Carnegie Mellon University's Greek Sing 2013, benefitting The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh
Deewane A Cappella - Gathe Raho 2014 (First Place)
Dance Marathon 2014 - The Originals
Music competitions seem to make Carnegie Mellon University students stand up and sing.
From the annual massive fundraiser Greek Sing to winning national competitions and appearances on reality shows, singers are stepping up to the microphone and delivering.
Two upcoming performances will showcase talent from across the Pittsburgh campus.
They are Greek Sing, on Saturday, March 22, at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, 4141 Fifth Ave., and "No Instruments Aloud" on March 30, in McConomy Auditorium at the University Center.
"Competitive singing is cool," Daniel Nelson (S'14) said. "It doesn't take a lot of expensive resources to make it happen, and it's easier to get people together to sing together."
Nelson and Kevin Karol (BXA'16) are co-chairs of Greek Sing, one of the largest philanthropic events at CMU. The event showcases members of the fraternity and sorority organizations on the Pittsburgh campus in a competition featuring their skills in singing, choreography, set design and dancing.
Greek Sing, which has been a tradition at CMU for decades, has ramped up its philanthropic efforts. Since 2011, Greek Sing has raised more than $160,000 for the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh. More than 600 performers will take the stage to help raise an additional $100,000 for the organization. Previous partners have been Lustgarten Foundation and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and next year, Gilda's Club will partner with the effort.
"For Greek Sing, it's less about the performance and it's more about the idea and concept that it brings people together," Nelson said. "It's the idea that people can get together and create something better than themselves."
The competition also builds skills needed in the workplace. Nelson said he's learned about managing people and events in putting this year's show together. Volunteers have solicited donations and sponsorships, and the 12 performing groups have learned about teamwork.
"As a Greek community, it's great to be able to apply the skills we learn in the classroom to making a difference in our local community," Karol said. "At CMU we love to do work well, but with Greek Sing we get the added benefit of doing good."
CMU also is involved in intercollegiate competitions. Earlier this spring, Deewane A Capella, Carnegie Mellon's South Asian all-male a cappella group, earned first place in the University of Iowa's sixth annual Gathe Raho, one of the nation's largest South Asian interest collegiate a cappella competitions.
Deewane's winning performance included a mash-up of Adele's "Someone Like You" and "Abhi Mujh Mein Kahiin" from the 2012 Bollywood film "Agneepath."
Rishabh Alaap Singh (E'14), Deewane president, said CMU has allowed him to pursue a wide variety of interests.
"College — and specifically CMU — is an excellent ground to exercise your hobbies and learn new hobbies on the way," Singh said. "I've been singing all my life, but besides that I learned DJ'ing while at CMU, and hosted a dance music festival last fall and also opened for Lupe Fiasco last Carnival."
Singh, who studies electrical and computer engineering, is minoring in music technology and said courses have helped him continue to improve his knowledge in music.
"I have not only learned conventional knowledge such as beginning music theory, I also learned how to use the recording studio and be proficient at Pro Tools under Riccardo Schultz," he said. "I've also studied interdisciplinary courses with computer science by taking classes like Computer Music Systems and Information Processing."
Deewane, which translates to mean "madly in love" or someone who is a fan, is one of the CMU a capella groups who will perform at "No Instruments Aloud." The event is hosted by The Originals, CMU's all-male a capella group.
One of The Originals members is Ethan Crystal (A'15), who performed on NBC's 2011 season of "The Sing-Off" with Soul'd Out, a group from his hometown of Wilsonville, Ore.
"I spent all of high school competing with Soul'd Out, so I had already caught the bug by then. I wouldn't have come to CMU if there were no a cappella," he said.
Crystal said being at CMU has exposed him to a wide variety of music and given him a better ear. His classes and voice teacher, Daniel Teadt, have helped him with his vocal technique.
"There's something about harmonizing that just catches people's ears — if you're a singer and find one or two people to harmonize with, you can wow people already," Crystal said.