I’m capable to run my own act,” Brainin said. “I think this is a much more self-reflective process, and I think it will be really rewarding because it has been so far.”
Brainin said Spring Sing will be the largest audience she will have performed in front of. The singer said she is hoping people get something out of her performance that they can personally and emotionally connect with.
“They can expect a really honest performance about something that I feel passionate about,” Brainin said. “I’m hoping to touch some people’s hearts with it.”
By Sebastian Torellio
With three Spring Sings already under his belt and a UCLA degree imminent, fourth-year cognitive science student Nick Valentini is in the midst of working towards the future. But Valentini said his life is all about the present and a bit about the past.
“You listen to my first Spring Sing and I’m rapping in it,” Valentini said. “The song I’m doing now is light-years different. The four years have been this evolutionary change, but also something that can be predicted by the people that know me.”
Valentini describes that song, “Mr. Mister,” as a tune which he wrote with a band in mind. He will be performing twice at Spring Sing, including once with his band Loop Garou. But for his act as a solo keyboardist, Valentini said he will be going darker in tone.
“It definitely isn’t a ballad,” Valentini said. “It’s not just saying, ‘I love you, I love you,’ – I have a lot of songs like that too – but for this stage and this time in my life, I thought it would be cool not to just sing about that one girl.”
Valentini said that, though he has no concrete plans in the long run, he doesn’t see himself forever working as a solo act. In terms of music, he values collaboration with others above all else.
Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” for example, is a work that Valentini said is an example of producing an actual difference in the genre. Through working with the best musicians possible, he cites Lamar’s social implications as a perfect way to utilize talent.
“With music, it’s just continual gigging, playing, networking and connecting with everyone,” Valentini said. “That’s the one thing: you play with everyone because you learn from everyone. One day down the line they might say, ‘Come play with me again.’”
For Valentini, one of those people is David Villafaña, an alumnus who plays in UCLA band We the Folk. Villafaña said that, in their weekly gigs, Valentini likes to take a sincere approach to reinventing songs and taking risks.
“(Valentini) can easily please a crowd, but he also likes to be dynamic,” Villafaña said. “There are songs that I have that are in Spanish with a very Latin sound, and he’ll improvise and do a good job.”
Valentini said most of his inspiration comes from other instrumentalists who know how to jam – two of his favorite solo acts are Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. He said that if he could make “Mr. Mister” a seven-minute performance similar to Vaughan and Hendrix's work, he would.
“I guess if I went on stage and did that, they couldn’t stop me,” Valentini said.
Villafaña said that since he and Valentini don’t rehearse together, rocking out is an essential part of Valentini’s repertoire. He commends Valentini’s ability to challenge himself and the listener with his music and mood, but also to assert himself and get things done.
But for now, Valentini also said he’s really stoked for Spring Sing, where he will open the ceremony with a keyboard drop in front of 9,000 students.
“You continue to gig and hand out your cards and float your name around there, but you have to give time to this creative output,” Valentini said. “The future is unknown musically, but that’s where hard work comes in.”
Winner: The Gold Shield Alumnae Esprit de Corps Award for best overall participation
By Lindsay Weinberg
Lashon Halley found out she was performing at Spring Sing, called her friend Xiomara Fambrough and said, “Yo Xi, I got in with the song I wrote for you.”
A year ago, Halley wrote the song “Done with You” for Fambrough, who was having problems with her boyfriend.
"She didn’t (write) it for her own benefit," Fambrough said. "She wrote it so that when she sang it out loud, it made me realize the decision I made was the right one."
Halley, a third-year art history student, will perform her original song at Spring Sing while playing an acoustic-electric guitar. Some of the bass singer’s songs are R&B, though most are mellow background music; she said “Done with You” is similar to the latter – soothing with a powerful ending.
Singing since a young age, Halley said she later joined a band with her two best friends as a sophomore in high school and began experimenting with her songwriting.
"I go on a lot of dates with people to get material, so all my songs are about people that I know personally,” Halley said.
Before transferring to UCLA, Halley attended Santa Barbara City College, where she said vocal technique classes helped her discover her voice, opening her eyes to her range and belt. Halley said her music instructor, Nathan Kreitzer, a music assistant professor at the community college, challenged her with a high-pitched song and told her she couldn’t lower the octave but had to sing in the original pitch.
Fambrough said she met Halley in Kreitzer's class. She cried the first time she heard Halley perform "Done with You," because she said it's a beautiful and empathetic piece, but also a sad one.
“It made me realize how amazing she can be as songwriter because she’s never had those emotions herself,” Fambrough said.
In addition to her solo act, Halley will sing as a member of Signature A Cappella. Lauren Blenkinship, a first-year psychology student and member of Signature, said she has grown close to Halley this year and said she was impressed with Halley's distinct, standout voice, which epitomizes the emotion of her solos.
Halley said she has been performing at music stores, bars and open-mic events for the past few years – ultimately hoping to sing professionally. She said she now creates music in her bedroom, shutting the door and closing the window to be alone with her guitar.
“I have my computer open and just type the words, because I can’t write quick enough for the ideas,” Halley said.
To celebrate her upcoming performance, Halley said her grandparents let her pick out a new guitar as her accompaniment at Spring Sing.
"The tone of the guitar is warm, the same warmth of my voice, so I was like, 'These match perfectly,'" Halley said. "And I just knew right away.”
Winner: The Rose Bowl Bruins Award for best duet entry
By William Thorne
As Priscillia Omon sat in a songwriting class listening to her classmates’ breakup compositions, one piece suddenly caught her attention.
The song “Who Cares” was written by fourth-year ethnomusicology student Alan McDonnell over winter break back home in Chile. Omon, a first-year ethnomusicology student, said from the first time she heard it, she wanted to be the one to bring the song off the page.
“I wasn’t expecting Alan’s song to sound like what it did,” Omon said. “He had a track that was deeply layered, that had all these different things going on, I just couldn’t believe it.”
When she was approached by Spring Sing talent director Abby Freemire about auditioning for the event, Omon said performing with McDonnell, a Spring Sing veteran from last year, was the first idea that came into her mind.
However, putting their names forward for Spring Sing was a nerve-wracking decision for Omon and McDonnell, but one which they said they don’t regret.
“With not much preparation it was a hope and a wish, not knowing what to expect,” Omon said. “Spring Sing is unpredictable, a lot of talented people audition and don’t make it, but Alan’s a senior, he’s done it already, and it has been a privilege to make the competition.”
The pair comes from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but it is this dichotomy that Omon said is at the heart of their musical togetherness.
Born in Santiago, Chile, McDonnell said he learned to play guitar, drums and piano growing up, but songwriting was what he wanted to do.
“I started writing songs when I was 12 and that has always been my thing,” McDonnell said. “I did classical composition for three years out of high school in Chile, it definitely wasn’t what I wanted.”
At the top of McDonnell's preferences was pop rather than classical music. Meeting Omon, McDonnell said, has helped enhance his music and improve his songwriting abilities.
“When I worked with Priscillia, I felt the song ('Who Cares') took on this deeper meaning, she took it to a completely different level,” McDonnell said. “The song improved both vocally and in terms of what it meant, I think the people at the audition for Spring Sing definitely got that too.”
Omon, born and raised in Los Angeles, said her education in music came mostly from her parents.
“Through hearing all of their musical choices as a child, that really inspired me to listen to more music and play more music,” Omon said.
All through middle and high school, Omon said she sang in numerous choirs, desperate to sing at every possible opportunity and let many varieties of music play a dominant part in her life.
“I love all types of music, all genres, and I have a deep appreciation for being able to study it,” Omon said.
McDonnell and Omon’s combined experiences have culminated in their chosen song “Who Cares,” short for “who cares what the world has to say.”
“It’s about being comfortable in a relationship where you are judged as an unmatched pair,” McDonnell said.
Its message is one which Omon believes resonates with the current political climate at UCLA.
“Whatever the pairing is, black and white, big and small, people might look at you funny but that doesn’t matter,” Omon said. “Whatever it is that you have between you is what really matters.”
By Kristy Pirone
Electronic music duo Common Souls was simply “Ryan and Nick” on its Spring Sing application.
When third-year ethnomusicology student Nick Velez decided to sign up for an audition two hours before the application deadline, he asked fourth-year communication studies student Ryan Yoo to join him in creating a song for the audition in only one week.
The duo then spent 10 hours together working out the kinks in its new song "Arizona," but spent much less time deciding on a band name before heading into the audition. Velez said the idea to look for a name in a book came from Yoo’s roommate.
In the moments before their audition, Velez and Yoo were flipping through a book of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays and poems and stumbled upon the phrase "common souls."
“It actually was really fitting in retrospect, because it’s what we are. It’s two people coming together and making something that they want to make,” Velez said. “Usually there’s a band leader, and then you’re kind of behind. ... It’s kind of nice when there’s two people who have equal say in everything.”
Velez said the duo’s sound is down-tempo electronic music, similar to U.K. artists James Blake and Mount Kimbie.
“(Our sound) incorporates a lot of different elements – we’re trying to do something different that’s not quite like what you would normally hear on the radio, something that’s a little bit more stripped down and intimate,” Velez said.
Velez said while the original draft of Common Souls’ Spring Sing entry was eerie and quasi-acoustic, he changed aspects of the song like the sound of the drums to make it more electronic. Yoo said the duo sounds like a six-piece band condensed into two people, with both members performing multiple roles at once.
The performance will feature Yoo on guitar while he creates a live vocal loop – a process that involves recording vocals in real-time, then replaying the recording repeatedly. Velez said he will be both playing synth and using a computer program with prerecorded sounds to bring their vision to life.
Velez said the program itself needs to be reprogrammed before each use, citing an occasion during the duo’s initial audition where he said a wobbly bass effect accidentally sounded like a giant fart due to technical difficulties. Since then, Velez said the song went well in tech rehearsals.
Although Velez said he is venturing out of his comfort zone because he is used to being behind his drum kit, both Velez and Yoo are Spring Sing veterans. Velez has previously performed with his band Loop Garou, which will be performing again this year, and Yoo has performed with his band The Primaries.
“More than any anxiety or trepidation, (there is) going to be adrenaline,” Yoo said. “I’m super excited because this is music I stand behind and music I believe in, and to play it on this kind of platform is a thrilling idea.”
Yoo said Common Souls’ brand of low-tempo electronic music will be different from the Spring Sing norm.
“Spring Sing has a reputation for being really receptive to pop artists, and to pop music in general, and what we’re doing is definitely more on the experimental side,” Yoo said.
Common Souls’ writing process has been collaborative, but Yoo said he is still finding his own voice as a writer and that sad music resonates with him.
“In a lot of ways, art is like a support system for life," Yoo said. “When you’re really happy and you’re doing good, you’re fine. But when you’re really down on stuff, you can listen to that one song, and it kind of gets you through.”
By Shreya Aiyar
At a coffee shop open-mic night, John Wayno sat and listened passively to the musicians migrating to and from the stage. Wayno kept his eyes closed as he grooved along to the music, but said he found that the sounds didn’t catch his attention for long.
Wayno then saw a guitarist walk onto the stage and begin to sing. It was then, Wayno said, that he knew he wanted to work with the guitarist, Griffith Clawson.
After months of learning each other’s playing styles and compositional techniques, Clawson, a first-year world arts and cultures student, and Wayno, a Westfield State University alumnus and pianist, will perform an original piece, titled “Gold,” as a duet at Spring Sing.
Wayno said his ties to UCLA sprung from chance. He said he initially wanted to move to California from Massachusetts to further his interest in music. The transition was difficult, however, as Wayno said he had no family or friends in Los Angeles and did not have a support system to fall back on.
After meeting Clawson, who was beginning school at UCLA, Wayno said he found a friend that supported him both musically and emotionally.
“It was tough moving 3,000 miles away from home,” Wayno said. “We have a bit of an age gap, but he’s become something like my little brother.”
Clawson said that throughout their months of working together, Wayno showcased his improvisatory skills by filling in blank spaces within the piece, fleshing out the song and rounding out the tune.
Wayno said Clawson's lyrics are infused with emotion beyond his years.
“Writing original, meaningful lyrics is incredibly difficult, especially because of Griffith’s youth,” Wayno said. “But we collaborate together – I give suggestions on some lyrics, and Griffith provides input for the tune – to create the best final piece possible.”
“Gold” combines Clawson’s original lyrics and some of Wayno’s musical ideas through its depiction of love and heartbreak.
Clawson said he and Wayno were initially worried that the sound of “Gold” would not fit with the atmosphere of Spring Sing because of its laid-back vibe.
As the days neared Spring Sing, however, the duo decided to keep “Gold” as its piece because Wayno said the song is simple but elegant and leaves listeners with the satisfaction of having heard something good.
“‘Gold’ is like cooking rice in a rice cooker – you put the water in, you put the rice in and you let it simmer and just happen,” Wayno said. “The song moves and cooks, so in the end, it’s perfect, it’s cooked, it’s done quickly and the audience doesn’t have to worry about it.”
By performing “Gold," Clawson said the duo hopes the audience feels its passion for music as well.
“I’m excited to see how the whole thing comes together,” Clawson said. “It’ll be a good taste of what we have to offer.”
By Kelsey Rocha
For third-year English student and singer Gabby Puyat, the wait is over.
Her band, Wait For It, is the first electronic dance music group in Spring Sing history. Two-thirds of the band will perform: Puyat and Bentley Montes, who attended UCLA for two years. The third bandmate, Curtis Kale, is not a UCLA student and will not be performing because Spring Sing requires that at least half of the participants of an act must be current UCLA students.
Montes said he left UCLA in his third year to pursue a full-time career as a DJ. It was his DJ career that lead him to Puyat, who said she met Montes about a year ago at at a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity party he was DJ-ing.
"I was really into what he was playing," Puyat said. "So I asked for his card and we connected from there."
Montes said as they got acquainted, he found out Puyat was a singer, and as the annual Spring Sing concert approached, the two opted to collaborate and debut their band Wait For It. Montes then reached out to his friend, Curtis Kale, who also produces music in the area to join the project.
"Ever since I was a freshman, (Spring Sing) was a bucket list item," Puyat said. "It was probably like four months before auditions, and I had this vision. So, I contacted him and we made our song."
The band will be performing its original song "Remember," which they wrote together. Montes said at first it sounds like a love song, but it's actually about remembering someone forever.
"It's about loss, like losing somebody in your life," Puyat said. "I had just lost my uncle at the time ... That's what I think about when I sing it."
While the band has done some smaller performances, Montes said Spring Sing will be Wait For Its' main debut. He said the song it's bringing diverges from the mainstream pop EDM of Calvin Harris, but is still a crowd-pleaser.
"It's fun, melodic party music," Montes said. "We're still working out our sound, but I don't want it to be pop-inspired EDM, I want it to be something different."
As Spring Sing approaches, Puyat said the nerves are kicking in, but they just want to have a good time on stage.
"Everytime I get up in front of a crowd, no matter how big or small, I'm always going to be nervous," Puyat said. "We're just going out there to share our music and share what we believe in."
Puyat said she feels honored to be part of the first EDM group to perform in Pauley Pavilion for Spring Sing, and Montes said they're ready to show UCLA what they can bring to the genre.
"This isn't our first rodeo," Montes said. "We were born on the stage."
Winner: The UCLA Las Doñas Award for best band entry and the Northern California Alumni Grand Sweepstakes Award for best overall performance
By Ruhee Patel
Fourth-year ethnomusicology student and bassist Erik Shiboski said he originally came up with the name Fine Print because he thought it was fitting for a rap MC.
Fine Print, a collective comprised of eight ethnomusicology students with a concentration in jazz studies, will make its debut with its original song “Move On” at Spring Sing on Saturday as the show’s closing act. This jazz-based group features the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and vocals.
Erik Shiboski said the group brought together elements of jazz, funk and R&B for its music in an effort to bring the members’ love for jazz to Spring Sing’s huge stage.
“We were formed spontaneously, ('Move On') was written pretty spontaneously, and I think that’s the spirit of our whole group and the spirit of the music that we’re inspired by,” Erik Shiboski said.
Hugo Shiboski, second-year ethnomusicology student, saxophonist for Fine Print and brother of Erik Shiboski, said this spontaneity also comes from the fact that the group plays improvisational music.
“Although we have an arrangement and the lyrics written out, we have improvisation incorporated – a lot of the groove is based on us communicating during the performance,” Hugo Shiboski said.
Fine Print formed in January when Hugo Shiboski reached out to some of his close friends because he said that he wasn't seeing a lot of people in the UCLA music community getting together and playing for big crowds at school.
“We just wanted to play some grooving, funky music in front of a large audience at UCLA,” Hugo Shiboski said.
Fourth-year ethnomusicology student and vocalist Teira Lockhart Church wrote the lyrics for "Move On," and Hugo Shiboski said while the song has to do with moving on from a relationship and looking forward, it isn't sad.
Fine Print's debut song was written specifically for Spring Sing, third-year ethnomusicology student and drummer Joel Manduke said.
“When we decided to join Spring Sing, we all got together and the beauty of ('Move On') is the fact that we really wrote it collaboratively,” Manduke said. “Hugo and Erik took the lead, but it was such a group effort and it really seems like a product that came from all of us.”
Third-year ethnomusicology student and keyboardist Grant Milliken said the members of Fine Print draw inspiration from each other because they've been playing together for many years.
“I’ve known some of these people since high school and the rest since I first got to UCLA, so there’s really close friendships in the band,” Milliken said.
When it comes to rehearsing for Spring Sing, Hugo Shiboski said the group spends most of its time polishing its performance and making sure that it can get the energy going. For Fine Print, he said the most important part of its musical performance is getting the audience moving, especially since the group will be closing the show.
“We’re going to go out with a bang,” Hugo Shiboski said. "It’s going to start intense, and it’s going to end intense, but there’s some sweet, sensual moments throughout the song.”
By Emaan Baqai
Almost two years after the formation of their duet and a year since they performed across Europe, Eva Barrosse and David Miller are embracing their newly fleshed out sound with their full band, the Eva B. Ross Foundation.
The Eva B. Ross Foundation will be the second act performing at Spring Sing 2015, with their original song, "Easy."
Barrosse, a second-year history student, and Miller, a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, met in zero week of their first year at an open jam session, after which they quickly became friends and musical partners, Barrosse said. In a span of weeks, the duo had begun to produce content and videos together.
"We are great creative partners in that we are best friends," Barrosse said. "David taught me more than anybody I’ve ever met, that if you want something you should just do it."
The duet performed at weddings and clubs before deciding to seek out a full band in September 2014. The band became complete at the end of 2014 with a bassist, second-year classical bass performance student Jules Levy, and drummer, USC student Liam Kevany. Barrosse said she now enjoys the freedom that Levy and Kevany performing alongside them allows.
"I enjoy both, but when I’m in a duet I’m responsible for maintaining a rhythmn section, and it’s a lot more bassline- and chord-heavy," Miller said. "When I’m in a band ... I’m free to meddle around and respond to Eva’s voice and play."
While Barrosse and Miller's repertoire has not changed significantly since the addition of Levy and Kevany, Barrosse said she feels that the music has become more funky and soulful because of their contribution, which she previously described as pop, jazzy and sexy.
Barrosse, who writes and composes the band's music, said she hopes that the Spring Sing audience can relate to the piece the band will perform. "Easy," which was written about someone special to her, was completed when the band was deciding which song to present at Spring Sing auditions.
"I thought, I feel the most connected to this song, this is the most where I’m at right now, and so it’d be the most fun to perform," Barrosse said. "When we’re playing for people, they’re usually singing it over and over because it’s catchy."
The band plans to release six singles, which will include "Easy," at separate intervals in the coming months following Spring Sing. The singles, which include "My Comedy," "Oh Me" and "Nick's House," are all pieces Barrosse wrote in the last two years about her personal experiences and the band recorded at Sunset Sound recording studio in Hollywood.
The band regularly plays its singles and covers at venues such as The Mint nightclub, the Getty Center for College Night and The Treehouse on Strathmore Drive. However, the group has yet to present its Spring Sing number, which hadn't been recorded previously because of dissatisfaction within the group. Miller said it ultimately ended up working in their favor because the band was able to perform the song at Spring Sing as a result.
"No joke, there’s probably been about six instances where we tried recording it and we’ve said, 'No, this isn’t good enough,' and never actually put it up," Miller said.
As the band's first performance for an audience this large, Barrosse said she is less nervous than excited for her Spring Sing performance. She looks forward to having an interactive performance with the audience.
"Come out and dance around. I mean that with all my heart. Anyone who wants to groove in any capacity is my best friend," Barrosse said. "I’ll try not to do too many weird dance moves."
Winner:The Gold Shield Alumnae Esprit de Corps Award for best overall participation
By Salus Kim
For the five members of Loop Garou, sometimes 10 minutes are all it takes to write a song.
Formerly known as The Street Hearts – Spring Sing 2013 winners – Loop Garou will perform its song, “I Walk Down,” which fourth-year civil engineering student and bassist Nicholai Hansen said the five wrote almost a full year ago.
Andrew Giurgiun, a fourth-year history student and lead vocalist, said the song is rock 'n' roll for the most part, but takes on dance and funk elements. The song is inexplicably one of the fastest songs the band has ever written, Giurgiun said.
“I wrote (‘I Walk Down’) about this kid who has artistic idols and is just dreaming about them and becoming one of them,” Giurgiun said. “But he’s this privileged suburban kid who doesn’t understand all the hardships they went through to really come up with their art. It’s him struggling with that ambition.”
Nick Valentini, a fourth-year cognitive science student and the band’s pianist, said Loop Garou did not intentionally plan to write “I Walk Down,” as with the majority of its songs.
“We wrote this song when we were just hanging out,” Valentini said. “There’s no process to it. With all music, it just kind of happens.”
Second-year ethnomusicology student and guitarist Nate Schwartz said the band members try to get together once a week to practice.
“Our best songs I feel like come together pretty quickly and pretty organically,” Schwartz said. “Some person has a seed of an idea and we just water it with our music renditions.”
Loop Garou said it does not have a method to songwriting in the sense that there is usually a lack of intensive preparation.
“Usually we figure out our own part first and then from there, we just jam out and listen to where the song could really go and build from there,” said third-year ethnomusicology and jazz studies student and drummer Nick Velez. “For example, I’ve never played (‘I Walk Down’) the same way twice. I always play something a little different.”
Valentini said the band utilizes drum and piano fills that can be slightly manipulated to adjust to how its members are feeling. The group said the improvisations are minimal and render subtleties, which Schwartz said affect how the performers interact with one another on stage.
Demonstrating a fusion between rock 'n' roll blues and soul funk, the band has rebranded and will represent its new sound at Saturday's Spring Sing.
“In the previous years when we’ve done this as separate groups and acts, they’ve been more low-key acoustic, sort of mellow stuff,” Giurgiun said. “So this is the first time we’re really rocking out.”
Winner: The UCLA Prytanean Alumnae Award for best a cappella entry
By: Max Mcgee
A pleasant range of voices fills the depths of Parking Structure 7 as Signature A Cappella prepares its four-minute Spring Sing set.
The group of female vocalists will perform an original rendition of songs by the Beatles at Spring Sing. Fourth-year psychology student and Signature director Mishael Edu said the group will have choreography and classic Beatles costumes for the performance.
At the start of the academic year, Edu said one of Signature's major goals was to perform at Spring Sing. The group brainstormed ideas during fall quarter and arranged its set during winter break.
“Choosing a song for Spring Sing is always a huge debate just because we want something that will reach all audiences,” third-year economics student and Signature member Kelly Noe said. “Ultimately we decided to take iconic Beatles songs and turn them into something fresh and new, putting our own spin on it.”
In preparing the songs, Edu said the group kept in mind the positive and feel-good energies and feelings the group associates with Beatles' songs.
“We kept our audience in mind when we selected the songs because we wanted to reach out to all ages, and we knew that everyone could enjoy these songs,” Edu said.
Hannah Bannan, a third-year philosophy student and member of Signature, said taking songs that sound completely different and finding a way to bridge them together is one of the hardest parts about creating their Spring Sing set.
"It's about taking what we think is the most important part of a song that we're singing and then creating a way to transition between them," Bannan said.
Edu said preparing for the Spring Sing show is nerve-wracking yet exciting at the same time.
“We support each other by reminding each other that we are working really hard for this performance and that it is a rare Bruin experience,” Edu said.
One of the things that Noe said the group emphasizes is taking a second during the performance to be present in the moment, making eye contact with each other and appreciating the opportunity to be on stage together.
“We feed off of each other's energy and when the crowd gets excited we get even more amped up,” Edu said. “Sometimes we even have ballads or slow songs that may have a little bit lower energy, but come with strong feelings and meaning.”
Noe said this year has been special because the group has more first-year members than in past years and older members who will be performing at Spring Sing for the first time.
“The (first-year members) are doing a great job and it’s a cool group in the sense that it is not really based off seniority,” Bannan said. “Whatever age you are, it does not matter as we are all in this together.”
By: Erica Washington
UCLA's Random Voices is accustomed to being defined by its all-women status. Though the a cappella group embraces an image of female empowerment, its members said they hope viewers can see beyond that and focus on the skill and hard work that goes into each performance.
For the group, six months of preparation will culminate in a four-minute performance at Saturday’s annual Spring Sing. With complete creative control over their sound and image, the all-female a cappella group said its upcoming rendition of "Lady Marmalade" is emblematic of their group's spirit.
“(The song) has a very strong confidence aspect to it, and I think every single person in Random Voices is confident in themselves in some way, shape or form,” said Megan Gaumond, a third-year neuroscience student and Random Voices’ music director.
Gaumond said her musical arrangement "Lady Marmalade" draws largely on the original Patti Labelle version of the song, which she said is complex and showcases the strength of the group members' voices.
“The (Labelle version) has a very social aspect to it, and it’s very soulful with a lot of R&B background,” Gaumond said.
This social component helps define Random Voices, said third-year world arts and cultures/dance student Sarah Summers. The group of 13 members spends free time together and considers each other among their best friends. Summers said they wanted to convey this cohesion through the performance.
"(In the music video of Labelle's version, they are) dancing together and laughing, and this year we have a really, really close group, so it’s interesting to find ways we can harness (our) camaraderie,” Summers said.
Morgan Rose, a second-year international development studies student, said they also drew on the "Moulin Rouge!" 2001 version to convey sass and appeal to a younger audience.
Summers, who choreographed the group’s performance for the second consecutive year, said last year’s movements were more focused on the upper body, while this year’s choreography is grounded in the pelvis to allow for this spunk and freedom of expression.
“We’re focusing on getting low and just being really, really sassy and having as much fun as possible without taking away from the arrangement,” Summers said.
Though small and cohesive, Rose said Random Voices is not lacking in diversity. With its members majoring in everything from psychobiology to musical theater, the group brings a wide array of perspectives and energies that come together on stage.
“That’s one of the amazing things ... like some people bring sass and some people bring more seriousness, and some people bring positivity and it all comes together to form this big happy family,” Rose said.
By: Kelsey Rocha
Since 2007, Bruin Harmony has won eight awards at Spring Sing for their performances of Top 40 hits. This year, the group is bringing a jazz classic to Pauley Pavilion, said Prescott Rynewicz, a second-year aerospace engineering student and member of Bruin Harmony.
"(The song) very much takes on a new side of what Bruin Harmony can be," said Jon Zhao, a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student and Bruin Harmony's musical director. "We chose to do a song that is so musically complex and is such a big song that most other a cappella groups wouldn't dare to do it."
The group started rehearsing the song, which Zhao said was the hardest arrangement he has ever written, in January.
Bruin Harmony performed Britney Spears' "Hold it Against Me" and R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)," earning best a cappella group in 2012 and 2013. Last year, the group opted for an older number with Queen's rock song "Fat Bottomed Girls."
"For me, it's one of my favorite songs I grew up listening to," Rynewicz said. "I've been a jazz artist for most of my life, and it's been a song that's been a big part of my life."
Zhao said the change in style is a large step in showcasing a different facet of the group's talent. He said the song provides an opportunity to emphasize the talents of Bruin Harmony's solo artist, fourth-year neuroscience student Lucas Cabantac, but also shows the rest of the group's musical inclinations.
Compared to previous years' pop-inspired choreography and costuming, Zhao said the group will dawn a sleek, James Bond-inspired aesthetic as homage to a recent revival of its song choice by popular jazz artist Michael Bublé.
"In previous years it was very head-banging, butt-shaking fun," Zhao said. "This year, it's a lot more about this stoic intensity."
To prepare for the performance, Zhao said the group spent extensive time discussing what the song meant to each of them personally to avoid singing in an emotionless autopilot state.
"It's a song about freedom and being released from something that's been trapping you," Zhao said, "It comes from a place of darkness. It's a complex and emotionally driven song."
Winner: Nicholas Pauley and Madison Olandt for best group director award for the best liason
By: Melyssa Cruz
Madison Olandt, a second-year world arts and cultures/dance and psychology student, said her major has given her a sixth sense.
“We’ll take a class where we will all lay down and close our eyes, listening to our surroundings, or sit in Bruin Plaza and then make a dance out of the pedestrian gestures we observed,” Olandt said. “To (world arts and cultures/dance) majors, everything is choreography.”
Olandt said she channeled her love for movement when she decided to perform in Spring Sing and co-founded The Inner Sanctum, a 40-person dance group primarily comprised of world arts and cultures/dance students.
Her co-founder Nicholas Pauley, a second-year world arts and cultures/dance student, said the group's name originated from a meditation workshop he attended.
“The definition of the inner sanctum is your truest self,” Pauley said. “When we dance, we don’t care about external factors, we just go into ourselves and allow our bodies to move.”
Pauley said he and Olandt settled on directing the piece two months before Spring Sing auditions and recruited dancers to start rehearsing three times a week in January.
He added that choreographing the group's dance has been most challenging for the creators since the movements follow a story.
“It’s essentially a fairy tale about a wishing well,” he said. “So each step has to make sense to the progression of the story and we can’t just throw in a cool visual.”
Olandt said that a narrator guiding the audience through the performance distinguishes the dance and increases theatricality.
"We wanted to create something that nobody would expect and would subvert the audience," Olandt said. "We didn't want the choreography to be the natural first thing we thought of, so we had to sit down and talk about it."
After Pauley choreographed a number featuring 30 dancers instead of the conventional 10 for "WACSmash'D," the world arts and cultures/dance showcase, he said he realized the potential of bonding the department together through mass performance.
"A lot of dance teams on campus who practice late at night really get to bond," Pauley said. "(World arts and cultures/dance) is a family, but now we have a grand finale where we can all perform together."
The duo said they also see Spring Sing as a way to clear up preconceived notions about world arts and cultures/dance since the department has few performances and minimal recognition on campus.
“When people think of dance, they think hip-hop and dance teams, but that’s not what (world arts and cultures/dance) does,” Pauley said. “A (world arts and cultures/dance) performance is going to be experimental and sometimes uncomfortable, but we’re excited to show that we can also entertain a crowd.”
Winner: Bruin Choice Award
By: Kelsey Stern
At the Bridge 2014 competition, ACA Hip Hop's winning performance was recorded. The video has garnered more than 800,000 views on YouTube since.
“Some people (on the team) would walk to class and they would see some people on their phones watching the video," said second-year bioengineering student Rachel Fujikawa. "They would post it in our Facebook group and be like ‘Look guys, someone’s watching us and I don’t know them.’”
On Saturday, attendees of Spring Sing will see some of the pieces from that winning set live at Pauley Pavilion.
The Association of Chinese Americans' dance exhibition will open the second half of Spring Sing. The hip-hop group's performance will be a mix of its fall and spring sets.
Since the majority of ACA's performances and competitions are off campus, Fujikawa said Spring Sing is one of the group's only opportunities to perform in front of fellow UCLA students.
Fujikawa said dance is an important part of Spring Sing because it allows the audience to experience music interpreted in a different form. She said while singers use lyrics to give meaning to music, dancers use physical movements to portray their message.
Jasmine Lin, a second-year communication studies student, said ACA's exhibition will feature a wide range of hip-hop styles. She said some of the pieces are hard-hitting and sassy, while others are more somber.
“What’s really awesome about this year is the diversity of our set, how once the song changes, our mood entirely changes," Lin said. "There’s not a boring moment in the set because we are always bringing a new emotion."
The opening dance is choreographed to Flume's remix of Lorde's "Tennis Courts," Lin said. This piece will help bring energy to the crowd, which is what she said the judges expect of the dance exhibitions.
The last piece of the set will act as a tribute to the seniors and members leaving the crew, Lin said. She said the song they will dance to, “Farewell” by Witness, has no lyrics and the meaning is conveyed through organic and flowing movements.
Lin said it will be interesting for the Spring Sing audience to watch a more emotional dance from a hip-hop group, since she said ACA is more commonly known for energetic dances.
“I want to (break) that label because I think that our choreographers and our dancers are a lot more than just a hype group," Lin said. "We have a really artistic side that people, who don’t dance and just see from the outside, can’t tell."
Winner: The UCLA Affiliates Award for best production entry
By: Alisha Kapur
On top of Parking Structure 2 on most weekend evenings throughout winter and spring quarter, dancers leapt across parking spots, while singers belted out their favorite pop songs and actors interjected witty lines.
HOOLIGAN Theatre Company has taken up residence in the structure while it rehearses for its upcoming Spring Sing performance. The group, which has performed at Spring Sing for the past two years, has been working to perfect its 2015 show, which centers around an undisclosed theme.
Third-year English student Sara Beil, who co-wrote and co-directs the piece, said the group mostly practices on weekends. She said it was difficult to schedule rehearsals around the company’s two main shows in the winter before Spring Sing auditions.
Beil worked on the show last year too, in the same capacity. Last year, she and her co-writer went up to HOOLIGAN’s executive board members and told them they would write the show, which they based off "Peter Pan," but this year they had to submit a concept proposal.
“We tried to be different this year," Beil said. "We don’t want to settle into a formula."
She said the group originally auditioned this year with a completely different show that used characters from “Scooby-Doo.” However, after talking to the Student Alumni Association, she said they decided to scrap that number and come up with a new one.
“We realized that the story had a lot of problems, and it wasn’t something that we thought everyone in the audience could connect to or really be interested in,” Beil said.
Beil said the new story has a more simple storyline than the one HOOLIGAN originally auditioned with.
“It’s super energetic, it’s super fun, it’s catchy pop songs we all love with a lot of really ingenious and really funny lines in the middle,” said second-year political science student Ana Karina Palacio, who does hair and makeup for the company and performs in the ensemble.
Palacio said she started doing hair and makeup when she joined HOOLIGAN and found that Spring Sing provided her with new challenges.
"I want to make everyone super unique," Palacio said. "You have to remember that Pauley Pavilion is a 9,000-people stadium, so (for) the people in the back, I want them to be able to notice things, (while) also looking good on the screen and not looking like a clown."
Second-year film student Brandon Papo, who is making his HOOLIGAN debut, said he saw the company onstage last year and felt the need to join them this year. He said he feels a connection to the theme of the show this year, which deals with acceptance and fitting in at UCLA.
“I think the main thing about this production is that even though you might feel lost, there is still a place for everyone,” Papo said.
By: Melyssa Cruz
Nikki Friedman came up with a new theme two weeks after performing in Spring Sing last year with her sorority Delta Gamma and the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha.
Friedman, a third-year world arts and cultures/dance and psychology student and director of the piece, wanted to take on more of a challenge for the group’s return to the Spring Sing stage this Saturday.
"Getting a story across to 9,000 people in the audience can be difficult," Friedman said. "But after performing a number about celebrities last year and seeing how clearly everyone in the number projected their voices, I knew we could take the risk."
Sixteen girls from Delta Gamma will be performing with 17 Lambda Chi Alpha members in what will be Delta Gamma's ninth consecutive year in the competition, she said.
Friedman said she placed herself in the shoes of an audience member and asked what she would want to hear in order to write the number featuring Top 40 songs with modified lyrics.
She said despite the stress of coordinating 32 people, the dedication of the performers has motivated her.
“Teaching (17) fraternity guys how to dance might not seem appealing,” Friedman said. “But they are more hardworking than I would ever imagine.”
Wes Hartmann, a first-year mathematics student and member of the production, said the Spring Sing number marks his first time learning to dance.
“The styles of dance change throughout the number, matching the different songs,” Hartmann said. “It ranges from funky hip-hop to salsa, so I had to learn the complicated footwork and how to partner dance with a girl.”
He said that the group’s dancers and vocalists were strict in rehearsing four times a week for two hours, culminating in their Spring Sing audition.
“My shoe caught on the floor and I stumbled into the area marked as offstage. I basically fell off the stage in front of the judges,” Hartmann said. “But obviously we impressed someone.”
Michelle Dold, a fourth-year international development studies student who will be participating in the Delta Gamma and Lambda Chi Alpha number for the second time, said she appreciates the production category because it allows people not trained in a cappella or involved in artistic extracurriculars to participate.
“We are the everyday UCLA students,” Dold said. “We’re just getting up there, doing our best and not taking ourselves too seriously.”
By: Lindsay Weinberg
Landen Baldwin compared the role of Company to drinking a glass of water after each bite of ice cream.
“It’s almost a palate cleanser," said Baldwin, a third-year linguistics student and first-time member of Company. “It’s like, ‘This was pleasant, I enjoyed that, and now let’s get back to the real sweet stuff.’”
Company is a group of 12 students who perform comedic sketches in the style of "Saturday Night Live" in between each of the talent acts of Spring Sing. The mix of live skits and premade videos are written, performed and filmed by the cast.
Another first-time Company member, Dolapo Sangokoya, a fourth-year political science student, said she was shown the video of a previous Spring Sing skit, “RAIN: H20...NO,” during a campus visit in high school. Ever since, Sangokoya has dreamed of performing in Company because of the humor and school pride.
“Company is performing for the audience rather than the judges,” Sangokoya said. “There’s literally nothing else out there talking about campus climate and things that relate to being a Bruin.”
This year, Ali Wolff, a fourth-year political science and history student, and Amir Ghowsi, a third-year business economics student, are the Student Alumni Association's co-directors of Company.
“I’m like ‘Oh, I’m not funny enough to be one of them, (so) why not direct?’” Ghowsi said.
Wolff said the cast's various majors and campus involvement allow them to write material that's relatable to many students; only two of the 12 members are theater students and only three are returning members from last year’s Company, Ghowsi said.
After holding auditions and casting the group in January, Ghowsi and Wolff began meetings. Rehearsals became more frequent as the date of Spring Sing approached, they said, with the past five weekends devoted to filming videos. While their meeting locations range from Ackerman to Wolff’s apartment, the members agreed that Parking Structure 7 is their main creative space.
Marisa Statton, a fourth-year communication studies student and returning Company performer, said meetings are a group effort as everyone pitches ideas, reads scripts and suggests new twists.
Baldwin said he generates new material based on daily conversations and jokes with friends.
“It all starts as that little seed of an idea,” Baldwin said. “You think about it, you chew on it, and you stretch it out into this idea that can be put into a story.”
Every Company member contributed toward visualizing every skit, Wolff said, opposed to having one scriptwriter and 11 actors.
While the content of the sketches is secret, Statton said this year will include a lot of inanimate objects.
"What’s really going to be awesome is (that) I think we’ve covered every medium of performance,” Sangokoya said.
Wolff and Ghowsi said Company is comprised of videographers, editors, improvisers, actors, writers and even opera singers and violin players. Ghowsi said a lot of different talents are packed into each person, which Statton said is necessary because they incorporate these varying abilities into the sketches.
“(The skits) become their own culture,” Ghowsi said. “They live on and they add a piece to UCLA that goes beyond Spring Sing.”