St. Louis Transforms College Process Into Musical

Uppers face the “SAT” wishing that they had a “lucky legacy” slaving away with the “250-500 Word Blues.”  “The Tuition Tango” is followed by ‘the Waiting Line“ as seniors die to “get in.” Andy St. Louis ’05 transformed the college process into song for his Abbot Scholar presentation: “Getting In: A New Musical Revue.”  The idea of the project was first suggested by St. Louis’ mother. “I laughed at the idea, I thought it was too cheesy and cliché. But it seemed perfect since I was going through the process myself and it was a topic that everyone could relate to,” said St. Louis. St. Louis learned the details of music theory and its application in his AP music theory class. Over the summer, he took voice lessons at the prestigious Tanglewood Summer Institute.  St. Louis was then faced with the dilemma of where to begin – lyrics then music, or vice versa? “I was stronger in music than I was in lyrics. But the words begin to feel boxed in by the music itself. Neither was going to work for me.” He decided to work verse by verse, line by line. Once the song began to take shape, he wrote the corresponding lyrics in a parallel process. He began with the style of the music, then chose the time signatures and the rhythm, depending on the style of the piece, selecting an appropriate mode that would suit the mood of the song. Finally, he set the musical structure as well as a rhyme scheme of the lyrics.   St. Louis spent long hours in the record library revising and looking for inspiration. After the extended songwriting process, the rehearsals began in early spring. St. Louis said, “The pieces truly come to life during rehearsals, and as a composer it is truly fulfilling to hear the pieces being performed.” Senior members of the Fidelio Society performed the pieces. Luis Ortiz ’05 played piano, Emily Cokorinos ’08 jammed on double bass, and James Paolino ’05 rocked out on drums. The presentation was originally intended to be a full-scale musical format, with the complete stage effects, costumes, acting, and choreography, He planned on writing half the music in the fall, the other half in the winter, and the staging during the spring term. He finished four of the eight songs by the end of winter term. Consequently, the plan evolved into a songwriting project presented in a concert style. “No frills, just music,” he said.  The concert featured seven musical numbers in a chronological order of the application process – from the dreadful SAT’s to the magical moment of getting ‘the letter’. The style of the songs ranged from Tango to Blues. The “SAT” featured Alison Wheeler ‘05, Jeff Cutts ‘05, Lauren Blas ‘05, Eric Bair ‘05, Jon Weigel ’05, and Chris Li ’07. Weigel narrated as a test administrator as each singer voiced his anxiety about taking the ‘big test’. “Lucky Legacy”, a Barbershop Quartet a cappella piece, presented a student faced with happy decisions- Princeton or Harvard?  “250-500 Word Blues”, sung by Juli Min ‘05, was a Blues number about the agony of writing numerous college essays and completing the applications.  “Tuition Tango”, featuring Miles Canaday ‘05, was a light piano Tango piece about the stress of raising money for tuition. In “The Waiting Game”, a soft piano bar-rock piece, Bair played and sang about the angst of waiting for the decisions to come. Finally, “Getting In”, a Broadway-like finale of the concert, was the culmination of the presentation. The entire company came together to sing about their dream colleges in front of the wild audience. St. Louis was given a standing ovation.