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Lajari Anne: Outstanding Soloist!

We’re so proud of our Octopodes and All Nighters for their performances at the ICCA quarterfinals! We’re even more proud that one of our own blue jays was named outstanding soloist of the entire performance!

Tell us a little about yourself (where you’re from, major, hobbies, clubs, etc.)

LA: I’m a sophomore biology major doing pre-med, here from Michigan. I’m quite a nerd. I really like learning. It’s embarrassing but I love it. Obviously I love singing. I couldn’t imagine ever stopping, so I’m really fortunate for the opportunity to put so much of my time into it. I’m also really into theater, specifically musical theater. Not surprisingly, I’m a proud member of the JHU Barnstormers, one of the main student-run theater groups on campus. I’m an avid dog-lover and a somewhat extreme night-owl and tv-addict.  Seriously, you don’t mess with me and my primetime.

You’ve won the outstanding soloist for our region’s quarter-finals, how does that make you feel?!

LA: I can’t put into words how grateful and happy and proud and generally excited I am. In fact, I don’t think I even know how I feel myself, haha. I look at my certificate once in a while and it still doesn’t feel real. There’s just so much associated with that performance and that song that it blows my mind sometimes that I’m standing where I am. My ICCA solo, “Who You Are” by Jessie J, was actually my audition song my second time around. Having already been rejected, I was pretty insecure of myself, especially in an a cappella setting. I was so afraid of standing up in front of the very people who had cut me just the year before.  “Who You Are” really got me through that insecurity. I figured that if I could really believe the lyrics of that song, then I could put aside all my baggage and just be the best me I could be. That song gave me the confidence that I, with all my flaws, was good enough. The fact that that’s the song that’s pulled me through this whirlwind of an experience is so symbolic to me. I think that when you sing something true, people can feel it instantly. The love the group has for one another fueled me so much during the performance. We all fed off of one another and that’s what made the performance real and genuine. It may have been a solo award, but it really is a group win and I could not be more ecstatic that it was with this song.

How did you get into a cappella?

LA: Well, my senior year, my jazz band instructor (James Territo) and my choir instructor (Ronald Weiler) kept telling me I should get involved in a cappella in college, so I decided to check out my future school’s groups. I started obsessing over the Octopodes, the oldest Hopkins a cappella group. It was such an interesting mix of popular music and acting that I couldn’t help but fall in love. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. My friends and suitemates, especially my roommate Bella Paniagua, helped me prep my audition. Their support meant the world to me as a scared little freshman. I auditioned for three groups my freshman year and got callbacks for all of them, but ultimately ended up rejected from all three. Over the course of the year, I ended up making quite a few friends in the a cappella community and thanks to their encouragement and the incredible support of my friends, I re-auditioned for two groups my sophomore year. The Octopodes took me in, and the rest is history!

What does it mean to you to be an Octo….pode?

LA: Haha, the name does pose its challenges. Honestly, being a Pode carries a lot of weight for me. The rejection my freshman year was expected but still pretty rough. Making it into the group was a sort of redemption for me. It proved to me that I was good enough. When I realize that I’ve made it, that I’m currently where senior-year-me dreamed of being, it gives me the hope that sometimes hard work really can pay off in the end. It proves to me that dreams don’t always have to be pipe dreams. Sometimes they turn into your reality.

How do you find time to balance a full course load and rehearsals??

LA: To be honest, I’m not always certain how it happens. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you put 100% of yourself into everything you do (and 110% into the things that really matter), then you’ve done all you can do. If things get done, things get done. If they don’t, they don’t. You’ll always find a way for the important things to come through, no matter what. I’ve been very fortunate to have things work out for me. Of course there are a LOT of sleepless nights involved, but looking back, it’s more than worth it. That being said, I know that I can’t be all work all the time. I need my chill time with TV and friends. That’s half of what keeps me going. Decompressing is the only way to keep yourself sane through the many hell-weeks that happen on the way to ICCAs.

What is your favorite musical, movie, and musical artist?

LA: This is such a tough question… I think my favorite overall musical may have to be Les Misérables just because it is so beautiful and tragic all at once (and I’m a bit of a Francophile). BUT, I am obsessed with Stephen Sondheim. All of his musicals are so smart and polished that I just have to include him. No one writes a musical number like Sondheim. My favorite movie changes so often I can hardly keep track, but right now it has to be a tie between Ratatouille, Sleepless in Seattle, and Up!. My favorite artist changes just as frequently, but two stick out because I’ve loved them consistently since discovering them. The first is Landon Pigg. I still listen to every song on the two albums of his that I own, despite the fact that I bought them something like three years ago. I think part of what I like about him is the fact that he plays in a lot of different styles but is always really poetic as a lyricist. The second are The Beatles. Because they’re The Beatles.

Do you have any advice for those interested in a cappella?

LA: Get involved! It sounds cheesy, but it’s really the best thing you can do for yourself. Didn’t make it into your dream group? Try again! I’ve proven that re-auditioning is worth it. Don’t want to? Start your own group! A cappella is just such a bonding experience that it doesn’t matter how you place at ICCAs. It doesn’t even matter if you compete. As long as you’re doing what you love with people who share that interest, you’re going to be having a good time. That’s key. Always remember that it’s about having a good time. Also, once you’re in an a cappella group, find a way to get involved that suits your style. The executive board of an a cappella group can make or break it. I’ve never been great with executive responsibilities, so I decided to try my hand at arranging instead. I gained so much respect for arranging a cappella in the process and I also gained a sense of confidence about myself. I actually arranged the first version of Shake It Out, our closer, and in the process, I learned so much about what makes arrangements work, specifically for our group. I got to work with the veteran arrangers of our group to re-vamp the arrangement for ICCAs and I can’t wait to use all that knowledge this semester. Finally: always audition for solos!! You never know who a solo is going to, you could surprise the entire group and yourself by bringing something new to a song that takes it to another level.

Give us an interesting fact, anything you or anyone!

LA: Here’s a fun tidbit: almost half of the group competing was freshmen! Which means almost half of the group had never competed before. Combined with the fact that we had a member on crutches (he tore his meniscus and had surgery about a couple weeks before the competition), it makes me even prouder that we were able to prove ourselves. I count myself a freshman seeing as it’s my first year in the group. We may have lost a lot of incredible talent last year, but I think this bodes well for us in the future. Also, as with any group (or maybe it’s just us?), we have our own lingo. Here are a few of our expressions:

Baby Podes: freshmen in the group

Pode: a member of the Octopodes

Octopo-blue: the deep electric blue that’s become our signature color (also refers to our uniforms, especially the guys, eg: “remember to wear your octopo-blue!”)

As a side note, we have a lot of fun adding octopo-prefixes to a lot of things… “octopo-pride” is one of my favorites! As you can see, the movie Pitch Perfect is actually freakishly accurate about certain things.

Final thoughts?

LA: I was really blown away by the female soloist for the second song that Squawkapella did. She is phenomenal and I am surprised that she wasn’t outstanding soloist. That girl has got pipes and soul. Also the All-Nighter’s choreography blew me out of the water, especially because they haven’t competed in ICCAs in the recent past. Choreography is one of the hardest parts of ICCAs and their conceptualization and execution were both stunning. Major props.

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