This year marks the 14th annual Sing it to the Heights competition at Boston College. The main stage of Robsham Theater will be the setting for BC’s own musical showcase. The competition features musical performances by BC students who have auditioned and been selected based on their vocal talent. In previous years, the event was known as BC Idol—as inspired by the hit competition show American Idol—and has been a mainstay of the arts on campus for the better part of 15 years. Organized by the Emerging Leader Program (ELP), a program for developing leadership in first-year students, Sing it to the Heights is a benefit event with the intention of raising money for a charitable donation. This year, as in others, the funds raised will go directly to St. Columbkille Partnership School, a Catholic school in the Brighton area that educates children from pre-k to eighth grade. The funds raised by previous Sing it to the Heights competitions have allowed St. Columbkille to establish a music program of its own. Much like the TV show that inspired the event, Sing it to the Heights competitors perform for and are critiqued by three Jesuit judges. The winner of the competition is chosen by audience vote and typically receives a cash prize. This year, 11 contestants will be competing in the big event—in past years, there have been only 10 students competing. Each student has made it to this event in very different ways, and they will all be performing different songs.
Madeleine McCullough, MCAS ’20
Madeleine McCullough is a political science and economics double major who has been singing and playing music essentially from the moment she spoke her first words. She began playing music formally at age five, when she started taking piano lessons. Between ages nine and 13, McCullough studied viola, guitar, and saxophone, while teaching herself to play bass and the drums. Sing it to the Heights is, first and foremost, a vocal competition, and McCullough is no slouch here either—she has been involved in choir since age 10. Music is an integral and important part of McCullough’s life.
“For me, music has served the dual function of connecting force and emotional outlet,” McCullough said in an email. “It definitely serves as a way to bring everyone that I love together.”
McCullough’s role models include Tori Kelly and Mandy Lee (MisterWives), talented women whose abilities inspire her, along with her family and friends.
Auditioned with and performing: “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – Michael Jackson
Influences: Jason Mraz, John Mayer, the Indigo Girls, Lady Antebellum, Queen, and Frank Sinatra, the Vassar Devils, Pentatonix, and the Nor’easters
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “No Good Deed” – Wicked Soundtrack, “Bright Lights Bigger City / Magic” – Pitch Perfect Soundtrack, and “She’s So Gone” – Lemonade Mouth Soundtrack
Other Involvements: Common Tones, University Chorale, Undergraduate Government of Boston College senator, student manager at Hillside Cafe, Thrive program, and intramural soccer team The Benchwarmers
Jade Hui, University of Hong Kong
Jade Hui is focusing on her philosophy major while here at BC as an exchange student, but is a double major in philosophy and comparative literature with a minor in counseling. Hui has mainly been a band vocalist throughout her life as a musician. She has tried her hand at playing instruments and songwriting, but has had little success due to her lack of “foundational knowledge in musical theory.” Instead of playing music, Hui prefers to say that she can “feel” it—she does not have the training for analysis, but she has a more organic and personal understanding, allowing her to sing as well as she does. Hui loves singing because it allows her to release any negative energy she may be feeling into the music. Her primary inspiration for working harder has been her mother, but in a very different way than most might expect.
“She’s been telling me ‘[You] can’t sing,’ ‘[You] don’t have the voice for it’ ever since I was little,” Hui said in an email. “It took me so many years to prove her wrong.”
She poured her energy into singing competitions until she began to win some recognition.
Auditioned with: “We Don’t Talk Anymore” – Charlie Puth
Performing: “Thinking Of You” – Katy Perry (but she is considering changing her song)
Influence: Japanese group ONE OK ROCK
Other Involvements: Happily embracing her queer identity at BC in support groups, GLBTQ+ Leadership Council, and Spectrum retreats
Molly Cahill, MCAS ’20
Molly Cahill is a sophomore studying political science and perspectives. She has been singing in church choir and in musicals since she was 10-years-old. In high school, she began taking voice lessons and now sings in BC’s Sunday night masses every week, as well as with the Liturgy Arts Group. Cahill loves how singing brings people together, lifting them up in difficult times. One of her role models is Kerry Cronin—Cahill was a student in her perspectives class during her freshman year. Cronin’s instruction has pushed Cahill to think differently about her interactions with people. Aside from Cronin, Cahill has always looked up to her mother, her nana, and her “wise beyond her years” younger sister Nora. She also has the unique ability to sing every word to Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” as well as the desire to perform it for anyone who asks.
Auditioned with and performing: “She Used to Be Mine” – Sara Bareilles
Influences: Broadway, Demi Lovato, Alicia Keys, Adele, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Jessie J, and Sara Bareilles
Guilty Pleasure Songs: Aside from “Fergalicious,” Cahill loves and misses every song on the playlist of Duchesne’s reflection room dance parties (but does not feel guilty for loving “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”)
Other Involvements: Arrupe
Nina Mojares, MCAS ’21
Nina Mojares is a pre-med freshman studying psychology. She has been singing since she was four and cites her karaoke machine as a pivotal instructor in her learning to read. She has always enjoyed performing in drama club productions while in high school and, at age 10, was on America’s Got Talent and The Maury Povich Show. After lots of practice, Mojares performed twice at Carnegie Hall and sang the national anthem at Madison Square Garden and the U.S. Open. She is also the proud title-bearer of 2016’s Miss New Jersey’s Outstanding Teen. Singing has always brought her very musical family together, especially when everyone is home for the holidays. Her main role model is her mother, as she was the first person to introduce her to music and has been a source of encouragement throughout her life.
Auditioned with and performing: “Feeling Good” – Michael Bublé (originally by Nina Simone)
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen, “Chunky” – Bruno Mars, and “If I Ain’t Got You” – Alicia Keys
Other Involvements: BC’s Latin Dance Team Fuego del Corazon
Stavros Piperis, MCAS ’19
Stavros Piperis is a junior studying political science with a minor in history. He has been singing since he was 14 and took piano and guitar lessons throughout his adolescence. As a high school senior, he joined the choir. Over the past few years, Piperis has been writing songs and playing gigs in Boston and in his hometown, Omaha, Neb. He draws a great deal of support and encouragement from his parents, who filled his house with music. His voice teacher in Omaha, Anne Marie Kenny, gave him warmth and instruction, allowing him to reach this place in his artistry. Professionally, his role models include Jason Mraz, John Mayer, and Ed Sheeran. The vocal sensitivity and acoustic talent on Mraz’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. “blew everything open for” Piperis.
Auditioned with: “Delicate” – Stavros Piperis (an original song)
Performing: “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band
Influences: Third Eye Blind, Coldplay, Ben Howard, Zac Brown Band, Death Cab for Cutie, and Bon Iver
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “Fireflies” – Owl City and “Mine” – Taylor Swift
Other Involvements: Hellenic Society, Kairos, and Appalachia Volunteers
Michael Lyons, MCAS ’21
Michael Lyons is a freshman studying mathematics and economics. He has been singing since he knew the words to the hymns at mass as a child. Lyons sang in his high school choir, in addition to performing in masses and local talent shows. He finds that music is one of the best ways to interact with and get to know someone, while also sounding good. In addition to his vocal talent, Lyons plays the piano and has written a substantial piece of music: a sequel to Aida, Elton John’s musical.
“It’s probably the greatest musical of all time, but due to current copyright laws, it can’t legally be performed until 2120,” Lyons said in an email. “But hey, Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, so I’m optimistic.”
Lyons finds inspiration from Tom Brady and Frank Sinatra. Both figures weren’t supposed to be anything special, and yet they rose to the top of their respective fields through hard work.
Auditioned with: “The Way You Look Tonight” – Frank Sinatra
Influences: Brahms and Schubert
(Not) Guilty Pleasures: “Best Love Song” – T-Pain and Chris Brown and “Stacy’s Mom” – Fountains of Wayne
Other Involvements: The Heightsmen, BC bOp! Vocalist
Esther Chung, CSON ’18
Esther Chung is a senior nursing major at BC. She has been singing for her entire life, but began to take it more seriously while here in college. In middle and high school, Chung was a member of the chorus and participated in musicals. She was a finalist in Kollaboration Boston, a singing competition to empower and elevate Asian-American artists. She also traveled to South Korea to compete in K-Pop Star. Now, she gigs and collaborates with various artists, most recently a Berklee College of Music group called Ilban Music. This is not Chung’s first time competing in Sing it to the Heights—she was a finalist in 2015. She loves to sing because it allows her a free expression of her emotions—it provides her a criticism-free medium to connect with. She credits her mother as her source of strength and encouragement on long road trips, late nights, and small shows—even when her mother had to sacrifice to provide her these opportunities.
Auditioned with and performing: “Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing” – Tori Kelly
Influences: Tori Kelly, David Choi, Clara Chung, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Jessie J, and Adele
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “Any Korean Ballad or R&B song”
Other Involvements: Against the Current as a freshman and sophomore, Korean Students Association, and Campus Ministry
Christopher Sundaram, MCAS ’21
Christopher Sundaram is a freshman who intends to apply for the international studies major at the end of the year. Sundaram began to get seriously involved in singing while in high school, but he had taken piano lessons for a number of years in his youth. Music provides Sundaram with feelings he finds he is unable to access anywhere else. His parents provide immediate sources of inspiration and admiration, while he looks up to classic rock greats like Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell as musical role models.
Auditioned with and performing: “Yesterday” – The Beatles
Guilty Pleasure Songs: the occasional Hannah Montana song
Other Involvements: University Chorale, Sports Broadcasting Club, and The Acoustics
Daniel Paulos, CSOM ’19
Daniel Paulos is a junior concentrating in finance and information systems. He has been singing ever since he can remember—his father worked on Broadway, so music has always been a large part of his life. To complement his voice, Paulos writes his own songs and can play acoustic, electric, and bass guitar; French horn; and piano. While in Boston and home in New York, Paulos plays gigs in coffee shops and restaurants. He was a member of the band in high school, and when he arrived at BC, he joined The Acoustics to deepen his talent for singing. Paulos has always held onto music in difficult times, especially after his father’s passing when he was 10.
“He always wanted me to play guitar, and my mom finally signed me up for lessons,” Paulos said in an email. “My first lesson was the day after he passed away.”
Paulos took this as a sign and proceeded to dedicate his musical career to his father. While his career is carried out in his father’s honor, Paulos’s mother inspires him with her incredible strength on a daily basis.
Auditioned with: “Demons” – Imagine Dragons
Performing: “Titanium” – David Guetta, with vocals by Sia
Influences: Imagine Dragons, Sia, Jessie J, Maroon 5, Panic! At the Disco, The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and Led Zeppelin
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “Demons” – Imagine Dragons, “Chandelier” – Sia, “Danza Kuduro” – Don Omar, “September” – Earth, Wind & Fire, and “She Will Be Loved” – Maroon 5
Other Involvements: The Acoustics, coordinator in International Assistant Program, ELP (as a freshman), Music Guild, Student Admission Program (SAP), and BC Splash!
Patrick McGrath, CSOM ’20
Patrick McGrath is a sophomore concentrating in marketing and management & leadership. As long as he can remember, he has been singing in the car and the shower, but he got into music more seriously when he joined the chorus and two a cappella groups in high school. McGrath refers to singing as a stress reliever at the end of a bad day, and the main reason for his good days. He believes that music can change the world—McGrath has never met someone who does not like some kind of music—and can bring people together in spite of differences. He draws inspiration from Bruno Mars—McGrath doesn’t think the artist can be beat in terms of charisma and musical ability, claiming Mars “sings like Freddie Mercury, dances like Michael Jackson, and wows the audience like James Brown”—a belief McGrath holds even more deeply after seeing Mars live in Boston last semester. McGrath is also a big fan of Kendrick Lamar and his ability to write and rap so well. He also believes, in spite of his love for Bruno Mars, that Lamar deserved the win at the Grammys.
Auditioned with: “Perfect” – Ed Sheeran
Influences: Zac Brown Band, Queen and Freddie Mercury, Chance the Rapper, Luke Bryan, and Carrie Underwood
Guilty Pleasures: “Drag Me Down” and “Live While We’re Young” – One Direction and any song from High School Musical
Other Involvements: PR Director (and member) of the Heightsmen, Sports Business Society, SAP, 48Hours point guard, intramural sports
Savanah Freitas, MCAS ’20
Savanah Freitas is a sophomore majoring in international studies and minoring in Hispanic studies. She has been singing for as long as she could form words and has been involved with it in some form throughout her entire life. Freitas loves to sing, she describes it as “a gift from God” and a great way to connect with people. Freitas complements her voice by playing piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Her role models are not specific people. Instead, she admires “anyone whose passion for justice has led them to live a radical existence in pursuit of changing the world” and she draws inspiration from people like these that she meets. Surprisingly, Freitas doesn’t listen to music very much, but she does love Christian artists that create music that has given her another conduit to her religion.
Auditioned with: “Misery” by Maroon 5
Performing: “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway
Guilty Pleasure Songs: “Night Changes” – One Direction, “Obsesión” – Aventura
Other Involvements: Bostonians, Zumba instructor at the Plex, 4Boston, church involvement
Featured Image by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor