What does it take to make it into Coffeehouse at Liberty University?

A sold-out arena filled with almost 8,000 of your fellow students cheering you on. Lights, speakers and equipment all at your disposal. This is a dream for many who audition for Liberty University’s semiannual Coffeehouse.

However, this dream only becomes a reality for a handful of students each year. The acts, chosen by the Student Activities staff go through an audition process, and must prove that they are what students want to see. For each group, preparing an audition looks a little different.

“First there’s just a lot of time sitting around, like what are we going to do? Especially since the Grinch, and how well received that was. It’s always been a constant, we got to up the game now. It’s hard trying to figure stuff out,” lead vocalist of the Vegan Llamas, Nick Heneretty said.

Once the group has decided on and planned a song, the most difficult part is over.

“We make chord charts and everything before we even meet up so once we get to rehearsal, we already know what we’re doing, and everybody has a feel for everything, so that’s nice to work with guys that can actually function,” Jacob Tallent, guitarist for the Vegan Llamas said.

The Vegan Llamas have been on the Coffeehouse stage for the past three shows, gaining the spot of closing act for last semester’s show.

“Where you get placed at is kind of a big deal. I remember spring Coffeehouse last year when we did ‘Free Bird’, I actually got a little nervous. I was like alright, there’s like 30 people playing in front of me, I’m kind of ready to play right now,” Zachary Moore, drummer for the Vegan Llamas said.

Although their success on the Coffeehouse stage can partially be attributed to their hard work, the band does have a familiarity with one another that makes performing that much easier.

“One of the things I look for whenever I’m jamming with a group of guys is, I guess performers understand this, if you just click,” Heneretty said. “You just gel together on stage. It’s just an indescribable feeling, just everything’s going well and you’re connected mentally.”

D-Trex, a dance team at Liberty, is also not a stranger to the Coffeehouse stage. The preparation process for D-Trex however, looks a little bit different.

“So most of the time we probably start a week beforehand, at least ideas start flowing a week beforehand and we tell all of our members, we need to come together and probably put in some extra work and some extra practices,” Captain for D-Trex, Erline Destine said.

The group uses dancing as a ministry to glorify God and reach different communities. Which is why Coffeehouse is not typically the main focus of the group.

“When it comes to try out time if we are willing to put in that extra practice to make something for Coffeehouse. And usually in the fall it’s about Christmas so we don’t have to go stress ourselves too much as long as we have an idea and a concept, it is very easy to develop it from there,” Destine said.

The Student Activities staff puts a lot of effort into making the show enjoyable for all students.

“We not only look at how an act may sound, but we also look at how every act fits together,” Student Activities special events coordinator, Erin Diaz said. “We like to have a mix of songs and we enjoy having a unique show.”

There are some things that the judges keep their eye out for during auditions.

“In order to catch our attention, an act has to stand out somehow. Whether that be through their voice, their dancing or just something different in general, this is usually a shoe-in,” Diaz said.

Each group that auditions has a way of making the audition appealing to the judges.

“It’s not so much perfect, we just want everyone to enjoy it and have that Christmas spirit,” Destine said. “We could mess up like maybe 50 times throughout auditions, but as long as they see us having fun, that’s what we aim for. And if they love us because they see us that we keep going and we’re having fun, or we nailed our audition perfect, none of that matters. Just as long as we know we did our best, that’s all that matters.”

In their auditions, the Vegan Llamas aim to bring something different to the table.

“From what I’ve seen it’s to do the unconventional. I’ve seen three or four separate acts do the same song and that’s never something you want to do, because then you’ve got five times as much competition,” Henretty said.

Once all of the hard work towards auditions pays off for the groups, that is when real fun of performing can begin.

“I think the best part is the reaction from the crowd and performing with your family,” Destine said.

For Henretty, performing for Coffeehouse inspires him to look towards his future.

“It lets you live a little bit of your dream. Like I want to do this all of the time when I graduate,” Henretty said.

Listen to the audio story here