Why all those frosh sing a cappella

A cappella: it’s nearly synonymous with good, clean, toe-tapping, finger-snapping fun. Early each year there is a scramble among dozens of first-years for the few, highly coveted spots in the College’s various a cappella singing groups. This year was no different, with many vocally inclined (and other not-so-vocally inclined) first-years eagerly signing up for a cappella tryouts during the Purple Key fair.

During first days, all of the a cappella groups performed an exciting show at Goodrich, showcasing their talents for first-years. Throughout the audience, interested first-years discussed which groups were the most impressive and which they should tryout for. One Junior Advisor, in an attempt to characterize the all-male groups to a group of first-years, called the Springstreeters “the players on campus,” while advising people who planned to audition for the Octet “to wear an Abercrombie hat to the tryout.”

With auditions complete and the new members of the groups picked, there was a great variety in vocal experience and a cappella experience among the new members. Elliot Baer ’04, one of the newest members of the Octet, has been singing for years and sees a cappella music “as a venue to perform a style of music that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to perform. As cool as Bach may be, he’s not nearly as fun as the Spin Doctors.”

Baer’s feelings about a cappella are reflected by Kristin Engelbrecht Bleem ’04, one the four new members of the Accidentals. Englebrecht Bleem said, “I didn’t want to get trapped in a little classical bubble and never get out. I love good vocal jazz too darn much!”

While many people who tryout for the College’s a cappella groups are experienced vocalists who have performed in many different types of groups, a small minority of new a cappella members have absolutely no experience singing in organized choirs. Occasionally, a newcomer to the world of vocal art gets a shot to show what he’s made of. Up until last week, when he joined the Ephlats, Zach Yeskel ’04 had thought he was tone-deaf and that singing just wasn’t his thing. However, much to his surprise, the Ephlats saw some merit to his voice and chose him for their group. Still in shock, apparently, Zach said, “I don’t know what the hell they were thinking. I can’t sing [at all].”

However, there much thought goes into choosing new members for the group. According to Aaron Berman, ’01, the musical director for the Springstreeters, new members are picked both on singing ability and, in a callback audition, how well they work with the group.

A cappella groups provide an instant family that even the newest members are a part of. Margaret diZerga ’02, the musical director of the Accidentals, recalled that as a first-year, being part of the group was a really good way to meet upperclassmen.

Both Berman and diZerga said that their respective groups are going to work really well together this year. First-years and upperclassmen alike are excited about the year to come in a cappella.

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