Some of the staff members, such as Morse, a cantorial soloist, and Brenda Moore, a cabaret singer, perform professionally. But Moore still admitted to a slight case of nerves. "I’ve been singing professionally for many years, but this is a different kind of audience," she said. "These are not people who are specifically coming to see me, but are coming to cheer on their friends. So it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I’m just crossing my fingers that everything goes well."
Professional or not, all of the semifinalists put on a very entertaining show. Charlie Parks, a programmer analyst in GSE&IS’ National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, came with several colleagues to support Long Nguyen.
"I knew that Long played the guitar and sang, but I’d never heard him perform before, so this will be the first time for me," said Parks, while waiting for Nguyen’s performance. "I was curious about it, and I’d seen him play ‘Rock Band.’ He’s much better at that than me!"
Some of Alison Becker’s friends from Development Research came to cheer her on. "I knew Alison used the Hula Hoop for exercise purposes, but I didn’t know she actually ‘danced’ with it, much less performed," said Marsha Kraus. "I thought she was great! It takes a lot of guts to get up there and perform for people."
The top 10 semifinalists were chosen by a panel of three judges: Staff Assembly President Brandie Henderson and two past presidents, Dave Miller and Sabrina Lux Wright. The three watched the videos individually, then came together and watched the videos again as a group before making their decisions.
"We had a good two hours of talking about the different talents and the variety that we were looking for," Henderson said. "I think we were pretty much in line with one another. No fights. It was fun, though. We had a good time!"
Henderson noted that two of the top 10 acts — Baik’s belly dance and Becker’s Hula Hoop dance — were probably the most unusual of all the entries. There were also two bands that entered the competition, she added. "At least one person in the band had to be a staff member. There are a lot of people who have outside bands, so this gave them an opportunity to show what they could do," Henderson said.
It’s now up to the UCLA community to vote on the contestants. People must have a UCLA login ID to vote, and they will be limited to three votes per day until 11:59 p.m. on May 4. The top three finishers — whose names will be revealed the week of May 7 — will perform at the All-Staff Picnic on Aug. 9.
This year’s contest was a great beginning, according to Henderson.
"There were some jaw-dropping acts," she said. "There were people where I just said, ‘Wow!’ There was a lot of talent that you couldn’t really gauge from the YouTube video auditions."
Gerard Au, former Staff Assembly president who was on the contest committee, agreed.
"It was so much better in person. I think all of them were better in person than in the auditions," he said.
"Plus, you had that ‘surround sound’ feeling," Henderson said, laughing. "People missed out this year, but there will always be next year. I’m excited about that."