Behind the Scenes of Sing: The Student Production Committee

Student Productions Committee
Student Productions Committee
Feb. 11, 2016

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WACO, Texas (Feb. 11, 2016) – All-University Sing is one of the most well known and beloved Baylor traditions. The music, the dancing and, of course, the singing comprise acts that represent months of hard work by all the groups involved. Baylor students are responsible for the performances in their entirety. There are moves to be choreographed, costumes to be sewn, backdrops to be painted and lines to be learned.

Each year, when the acts are finally put on stage, the audience gets to enjoy all of those aspects. They may even notice the intricacy of the light tech, the seamless transitions between the songs coming from the audio booth and the hard work of the stage crew as the curtains open and close on new scenes.

But what about the students whose contributions do not end up on stage? Dance, costumes and backdrop aside, there are also rules to be followed, contracts to be signed and check-ins to be performed.

The Student Productions Committee is a group of 14 students who are responsible for these behind-the-scenes aspects of Sing. StuPro, as it's more commonly called, also is in charge of making After Dark, Pigskin Revue and StompFest, which is co-produced with Zeta Phi Beta, go smoothly.

Established in the spring of 2009, this leadership team of undergrad students works to produce shows that achieve a certain standard of excellence. Each member is assigned to serve as a student producer for a competing group during each of the four shows.

"From setting show and rehearsal dates to marketing, meeting with performers and student leaders, reserving venues, photo booths, tents and more, StuPro is the heartbeat behind the productions," said Cheryl Mathis, assistant director of campus programs. "StuPro works in tandem with the staff at Waco Hall to ensure schedules are set, technical needs are communicated effectively and that the performers stay within all Waco Hall regulations."

Before StuPro was created, one professional staff member and one graduate apprentice were responsible for arranging all four shows. Over the years, other student organizations helped coordinate individual events, but StuPro is the first to oversee all of the productions.

Mathis was the graduate assistant when the committee was established and returned in 2012 as assistant director. She said she's seen the organization grow "not only in numbers and responsibilities, but in respect from performers in the productions."

Apart from responsibilities as peer-to-peer representatives for performing groups, each member in StuPro also serves on one of three operating committees: external relations, internal relations or marketing.

Austin Hatchett, a senior religion and film and digital media major, is part of the internal relations team. Their responsibilities mainly include dealing with performers, ensuring everybody signs performer contracts, getting everyone tickets and checking them all in on the day of show.

"I wanted to join Student Productions because I wanted to find a way to get more involved in a Baylor tradition, and there's basically nothing more Baylor-ific than Sing," Hatchett said. "I think it's a really cool way to participate in keeping tradition alive. All the shows we do– Sing, of course, but also After Dark, Pigskin and Stompfest– are Baylor events with a long, rich history, and that feels good to be a part of."

Hatchett said his favorite part of Sing is seeing his groups' acts come to fruition.

"It's a time-consuming and challenging process to get the act to this point, so when we're finally able to see all the pieces coming together and forming something coherent, it's pretty legit," he said.

One thing audience members may not realize is how long a process Sing is, Hatchett said.

"The other shows are relatively contained in month or two, but someone is working on Sing almost all year long," he said. "You take it from the early development of the act through the creative stages of figuring out costumes and backdrops and then all the way through the actual performances. There's also just a ton of performers, which is harder to handle when you're doing things like checking people in on show nights. But it's way more fun, too, because the entire process is about creativity and community. So it ends up being worth the effort."

Student producers meet with their group's Sing chairs in the spring of the year before the performance. Basically, as soon as Sing ends, the planning for the following year is underway. StuPro members help guide the chairs by resolving disagreements, offering suggestions and acting as a sounding board for ideas. They also make sure the chairs are aware of any approaching deadlines and, as Sing approaches, provide insight and help refine the act as it's actively being assembled. During the actual performances, it's StuPro making sure their groups are in the right places at the right times.

"A lot of things go into Sing," Hatchett said. "Student Productions puts in a lot of hours, but so do the Sing chairs, their organizations, the Waco Hall staff and the wide group of people that help produce the music, materials and funding for every act."

One of Hatchett's favorite memories is from Pigskin 2015.

"I produced TriDelt, and at one of their rehearsals, they asked me to videotape their final run-through so they could know what to improve on, yada yada, so I did," he said. "But halfway through the video, I realized that I was just straight up singing along, really loudly, to their music. It was too late to stop singing, so I just owned it and went on. The first time they watched that video was at their next meeting. They showed it to the entire chapter without realizing I would be accompanying their vocalists. Fun times."

Alex Tolar, a senior biology major, is part of the marketing team, whose responsibilities include social media involving Sing and keeping people up to date on ticket information. She runs the Baylor University Student Productions Facebook page, making posts about the events and answering messages. She also helped create a series of posts about the growth of Sing, tracing its history from 1953 to today.

"My favorite part of Sing is working with chairs from various organizations," Tolar said. "Each individual Sing Chair is unique, and it is exciting to see them work together to bring a Sing act to life. We have been working with these current chairs since March 2015, and in the past few weeks, we have been able to see the costumes, lighting, backdrop and audio come together on stage for this first time. It is an incredible thing to watch."

Tolar acknowledges that Sing is a lot of work, but said she doesn't think any individual member of StuPro is ever totally overwhelmed.

"The Student Productions family is incredibly strong, and each individual is capable of completing tasks and communicating with each other," she said. "We are also under the direction of some incredible advisors. Their strong and knowledgeable guidance allows for great productions like Sing to come together, be memorable and attract a strong following of Baylor alumni, current students, parents and friends."

Heading the committee for Sing is Nsela Ndando, a senior film and digital media major and the executive producer of Sing 2016. She oversees the other student producers and also works on approvals of themes, songs, props and other aspects of performances, as well as leading weekly meetings to keep Sing chairs informed.

"Since Sing is a production that's been running for 64 years, there's a relatively set layout for things that need to get done," Ndando said. "The most complicated aspect is making sure that everything gets done within its set deadline and not forgetting those small details. The biggest help is that I'm working with an absolutely wonderful team of producers who care about the production and the success of the groups as much as I do."

Ndando joined StuPro so she could stay involved in the performance world without have to be a performance major.

"My favorite part of Sing is watching 17 groups who started out with a glimmer of an idea 10 months ago transform that into full-blown acts," Ndando said. "Getting to see the look on Sing Chairs' faces when their backdrop is raised for the first time or they see their act run with lights is by far my favorite aspect."

The commitment that each group has to putting on the best show they possibly can is a factor that makes it fun, she said.

"Sing is an amazing production that gives 2,000-plus students an opportunity that would be difficult to find anywhere else, whether that's improving leadership skills as a producer, building an act as a Sing chair or even just singing and dancing on stage," Ndando said. "There's something beautiful about that, and I'm beyond thankful I get to be a part of it."

What amazes Mathis is StuPro's care and dedication to the productions and student experiences.

"Without the tireless heart of StuPro, these productions would not have the student voice they have today," Mathis said.

Applications for StuPro are now open. Students can apply at https://fs17.formsite.com/StudentProductions/form24/index.html.

by Jenna Press, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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