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Quick Questions with Elijah McCoy and Shaila Russell

The Talon staff sat down with Elijah McCoy and Shaila Russell, co-directors of Oklahoma Christian University’s 2019 Freshman Fanfare production, to discuss this year’s program and the memories made with the newest class of Eagles.

Why did you decide to become Fanfare directors?

Elijah: It’s kind of a funny story. Shaila just came up to me while we were sitting at dinner in the caf one day and asked if I wanted to direct Fanfare. I said, “Sure, let’s go for it,” and we started coming up with ideas right then and there.

Shaila: It was super crazy because Eli didn’t do Fanfare last year so I thought he was going to say no, but I knew I needed a partner. Why not ask him? He said he’d do it with me.

Elijah: It was a super random, spur-of-the-moment thing.

What exactly is Freshman Fanfare?

Elijah: I would describe it as the freshman mini Spring Sing. It’s a great way to get to know your freshman class and have a song and dance kind of thing. Fanfare is a great way to dip your toe into that and get the ball rolling to understand what the OC community is all about.

What is unique about this year’s Fanfare?

Shaila: The first thing that comes to mind is that our feature acts are a little bit different than what they normally are, as well as the layout of the show. For feature acts, instead of having multiple smaller groups, it’s four or five main feature acts. They do big songs together and one or two duet or individual songs, kind of like hosts and hostesses for Spring Sing. It’s really similar to that.

For the layout of the show, instead of having four or five songs that are really long for group acts, it’s a whole bunch of short clips of different songs. It’s more compact, with a smaller group of people onstage at each time.

Did you have similar visions for Fanfare, or did you have to compromise on some things?

Elijah: The ball started rolling when Shaila asked me. At first, we thought of doing TV show ideas from our childhood. The overall theme is the same thing as Earn Your Wings—the best is yet to come. With that is [the fact that] all of our freshmen are born after 1999. Our original idea was doing a bunch of Nickelodeon theme songs or Disney channel ones, and that evolved into the Earn Your Wings theme. I feel like we’re on the same page in that sense.

Shaila: We both wanted the show to be based off the Earn Your Wings theme because it was the theme our freshman year. The flow of Fanfare made so much sense to go from Earn Your Wings and having Fanfare be the same theme overall for the year.

Have you encountered any issues so far? If so, how have you managed them?

Shaila: As far as with our freshman class, they’re the best class that we could have ever asked to work for. I didn’t know what to expect from them, because sometimes you can get an awesome group or sometimes you can get a group that can be flaky. This class is so dedicated to being really unified and building each other up and working together in that sense. Overall, we haven’t had that many issues.

Elijah: They’re genuinely excited to be doing the show. There was a group of girls that was practicing at midnight on Friday. They were genuinely wanting to do it. I didn’t even do my freshman year because I thought I was too cool. They’re passionate about it, which is really cool.

How do you believe Freshman Fanfare helps freshmen connect to others and the campus?

Elijah: I think this year is a perfect example of what Fanfare is meant to be. It’s unifying this class together. The girls on the volleyball team and the guys on the baseball team are involved, as well as people who are doing the musical, and people who you wouldn’t think would be involved in something like this.

There’s an opportunity for everyone to be doing something, whether you’re a group actor or a feature actor or an emcee. Every single person in the freshman class has an opportunity to be involved. I feel like that’s a really true testament of what’s going on this year. We have people all over the spectrum involved, and everyone is on the same page. It’s a party.

What is your favorite part about Fanfare?

Shaila: I love being with the freshman class so much. They’re such a blessing to Eli and I and to our whole committee. They might look up to me and Eli, but honestly, we probably look up to them just as much or more, because of how devoted they are to each other and how much they care and show their love for one another.

They’re such a party, like Eli said. Because they’re all on the same page and care about each other first, it makes everything else so much easier to build off of that. It’s all around a really, really fun time.

Do you have a favorite memory or moment from practicing these past couple of weeks?

Elijah: You’ll see it in the show. With one of our guy songs, the choreography isn’t that structured. The guys had fun with it. A lot of the things that you’ll see in one of the songs was really impromptu. The focal point in one of the songs was their idea. One of the ending moves is everyone clumping into a pile and posing. That wasn’t choreographed; they thought of that on their own. We gave them some creative freedom, and I think it was really special in that sense.

Shaila: It wasn’t really planned to happen like that. Most of the time, we try to make the guy songs more straightforward than the girls. One of our assistant directors presented the idea to them of changing things, and they ran with it. They made it 100 times better than what it was. I was super impressed. I didn’t see anything until the guys performed for the girls and the committee, and I was standing up in my chair.

Why should people come see Fanfare this weekend?

Shaila: Because the class is such a party. They’re so much fun. There’s so many great feature acts. We have one that’s special this year that’s not necessarily singing. She does color guard. That’s something really interesting and super cool. Our emcee characters are such an odd group, but they work together so well, and they play off of each other during their blurbs and introductions. Getting to see the class and all of their hard work they’ve put into this is why you should go see Fanfare.

Elijah: We keep on saying this freshman class is really special in their drive to do something more. You get to come see where that work has come into play and the motivation that they have to learn these songs and dances. One girl taped the lyrics on the bathroom wall, and she was singing while she was taking a shower. This group put in so much extra effort.

Shaila: If you don’t take me and Eli’s word for how awesome this class is, then you’ll see it during the show.

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