Sing it to the Heights: Meet the Contestants In-depth conversations with the competitors of ELP's Upcoming Sing it to the Heights contest

Will Riley – MCAS ’21, Philosophy 

What was your audition song?

“When We Were Young” by Adele.

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I feel like over the past couple years I haven’t really been involved in anything musically, and I felt as if though this was something that I could use to kind of get back in the swing of things like I did in high school.

When did you first start singing?

I think it was second grade we started music lessons in elementary school, and at that point, the music teacher took some of the guys and girls from the class and put them in the school choir, so singing more or less since second grade. I did choir through elementary school. I did the school chorale in high school as well.

Do you play any instruments?

I will not be playing any instruments [during my performance], not my specialty. I will only be singing.

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m a Freshmen League captain, so hopefully all my freshman guys will show up to the performance. I was a 48Hours leader last semester, and then I also sometimes participate in a club called Opera Workshop, which is a really fun club where we go through different musical ensembles every week.

Best song to sing in the shower?

I have to go with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” because all the different parts—I mean who doesn’t want to go through that seven-minute masterpiece in the shower? I actually wrote my college essay on that song, so that song has a special spot in my heart.

Who are your influences?

I’d say Freddie Mercury is a big influence—Queen is my favorite band. I also really love Billy Joel, really love Frank Sinatra, Sam Smith is so great. All of these people are so wonderful, you have to take bits and pieces of every one of their styles.

What is your favorite album right now?

Fire and Fury by Sturgill Simpson. He’s phenomenal. That album is like an adrenaline rush for 40-some odd minutes, and it’s a masterpiece.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

I’m pretty sure that my grandmother might be coming, so it’s going to be great to perform in front of her because she hasn’t heard or seen me sing in a long time, since probably end of high school.

Jack Peterson – MCAS ’20, Biology and Economics 

What was your audition song?

“Mack the Knife,” which is an old jazz standard most popularized by Bobby Darin.

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I actually competed last year, and I did a song that was completely different—I did “La Vie en Rose,” which is a big, emotional love ballad. I performed second out of 10, and after I performed, I came out to the audience and I watched all the awesome performers, and they were great. But the one thing I noticed is that a lot of people were doing similar styles, like they were also playing piano and doing love songs, so I wanted to do it again and try singing a big, jazzy, powerful song that’s not really as much about love as it is about a fun story.

When did you first start singing?

I taught myself how to play piano and sing in high school, but I didn’t sing in front of any people until college. I joined the Heightsmen my sophomore year.

Do you play any instruments besides piano?

No.

What are you involved in at BC?

I play some intramurals, and through the years I’ve done different things here and there. I like to participate in psych studies as well. This year is my senior year, so I’ve just been spending a lot of time with friends.

Best song to sing in the shower?

“Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. In the chorus, there’s a big run that Chris Stapleton does. It’s really hard to sing and sounds really cool, and we actually have a rule in my house that when that part of the song comes on, you have to be silent. Nobody can even try to sing it because you have to pay your respects to Chris Stapleton.

Who are your influences?

I like to incorporate a lot of different styles. I would say my favorite current musicians are Bruno Mars and Corinne Bailey Rae. Bruno just because he has an awesome stage presence and I love the way he writes songs, because I think they’re very simple and to the point. And Corinne because she maintains this air of humbleness and attainability, a lot of vulnerability in her voice, and I think it’s just beautiful to listen to. But then going back, I love listening to Sam Cooke, I love The Eagles and Billy Joel as well.

What is your favorite album right now?

Freudian by Daniel Caesar and Blonde by Frank Ocean. I love that contemporary R&B style, and those guys just absolutely kill it. My favorite band right now is Juice—I’m actually going to see them this weekend. I think that their music is absolutely top notch.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

I’m most looking forward to my parents coming, because I never sang in front of them before college, before my first Heightsmen performance. This is a much different thing, they’ve never seen me sing on a stage before, they’ve never seen me sing by myself before. 

Tommy Boyce – CSOM ’21, Marketing and Business Analytics

What was your audition song?

“Vienna” by Billy Joel.

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I don’t really think of it as competing, I’m just singing my song. It’s funny that it’s a contest—I keep forgetting that.

When did you first start singing?

Ever since I was a little kid, really little, like 4. I would sing in church, and I would sing loud enough that people would comment on it, like “Oh, your kid really likes singing there.” My mom met a voice teacher through her work, and then I started taking lessons when I was 8 years old. I took them for 10 years. I did chamber choir and musicals in high school.

Do you play any instruments?

I play a bit of guitar.

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m a member of GLC, I’m also a member of the Boston College Dramatics Society. I do the plays at BC, I’m a pride peer. CSOM stuff like Marketing Academy.

Best song to sing in the shower?

I sing in the shower way too much. My roommates all give me shit for it, so does my brother. “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston because you want to sing a dramatic song in the shower.

Who are your influences?

I listened to a lot of country growing up. My mom loved the ladies of country, like Faith Hill and Dolly Parton. When I got older, I listened to a lot of indie-pop. I love Bleachers, I love Jack Antonoff, he’s one of my favorite musicians. Robyn. I love Bowie, Lorde. 

What is your favorite album right now?

Maggie Rogers, Heard It In a Past Life.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

I think just doing it for an audience. I do the shows at BC, like I did musicals there, so I love Robsham, I know that stage very well. It’s going to be fun to do it by myself with no one around me.

AJ Singh – CSOM ’23, Finance and Computer Science 

What was your audition song?

“Who’s Lovin’ You” by The Jackson 5.

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I didn’t really know about the competition until my friends told me about it, and they said I should give it a shot, so here we are.

When did you first start singing?

Middle school. I started doing theatre and stuff like that, and then I started branching away from that and just focusing on singing.

Do you play any instruments?

I play piano. I was brought up classically and then started writing and singing and doing my own stuff in high school. 

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m in the Acoustics, BC bOp!, and AHANA Management Academy.

Best song to sing in the shower?

“Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae.

Who are your influences?

Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey.

What is your favorite album right now?

Fine Line by Harry Styles.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

Hearing everyone else. I love listening to other musicians, and that’s why I love being part of groups. Everyone is really collaborative, and you get to learn from each other.

Francesca Giangiulio – MCAS ’23, English, Theatre and Art History minors

What was your audition song?

I sang “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor and John Legend. So the week before I had done a bunch of auditions for a cappella groups, and it took me forever to find a song. And I ended up singing that, and I thought it sounded really good and it helped me get into [the Acoustics].

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I kept getting the emails about [Sing it to the Heights], and I have a few friends who do stuff for ELP and they were like, “You should do it,” because they knew that I sang, and so they kept trying to tell me “You should go out, you should do it.” I had a few extra minutes before one of my a cappella rehearsals a few weeks ago, and I was just like, “You know what, like, I have nothing to lose. Why not?” So I just went [to the audition].

When did you first start singing?

I feel like I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, but I first started singing in choir-type settings in middle school. I did musical theater all throughout middle school and high school. I feel like every time I’ve been in a musical group or in a show, I’ve always met so many great people, and I’ve formed so many relationships through singing and performing. So I knew that that was something I wanted to do in college, because it’s definitely a great way to meet people when you’re going into a new place. 

Do you play any instruments? 

I don’t play any instruments. No, it’s just singing. I have a piano at my house back home, and my dad knows how to play, and my brother kind of knows how to play. So I wish I could play [the piano] better. 

What are you involved in at BC?

At BC, I’m in 4Boston, so I volunteer at the Sister Mary Hart after-school program in Roxbury. I’m in the Acoustics, I’m in Contemporary Theatre at BC. I write for The Heights, I write for Metro.

Best song to sing in the shower?

I think anything that’s a really belty song, kind of like guilty pleasure songs, you know. I feel like Beyoncé, [and] the song “Shallow” from A Star is Born always comes to mind, I sing that a lot in the shower.

Who are your influences?

People whose music I really appreciate, and I listen to a lot, I listen to Hall & Oates all the time, The Beatles, and then there’s like modern people—I listen to Khalid a lot, I think he has really good songs, and Chance the Rapper.

What is your favorite album right now?

Fine Line by Harry Styles is my favorite album right now. I just got it on vinyl for Christmas, and I listened to it, like, all of Winter Break. It’s a really good album.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

So, two of my really good friends from the Acoustics are actually in it with me. So it’s me, AJ, and Corinne, so I’m really excited to sing with them. I think it’ll be really fun, and I’ve been telling all my friends about it, and they’re really excited to go and see. 

Max Schenkel – MCAS ’22, Neuroscience and Studio Art, Finance minor

What was your audition song?

I did “Love For a Child” by Jason Mraz.

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

To be honest, I know it’s probably not the greatest answer, but I’m going on vacation—I would like to have a little bit extra to spend. The cash incentive was certainly at play, but honestly I want to perform in front of people again. I did it once when I was in middle school, and it was a really refreshing and fun experience. It’s been a while since I’ve sang in front of people, so I thought it’d be a cool experience to do it again.

When did you first start singing?

My earliest memories are with my mom, because my mom was a singer. She was really into theatre and stuff like that when she was a kid, and I remember singing Green Day songs with her when I was 5. I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, so I used to watch her play the piano and sing Green Day with her, which was pretty cool. 

Do you play any instruments?

I would love to learn how to play the piano or the guitar. I played the drums in middle school, and I feel like I have a good ear for percussion and rhythm. I feel like if I were to learn anything, the piano will probably be the one.

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m joining the Music Guild right now. I’m in the application process for trying to get onto the board. I was doing The BC Elements journal for a while. I was in the Student Business Consortium of Boston College for a while, which is interesting. You actually got the opportunity to work with real firms and stuff like that, work on advertising projects like customer analytics and stuff like that. 

Best song to sing in the shower?

My go to is “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse.

Who are your influences?

Tom Misch, Mac Ayres. Jason Mraz, Frank Ocean, Daniel Caesar. JID, Jessie Reyez, Tobi Lou, Mac Miller, and Brent Faiyaz.

What is your favorite album right now?

The Epic by Kamasi Washington.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

I plan on pointing to my friends when they show up, I’m going to try to find them in the crowd, just like point at them before I start. I feel like just seeing all the faces in the crowd and having those nerves again will be a really cool experience. To perform in front of an audience is kind of thrilling, kind of nerve-wracking at the same time, but it’s an adrenaline rush. 

Sophia Gardner – CSOM ’22, Information Systems and Accounting for Finance and Consulting 

What was your audition song?

“Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights? 

So I was in [the University] Chorale last year, and I tried out for a cappella groups but didn’t get in. For Sing it to the Heights, I really liked the whole purpose of it, like funding a school’s music program. … I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, but especially in elementary school and middle school and high school, it was really important. To keep that kind of aspect in a kid’s life and not take that away is so important. I really auditioned for Sing it to The Heights on a whim, because I was like “I don’t know if I’m gonna make it or not, like it might happen it might not, but I will never know if I don’t try,” so then I did. And then I got in and I was shocked. 

When did you first start singing?

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. In my elementary school, you had to pick between band and chorus, but as a kid, I was like “I’m gonna play the drums.” I was going to do singing as well, and then I kind of just stuck with singing. And then once I was in middle school … I just chose to continue with music. And then in high school I did a cappella, I was in our school’s choir, and I did chorus class. But I always [sang]. In the car, I was always singing. My mom always sang to me at night, my grandmother was always singing.

Do you play any instruments? 

I grew up playing piano, I kind of lost that. I play the ukulele now. I always wanted to learn how to play guitar, but I was never good at it. I was a summer camp counselor in the past. But when I’m there I’ll play [the ukulele], and then I’ll play it or I’ll sing and play, or the kids will sing while I play. 

What are you involved in at BC?

I play BC women’s rugby. I started last spring, so I started in our offseason last year and have been playing ever since. I did [the University] Chorale freshman year. I’m in PULSE. So I do community service at Bridge Over Troubled Waters for my placement, which I love, on Mondays and Wednesdays. And then I work at the Margot Rec Center as a lifeguard, but I also work in the aquatics office there.

Best song to sing in the shower?

That’s a hard question. I mean the best song to jam to in the shower is “It’s Raining Men,” because it’s funny because you’re in the shower. I mean the first song I ever learned that I’ve sung for forever is [“Irreplaceable”] by Beyoncé. Honestly, I don’t think I could pick one, because I sing everything.

Who are your influences?

Beyoncé was probably my biggest influence growing up. Destiny’s Child was my first CD. Beyoncé’s [“Irreplaceable”] song was the first one I learned by heart, and her riffs and stuff like that I’ve always strived for. When I was younger, Christina Aguilera was a big influence, but also Frank Sinatra, and The Temptations, which is my dad’s favorite band. I really like female powerhouses, so Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, [and] Beyoncé.

What is your favorite album right now?

Alec Benjamin’s album [These Two Windows], and Boogie Wit da hoodie’s Artist 2.0 album.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

Whether I win or lose, if I can get as many people as I can to come just so that that money goes to the kids, I think that’s the most important thing, [because] I’m helping kids continue to have what I had growing up, and that was so crucial to me. And then meeting other people who like to sing like I do on campus [will] be cool. I want to win, but winning is not everything. I think I’m just looking forward to the experience and showing people that I can sing, because a lot of people don’t know that [about me].

Korinne Arenas – MCAS ’22, Communications

What was your audition song?

“She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress, the musical. 

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights? 

I was actually planning on doing it last year, but I missed auditions, so I was like, “I’m definitely going to do it this year.” But it’s a chance to get to sing in Robsham, which is a great opportunity, and just being a part of a singing competition on campus is a great opportunity. So why not?

When did you first start singing?

I’ve pretty much been singing my whole life, and I also went to a performing arts school for high school. 

Do you play any instruments?

I play a little piano, but I mainly sing.

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m actually in the Acoustics, an a capella group, and then I’m also in BC Bop which is the jazz ensemble. 

Best song to sing in the shower?

Maybe “Bad” by Lennon Stella. 

Who are your influences?

I guess because my voice can be somewhat jazzy, maybe someone like Adele or Alessia Cara. 

What is your favorite album right now?

I also really love Sia, Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, AJR, and then [the question] “favorite album right now” is hard. Maybe Neotheater by AJR.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

Being able to perform among other really talented people. I also know two other people in the competition. 

Kaitlin Meeks, MCAS ’20, Physics 

What was your audition song?

“One and Only” by Adele. 

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

I saw the email for it over Winter Break … and I was like “I don’t know if I’m gonna do that” … But then I talked to my mom about it, who has always pushed me to continue singing and stuff ’cause I do that a little bit at school, but not in a group or anything. But then she told me to do it, to pursue it so I said, “Okay I’ll try it, just auditioning doesn’t have to mean anything.” And here we are. 

When did you first start singing?

Just singing in the car when I was little. … I did plays and stuff in elementary school, and maybe middle school, but not anything major. I think I took lessons in high school, and that’s when I started actually knowing how to sing, because of the breathing and stuff. But then I did a lot more in high school. Randomly, my senior year of high school, I joined the musical after not doing plays for a long time, just as a chorus member. And I also did a weird little band thing senior year too, which was fun, through where I was taking singing lessons. They had that for the people who were learning instruments or taking lessons which was cool. We did little covers. 

Do you play any instruments? 

I’m trying to play guitar. I know chords, but I’ve only played it twice in public. 

What are you involved in at BC?

I’m VP of Jammin’ Toast, a general member of Music Guild and a senior staffer for Heights photo.

Best song to sing in the shower?

“Happy Birthday,” maybe?

Who are your influences?

I’d say I’ve always latched onto Adele songs because they’re just fun. But also Maggie Rogers is a good influence. 

What is your favorite album right now?

[Maggie Rogers’] Heard it in a Past Life. For months, I just listened to that, pretty much only that, and all the songs are really fun to sing [or] just listen to. They have a really cool sound.

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

I haven’t thought about that. I’m mostly just scared. My parents are coming, which will be really cool.  

Stencia Bastien, CSOM ’23, Marketing

What was your audition song?

My audition song was “Listen” by Beyoncé. 

Why are you competing in Sing it to the Heights?

To get out of my comfort zone. 

When did you first start singing?

I started singing when I was a child, very young, probably 4. I taught myself. I never really had training. 

Do you play any instruments?

I taught myself to play piano. 

What else are you involved in at BC?

I’m in PATU, The Presenting Africa to You dance team.

Best song to sing in the shower?

It’s a Haitian song. I’m West Indian, so I’m from Haiti, so I sing a lot of my cultural songs, so there’s just one song that always replays over and over again.

Who are your influences?

I try my best to follow people like Demi Lovato and Andra Day. 

What is your favorite album right now?

I don’t really have a favorite album. I do have a favorite group. Imagine Dragons. 

What are you most looking forward to about the competition?

Seeing the other singers.

Sing it to the Heights will be held in Robsham Theater on Tuesday at 7:00 pm.

Featured Graphic by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor

Featured Images by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

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