A Recipe To Make The Cut

SAS is a competitive school. There is no question or hesitation about it. Every single student is trying to excel in an environment where all their peers are trying to excel as well. The result: a toppling pile of teenagers trying to claw their way to the top, not caring all too much about who gets hurt in the process.

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AJ Deguire and Aoife Haakenson at the opening night of Anything Goes. Photo credits: Lawrence Shackelford

In the midst of this, a single question seems to arise. A question that everybody seems to have, but nobody dares to ask. It plagues the minds of those who are trying out for a sports team or auditioning for the play.

What matters more: seniority or superiority?

It’s a hard question to ignore, and it’s one that passes through each and every single one of our heads some time or the other when competing against our peers. Some underclassmen might accuse upperclassmen of being prioritized unjustly, while others might feel threatened when a rookie comes in and steals their spotlight.

With the new school well underway and a massive influx of new students, it’s quite easy to succumb to accusations that seniority (or “owing allegiance” to the most experienced) is what matters most.  These accusations point fingers to the returnees and the upperclassmen when the truth itself is rather simple.

There are four main factors that are being assessed when you’re going out for a sport or any other group activity that requires a tryout process. Let’s start with the first, and perhaps most important of them all.

  1. TALENT

This one is pretty obvious and self-explanatory. If you are trying out for the play, you must have a natural aptitude for the spotlight. If you are trying out for a sports team, you must have the right skills to carry out the game. Having the talent for something will definitely help you excel in it. Talent is the one factor that all judges or coaches look for first, and is, arguably, the most important out of the four.

However, if you don’t have a natural flair for something, don’t worry about it. Talent can be taught and perfected over time. Practice makes perfect! Yeah I know, you’ve been hearing it all your life, but that’s because it’s actually true. Jiwoo Bae, a current sophomore who was involved in IASAS Track and Field last year, says, “When trying out for a sport, you don’t need talent because you can practice. Talent is good to have, but it isn’t necessary to kick off the season; it comes with experience.

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IASAS Track Athletes Jiwoo Bae and Lara Westwood-Marsh at ISB before a race. Photo: Jiwoo.

2. EXPERIENCE

If any of these are the slightest bit controversial, this one would be it — especially in a school setting. Experience, in any real-life context, would be understandable. Oh yeah, Robert’s been here for six years. He really deserves to be made CEO. However, since approximately a thousand teenagers are crammed together in one building, all competing for one spot (and not to mention the fact that there is, at most, a four-year age gap between many of us), there is bound to be conflict regarding experience. This is where the whole upperclassmen versus underclassmen dispute arise.  

Upon being asked if experience outweighs the other aforementioned factors, Ms. Fulcher, the middle school drama teacher, admits, “Experience is important, but more so because I know how committed and reliable they are having worked with them before. Being in the show the year before is definitely an advantage, as the director has had a chance to work with you, knows your commitment level and has seen whether you are coachable.” That being said, she goes on to add, “However, if this were my first year at SAS and I had no other items to base my choice on, then I would go with talent first. Even if you have been in every show at SAS, you cannot rely on your reputation at an audition. If you show up unprepared, you have to be willing to risk that role going to someone who was willing to put in the work.”

  1. PASSION & DEVOTION

Passion is one of the most underrated factors and one that people don’t really think of because it’s not a skill. You can’t teach passion; it’s either there or it isn’t. Having the passion and devotion for something also motivates you to practice harder, which might help you strengthen all the other three factors.

Of course, being unpassionate or undevoted won’t necessarily bring you down, but it can seriously hurt your motivation. If you find yourself trying out for a varsity sport because it would look good on your transcript, but you don’t have the love or enthusiasm for the sport, it might be hard, down the line, when you find yourself struggling with time management. Nevertheless, if you have all the right skills you are still able to get into the dream team of your choice; however, the coaches tend to be more swayed towards someone who plays with their heart and soul.

Ms. Fulcher shares her experience with a new student from JIS, who transferred to SAS in January and completely missed the December auditions. But he sent in videos of himself dancing and singing, and had a Skype vocal audition with the choir teacher as well, and turned out to be one of the best fit for one of the male leads. This is a real-life example of how experience doesn’t really matter when you compare it to talent or passion.

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Class of 2017 graduates Charis Hales and Hana Schlesinger at the opening night of Anything Goes. Photo credits: Lawrence Shackelford
  1. PREPARATION

Similarly to passion and devotion, being prepared is often taken for granted, but it’s actually the deciding factor when it comes down to it. You can have all the talent in the world, you can be highly experienced, and you might love your craft down to the very core, but if you show up unprepared or unwilling to compromise, that’s a gamble you’re going to have to take.

Caitlyn Henning, a current sophomore who is involved in this year’s play, goes on to add, “If you make a really bad first impression, or if you have a bad day and don’t perform to your full ability, you won’t make it.”

With a lot of students competing for the same spot, you must be prepared to give it your all and really stand out from your peers, or you risk not getting it at all. Preparation is an important step and is also one of the first things that fall when you don’t have passion or devotion.If you’re not devoted to something, you’re not going to practice for hours and hours, right?

So, what matters more: seniority or superiority?

Perhaps it’s not a question of seniority or superiority. Maybe it’s about encompassing these four main factors equally and assembling teams based on the performance and ability of the team or ensemble as a whole. Perhaps in a highly competitive environment like SAS, there is bound to be hypothesis going around, questioning the fairness of it all.

But that’s just what it is: a hypothesis.

Instead of favoring one over the other, and being discouraged when the people evaluating you do choose the other, it is important to understand that with determination, hard work, and just a speck of talent, anything is achievable.

Author: Anyu Ching

Anyu Ching is a sophomore at Singapore American School, and this is her first year as a reporter for The Eye. She has been at SAS since 3rd grade, and was born in Singapore but raised in Tokyo, Japan. Her hobbies include making really extra playlists for her friends on Spotify, binge-watching How I Met Your Mother obsessively and stalking Harry Styles on social media. She hopes to publish her own novel in the future along with traveling the world. She can be contacted at ching41287@sas.edu.sg.

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