Vassar students selected for two nationally televised competitions: America’s Got Talent and Jeopardy!

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Vassar students have been hitting the airwaves this semester beginning in early February when the Vassar Orkestar backed indie-rock sensation Beirut on Late Night with David Letterman (February 6). (See: Later in that same month, during the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes Valentine’s Day contest on YouTube, Jessica Leng’s video of her Valentine’s Day creation was selected as one of the top 12 entrants. (See:

Now in May and June, Vassar students will appear on two nationally televised competitions: first-year student Greg Lichtenstein will compete on the Jeopardy! College Championship tournament (airing May 6) and AirCappella, Vassar’s all-whistling music group, will compete on America’s Got Talent (probably airing June 23).

As a participant in the Jeopardy! College Championship tournament, Lichtenstein will compete with 15 other full-time college students for a grand prize of $100,000 and the title of college Jeopardy! Champion. The two-week tournament, which was taped in Los Angeles, will be broadcast nationally starting Monday, May 4, through Friday, May 15 ( This is the first time a student from Vassar has been represented in the Jeopardy! College Championship tournament.

In the first week of the competition, each player will appear in one of the five episodes. The winners of those games, as well as the four highest-scoring non-winners, move on as semifinalists. The semifinalists then compete in a three-game round, each of those three winners will continue on to the two-game final. Players eliminated in the first week receive $5,000; semi-finalists receive $10,000; and participants who make it to the third place pocket a minimum of $25,000. The second place contestant is guaranteed at least $50,000.

An aspiring history major, Lichtenstein is an active participant in the Vassar community. He represents his class on the Vassar Student Association’s Judicial Board. Lichtenstein also headed a team that participated in a Relay for Life held at Vassar on Monday, April 25, to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

Having always enjoyed trivia, Lichtenstein said that he has always wanted to being on Jeopardy! and even memorized the list of Presidents while in kindergarten. “Memorizing facts has just always come naturally and I tried out for Jeopardy! for the first time my senior year in high school. I wasn’t offered a spot after the audition that time, but this year just ended up better!”

Not to give anything away, Lichtenstein noted of his Jeopardy! experience that: “I was a little bit surprised about how much fun it all was. Obviously, I had been looking forward to it, and while it was a bit nerve-wracking at the same time I was definitely having fun playing the game.”

Tune in to watch him compete on Wednesday, May 6. (For channels and times, see


AirCappella auditioned for America’s Got Talent in March. “Someone originally emailed me asking if we wanted to audition for the show,” recalls Sadie Burzan, a sophomore who has whistled with the group for nearly two years. “It was exciting to think about being on TV.”

The group performed “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles for their audition, and were selected to proceed to the celebrity judges round to perform more songs.

“Being backstage there was like Halloween. You have Elvis impersonators, George Washington walking around, little five-year-old gymnasts in leotards—all sorts of crazy, wacky people,” said Ben Creed, a senior who has been a member of AirCappella for four years. “I don’t know if that made it more intimidating or just surreal.”

AirCappella has performed a range of pop songs from “Toxic” by Britney Spears to their signature song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens. Creed says that to the best of his knowledge, there are only a few, if any, whistling a cappella groups besides AirCappella and they are among the first-of-their-kind. For more of AirCappella, see On Monday, May 11, at 8pm, AirCappella will perform at Vassar for their final concert of the semester in room 200 of Rockefeller Hall (free and open to the public).

The nine members of AirCappella (current Vassar students and alumnae/i) who competed on America’s Got Talent are: Ben Creed '09 (New York, NY); Sadie Burzan '11 (Phoenicia, NY); Benjamin Van de Graaf '07 (co-founder, South Burlington, Vermont); Jeremy Bloom '12 (Brooklyn, NY); Kristen Meade '10 (Hopewell Junction, NY); Thomas Ferguson '07 (co-founder, Sturbridge, MA); Michael Longue '12 (Mahwah, NJ); Matthew Rosenfeld '07 (co-founder, Bedford, NY); and Monica Menendez '06 (Queens, NY). The five other current members of AirCappella are: Andrew Shapransky '11 (Rochester, NY); Francis Meyo '11 (Nairobi, Kenya); Dylan Hershkowitz '09 (Lewisboro, NY); Fiona Shen-Bayh '11 (Portland, OR); and Charlie Mikulich '11 (Jersey City, NJ).

America’s Got Talent is a talent show that features singers, comedians, and other performers of all ages competing for a top prize of $1 million. The episodes with AirCappella will probably air on June 23, but to confirm see


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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.



Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, April 30, 2009