Come Together

For first-year students, Songfest is the ultimate bonding experience

We've Got Spirit: The annual Songfest competition among first-year student residence halls may be a lip-sync contest, but it still helps the freshmen class find its voice.
Kay Hinton

Five days after moving into the freshman residence halls on the main campus, virtually every member of Emory's Class of 2019 is packed into the bleachers at the Woodruff P. E. Center, bellowing and pounding their feet, each striving to drown out the rest. It’s time for Songfest. 

For the past several days, freshmen have spent much of their time preparing for this moment—learning lyrics, practicing dance moves, coordinating with their hall mates—in anticipation of a fierce but friendly competition that they will always remember. 

“You can count on your hand how many times the entire Emory community comes to a single event, and this is one of them,” says Ryan Roche 03OX 05C, associate director in charge of first-year halls for the Office of Residence Life. “This is when they celebrate each other and the pride they’ve gained since being on campus.”

The event draws upperclassmen cheering on their old halls, faculty and staff who come to enjoy the spectacle, and alumni who treasure the memory. 

“I was in Longstreet last year and we won,” says Kennedy Lewis 18C, who watched from the gym floor sidelines. “It was the most amazing experience, not just because we won, but through all the practices we got close to our hall mates and really got to know each other.”

The precise origins of Songfest are not exactly clear, but the tradition spans at least three decades. Oxford College Dean for Campus Life Joseph Moon was assistant dean for campus life and director of residence life on the main campus when Emory appropriated the idea, at the suggestion of a staff member, in the early 1980s. “We were trying to build unity in the halls and wanted students to feel that this was their community,” Moon says. “I guess
it worked.”

This year, when the overall Songfest winner—Raoul Hall—was announced, Raoul residents surged to their feet, pouring Superbowl-style onto the gym floor, chanting and jumping up and down in jubilation.

Freshman Jacob Letwat 19C from Chicago took a moment from high-fiving his dorm mates to sum up: “It’s been incredible,” he said. “I never thought, in the span of less than a week, that I could get this close to these people.”

While year-long bragging rights are coveted, who wins isn’t what really matters, says Kyle Griffith 15L, complex director for Turman and Hamilton Holmes. “Ultimately,” he says, “every single person in this massive cacophony is chanting, ‘We are awesome, and we love being at Emory.’ ”M.M.L.

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