One of the less publicized roles in Spring Sing is that of a judge. Spring Sing judges have no stage time, they do not spend months in rehearsals and they do not spend the weekend covered in stage makeup, but they are arguably one of the most important components of Spring Sing.
Spring Sing judges are chosen by Cindee Stockstill, Spring Sing producer, and Dr. Steven Frye, Spring Sing director. Stockstill said when she and Frye took over Spring Sing in 1995, they revamped the judge selection process to more thoroughly evaluate candidates.
Stockstill said judges are chosen in the fall semester, approximately six months before Spring Sing weekend. Loving Spring Sing is not enough to be a good judge, Stockstill said. She looks for people who are qualified in their area of expertise.
“I typically get people who are currently teaching or have taught music or voice to judge music,” Stockstill said. “Those who judge visuals need to have some degree in visual arts: art, graphic design. I’ve had professional costumers who have judged visuals. They just need an artistic eye. I want people who know what they’re talking about.”
Brandt Roberts, a 2006 graduate, judged Spring Sing last year. Roberts did not participate in Spring Sing as a student, but his degree in theater and experience as an actor played a role in his being selected as a judge.
“(A good judge has) a keen eye, a knowledge of stagecraft and music and a joy for performance,” Roberts said. “Last year was pretty nice, because it was clear for us who the winner was.”
Stockstill said having a prior knowledge of Spring Sing is helpful because it is difficult to explain to outsiders how the show works. Many of the judges over the years have been alumni or Harding affiliated.
“It’s hard to avoid that because most of the people I know have some sort Harding affiliation,” Stockstill said. “It’s even harder to find someone who wasn’t in a club here, but what I’ve found is that those who have been in clubs are harder on their own club so they can avoid the appearance of being prejudiced.”
Elizabeth Harrell graduated in 2010 and was also a judge for Spring Sing last year. As a student, she had a small part in the TNT/Zeta Rho show, spent two years in the ensemble and two years as a hostess. She said even though she was a member of a club, her experience in Spring Sing as an ensemble member and a hostess prevented her from having a bias.
“Because I was never a club show director and I never did a large part, I didn’t feel as biased as others do,” Harrell said. “Even though I loved my club, I’m far enough removed from college that I didn’t have any bias at all.”
Stockstill said that occasionally students will ask if they can one day judge Spring Sing. She said the only advice she can offer them is to stay current in their fields.