Kean University is an institution that prides itself on its talented students. In regard to the student body, interested individuals will have the opportunity to audition to sing the national anthem during undergraduate and graduate commencement Monday, April 22 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in the Miron Student Center (MSC) Little Theatre.
The undergraduate commencement will take place Thursday, May 23 at 8:30 a.m. in the Prudential Center, and the graduate commencement will be held Friday, May 17 at 11 a.m. in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).
Last year's undergraduate and graduate commencement singers were Marbelly Leonardo and Althea Nava, respectively. Students can visit Kean University's YouTube to get a sense of what to expect for this year's undergraduate and graduate commencement.
Upon arriving to the Little Theatre for auditions, students will be greeted by individuals from Premiere Stages. Premiere Stages is a hub on campus that provides professional development, educational initiatives and support for new playwrights and theatre artists.
Its mission is to serve the cultural needs of the Kean community and local communities. Through its mission, Premiere Stages created the opening for talented students to express their gift in a grand platform like graduation.
In order to audition, one must email firstname.lastname@example.org, and then students will get a detailed description of what is expected from them. Students should be prepared to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" a cappella style.
Courtney Little, producing associate for Premiere Stages, spoke about its involvement with graduation.
"Singers must sign-up to audition ahead of time and prepare to sing the first verse of the national anthem. Those selected to perform at the commencements will be notified within two weeks of the auditions," Little said. "[Furthermore,] singers will sing the first verse of the national anthem a cappella, which means without any musical accompaniment in front of a selection panel that includes John J. Wooten and Holly Logue."
John J. Wooten is the producing artistic director while Holly Logue is the director of the theatre conservatory. Together they hope to find two suitable singers for the commencements to build memories for the future.
"Don't approach it like you are singing to 20,000 people; approach it like you are singing to each of those people individually. Given the build of the song, don't start out too high. Understand the story you are telling and be emotionally invested in sharing it with your fellow students," Wooten said. "Students who have been selected to perform the anthem have done an amazing job and always get the ceremony off to a rousing start."
Logue recalls how singing the anthem has stirred the audience and gives students a sense of accomplishment.
"I look for someone who knows the anthem well. Believe it or not, there are some who have auditioned for us who got words and notes wrong," Logue said. "I also look for someone who sings with confidence and style, and is able to sing without accompaniment. We also consider whether or not the student is part of the graduating class. We don’t exclude those who aren’t graduating but it is one of several factors that we [consider]."
Additionally, Logue believes that practice truly makes perfect.
"Practice, practice, practice. Listen to the rhythms and the notes and learn it correctly," said Logue. "Since you won’t have an accompanist, you really want to know your starting note so the song doesn’t get too high. The Star-Spangled Banner is not an easy song to sing. Also, I personally prefer someone who doesn’t riff on the song too much. Sing it straight with sensitivity and power."
Students interested in the auditions or Premiere Stages can visit its website or call (908) 737-4092 for more details.