The walls of the dimly lit hallway leading to MU 123 are chipped with avocado green paint. The flooring has decades of hope, laughter, love, sweat, tears, and dirt from the bottoms of Ball State alumni’s shoes caked into the tiles’ seams. Despite the age, the second you enter the quaint mirrored room in the Hargreaves Music Building, you are instantly transported into an environment full of dedication, goodwill, and support. Sounds of laughter, singing, chanting, and clapping all filter into the hallway. Even while social distancing, the Ball State University Singers bring students of all majors together to fill the charming room with passion and warmth.
“You just get this giant family that consists of the current cast, alumni, and the director,” junior assistant company manager Kamryn Yenser said. “We are a very heavily student-run group. I mean our director does a lot of logistical things, but our organization holds its traditions to a high standard and that is what keeps us connected.”
Traditions include the biannual pinning ceremony. This is where new members receive their name tag and pin from alumni as an official initiation to the group. Tags and pins are to be placed over their hearts at every off-campus function. On Feb. 16, three members—Zoe McNulty, Joe Lowry, and Dana Rodriguez—were pinned by alumna Samantha Ragusin. Ragusin graduated last year after four years of being a University Singer. She led as the group’s dance captain for three years.
“Everyone in the group has been overly kind and friendly. That moment [getting pinned]meant the world to me because it showed how much I was truly wanted in the group,” freshman vocal music education major Zoe McNulty said.
The pinning ceremony was quickly held before everyone left the room in order to let the air in the room circulate. Despite this, you could still feel and hear the excitement filter in from the hallway.
Allowing time for air circulation is just one of the many regulations the singers are required to follow as part of the COVID-19 safety precautions advised by the School of Music. This specific regulation was established following a summer 2020 study meant to test how germs spread while playing instruments and singing. The study suggests performances and rehearsals be held outside, but due to freezing temperatures, the singers are forced to cut rehearsal time by practicing in an enclosed space and following air circulation policies.
Rehearsal time isn’t the only aspect cut from the singers’ schedules. According to University Singers’ director, Alan Alder, the choir has cut most of their performances within the past year due to COVID-19. The group’s 56th Spectacular was canceled last year, and many out-of-state performances were rescheduled.
A large project that has been rescheduled for May 2022 included the singers performing in Carnegie Hall. This was originally scheduled for Memorial Day of this year.
“Michael Davis is a former Ball State University Singer and director and is currently the assistant artistic director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. He’s been invited to do a choral performance in Carnegie Hall,” Alder said. “He wanted the University Singers to come and be part of the core of the chorus. Learning the music was going to be one of the projects we were going to work on this semester.”
However, this hasn’t stopped the group from forging ahead and entertaining local audiences. The group was able to perform once on Nov. 1, 2020, in Emens Auditorium. The venue was different from Sursa Hall’s modest atmosphere, but the singers needed a larger space in order to abide by COVID regulations and safely hold their large fanbase.
“It just keeps us motivated. It provides a sense of normalcy for the group and the community. They can come and see a live performance all while being safe,” senior company manager Justin McMiller said. “The only challenge is taking an extra intermission at shows, so air can be filtered. So taking extra precautions like that is important, that way everyone is safe.”
In doing so, the singers’ title as “Indiana’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors” continues to ring loud throughout the community.
The Ball State University Singers plan to perform their 57th Spectacular in Emens Auditorium on April 9 and 10. Tickets will sell through the Emens Auditorium box office, and it is advised to purchase tickets in advance due to limited seating as required by Ball State COVID-19 policies and CDC guidelines.
Images: Kellyn Harrison
Featured Image: Kellyn Harrison
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