Photo courtesy of Sing it to the Heights / Facebook

Sing it to the Heights: An Ode to Music's Meaning

On the evening of April 7, an era will come to a close, silencing the microphones and dimming the sound stage, when American Idol signs off the air for the last time. As the 15th and final season of the show—that wound its way into the guilty pleasures of many—begins to wind down, fans cannot ignore the nostalgia any longer. With Idol’s best and brightest stars setting the world aflame, how can such sadness be sidestepped? Just last week Kelly Clarkson returned to the Idol stage, where she performed her new original song, "Piece by Piece," leaving any and all viewers in tears. Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood is country-cooing her way through an international tour. Jennifer Hudson has movies on Netflix. And who could forget Sanjaya Malakar? (Many, actually).

American Idol fans at Boston College have little to fret over the series’ end, because on Thursday, March 3, the mics were hot and the lights were on at the Robsham Theater Arts Center for the 12th annual Sing it to the Heights competition.

The mock American Idol event, sponsored by the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), the Boston College Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, and the Office of Vice President for Student Affairs, was a rousing success.

This year’s competition began several weeks ago when 44 people auditioned in the first round. Out of those 44, 10 were chosen to compete in the second and final round on the Robsham stage this past Thursday. Presiding over the competition were three Jesuit judges, one of those being Father Ryan Duns, S.J., whose mastery of the tin whistle and highly visited YouTube page gave him a distinct voice at the judges’ table. Despite this, his clerical collar had nothing on Simon Cowell’s white v-neck tee.

The performances of the 10 finalists were unique and well executed. There were tributes to Twenty One Pilots, Eddie Money, and Maroon 5. The singers successfully took us from the bottom of a whiskey bottle to the taxi-crammed streets of New York City.

The audience could vote for the performer of their choice via text message; those very votes brought a freshmen sweep of the competition. In third place was Khari King, CSOM ’19, who sang a mash-up of “Sunday Morning” and “So Sick.” In second place was Maverick Lydon Shay, MCAS ’19, who did Demi Lovato proud with her rendition of “Stone Cold.” And taking home the coveted first place was William Supple, MCAS ’19, who won the crowd over with “Tennessee Whiskey.”

The event, once again, benefited the musical program at St. Columbkille parochial school in Brighton. The donations from Sing it to the Heights have not only enabled the school’s music program to stay afloat but to flourish, allowing the school to offer more lessons and provide instruments as well.

Photo courtesy of Natalee Deaette / Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Natalee Deaette / Facebook.

To show their gratitude, St. Columbkille brought their junior and senior choirs and orchestra to the Heights competition to perform for the audience. Their performances brought the Robsham audience to their feet—and some to tears.

The smiles of the students as they belted the lyrics and twiddled their clarinet fingers reminded the audience of song before American Idol and The Voice, song sung for its own sake. Though many are sad to see Idol end after pioneering competitive singing programs and introducing stars to the music scene, these very contests have made many forget what music is truly about.

Shouldn’t music be enjoyed as a “refuge,” as Maya Angelou thought? As a form of meditation or prayer, as St. Augustine preached? After all, singing is “praying twice.” Or as J.S. Bach once wrote, “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”

Have we allowed music to become as meaningful as the winner's cash prize at singing competitions?

Allow the music program at St. Columbkille School—and the 10 performers that sang to raise money for them at Sing it to the Heights—to remind you that the magic in music has not been lost.

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Casey O'Neill