Upon attending Covenant in the fall of 2014, all I heard about Mountain Affair was that it was amazing—one big, fancy talent show. And supposedly some students camp out overnight in front of the chapel to get the best seats for this grand event? As that first Friday night approached, I began to develop a fuller understanding of what exactly Mountain Affair is, and my anticipation heightened.
My mom was also intrigued by the performance and flew from my home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Chattanooga in order to view the spectacle. My aunt also tagged along. Now I’m a senior and am anticipating her arrival this upcoming Friday. This will be my mom’s and aunt’s fourth attendance at Mountain Affair and my grandma’s second. Clearly we all love it, and my mom has bemoaned to me multiple times she will miss coming once I’ve graduated.
Each year, I wait in line for multiple hours, sometimes coordinating shifts with friends so we have opportunities to take breaks and eat dinner. I vividly remember the doors opening as the crowd simultaneously results in a massive thrust towards the entrance. You’re pushed and shoved (starting to wonder if Christ is preeminent in this behavior), and you desperately try to stay with your group so you can all grab seats together.
Last year, I even broke a toenail in half while entering the chapel — now whether I should blame my Chacos or the throng of people slamming against me is still to be determined. Regardless, all this hassle is worth the dazzling lights, fog on the stage, diverse and stellar performances, and the thrill of waiting to see if your favorite act won first place. All in all, Mountain Affair is one of my favorite events of the academic year.
For the past four years, I’ve anxiously awaited the list of contestants. I must admit I was a bit dismayed when this year’s acts were released. Members of four out of ten groups have previously performed in Mountain Affair—some more than one year. Even though previous contestants are not allowed to audition with an act or song from a prior year, the performers are still the same. Bottom line, their voices and skills are still displayed, cultivating a sense of repetition. When identifying contestants, my mom has even asked me, “Didn’t they play in [Mountain Affair] last year?” Here’s a disclaimer: I am not at all nullifying or disparaging the repeated acts. As a piano player for sixteen years, I truly do recognize and respect the talent represented by those four groups.
However, I want to acknowledge other talent on campus. We’re a liberal arts school; therefore, Covenant is abundant with a myriad of accomplished individuals. Each incoming class provides a fresh influx of artists and skill. While first-timers are chosen for Mountain Affair, I can’t help but deny the feeling they are overshadowed by previous performers. In fact, I may even claim anyone who is familiar with Mountain Affair and considers auditioning may experience some anxiety knowing there are incredibly talented performers who have placed in prior years.
I’m a competitive person, so I completely understand the competition within Mountain Affair and the title you achieve by placing. However, I think there’s something to be gained by keeping it fresh every year. By “fresh,” I mean allowing only new contestants each year. I am aware some of you may find this unreasonable, especially if you didn’t even place, but you had your opportunity. We, the audience, would get to witness something new each year, keeping Mountain Affair original. I know of individuals who are upperclassmen and have just now auditioned this year.
If you’re patient with students and give them a chance, they may come out of the woodwork and decide this is the year they want to expose their talent to the school. I believe the recurring groups can inadvertently keep this from happening. We’ve seen these acts. We know what they’re capable of. Even if a first-timer is richly skilled, they may doubt their own abilities and assume they don’t stand a chance against those who have placed or won in the past. I’m sure those of you who have performed in the past can agree even if you consider yourself proficient with a certain instrument or if you believe you have a stellar voice, you still have doubts. I ask you to understand others may feel the same way.
Now here’s my appeal to future contestants: don’t underestimate your talent. If you believe you have something worth singing, showing, or speaking, develop enough confidence to overlook your competition and recognize what you also have to offer to the campus. We want to hear you, and we want to see you.
Overall, I still eagerly anticipate Mountain Affair, stand in line for a good seat, and expect to be entertained and “wowed” with what my fellow students have to offer. I just want to see the competition expand to a new set of contestants each year. I believe we can obtain a broader perspective on campus by listening to and watching new acts, appreciating their boldness, and when it’s all over, awaiting next year’s different performers.