As students excitedly prepare to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the grid in hopes of claiming victory at Step Sing 2023, Samford is making some big changes to the judging criteria for the winning performances. After the Saturday night show on Jan. 28, the winners of each judging category will be announced, as well as the winners of awards chosen by the Step Sing Committee, participants and directors.
During both the show on Friday, Jan. 27 and the show on Saturday Jan. 28, judges will be present to judge each group based on categories such as musical quality, choreography, theme development and creativity.
According to Assistant Professor of Commercial Music and Saturday night judge, Steven Potaczek, each night will host a completely different set of judges, and each judge will individually score each group’s performance on their own score sheets without discussing it with the other judges.
“Step Sing is difficult to judge for because the bar has gotten so high,” Potaczek said.
Potaczek himself will be judging on Saturday night, and this is his second year as a judge. He attested to the fact that the judging criteria for this year’s Step Sing show will be different from those of last year, because the Step Sing Committee has changed some of the categories in which it will be possible to win.
“I think their intention is to be more well-rounded with the categories,” Potaczek said.
Potaczek believes that this alteration will make this year’s judging easier and winners more apparent.
“The group that won [last year], they were amazing, but they weren’t necessarily the best if we were to have different categories,” Potaczek said about the winners of last year’s Step Sing, Pi Kappa Phi.
Several Step Sing groups are excited about the possible change in judging categories. One such group is Spectrum, the only co-ed group out of the 17 groups in existence.
“I think that the changes being made to the judging system this year will help to level the playing field so that all groups have an equal chance of being recognized,” Spectrum director Andrew Aho said. “I’m hopeful that this change will also encourage the creation of more co-ed groups in addition to Spectrum so that people can perform together in Step Sing, regardless of gender.”
The anticipation of new judging criteria also comes with the excitement of finding out who the Step Sing 2023 judges will be. The Commercial Music Program is hosting their annual “How to Make It in the Music Industry” conference on Saturday, Jan. 28, which will bring in well-known music industry professionals from all over the country. According to Potaczek, several of the people featured at this conference will be staying to judge Step Sing, one of which will be Executive Producer Simon Lythgoe, who also acted as a judge for last year’s Step Sing show.
Another judge for this year’s performances is Chelsea Reynolds Nicholson, Assistant Professor of Musical Theater at Samford. Nicholson said she is honored to have been asked to judge for the first time this year.
“When judging, I will be looking for specificity,” Nicholson said. “A strong, clever theme and songs that really support that theme help a tremendous amount, but it’s ultimately the performers themselves who sell the theme. Anyone can learn lyrics and choreography, but there is something completely electrifying about seeing an entire stage of people executing all of these elements at the same time with excellence.”
Potaczek echoed this, explaining that one musical aspect for which he will be on the lookout this year is the use of harmony.
“I would say to the groups if I was giving one piece of advice, you need to figure out how to integrate more harmony. That’s going to be what really sets you apart,” Potaczek said.
Both Potaczek and Nicholson expressed excitement for this year’s show, and similar enthusiasm reflected by students across campus as they prepare to put on their best performances in anticipation of the Saturday Night Sweepstakes.