College has some unique activities. But one of the one’s that will really get your toes tapping is a capella.

Brought into the spotlight by shows like The Sing Off and movies like Pitch Perfect, A capella is a style of singing where the only “instruments” are the human body.

(From BU’s Dear Abbey’s. The awesome soloist is my high school friend, Benji. Ladies…He’s taken…Sorry.)

It’s a cool thing to watch and listen to, and many pre-frosh enter school as a capella hopefuls. So here’s some insider information from those already in the a capella world.

It’s A Ca-Awesome.

A capella music is challenging. It requires a lot of collaboration and hard work from many different students to sound so great. Groups usually arrange their own music, which is a process within itself.

Jasmin Jacob, a member of SUNY University at Buffalo’s Royal Pitches, explains why she participates in a capella. “I love the freedom that comes with having a student-run a cappella group. All my life, I was in various choirs with, more often than not, very eccentric directors who would pick music I didn’t always like. With a student-run group, we get to pick what we sing. We love 90s pop and R&B and obscure songs by popular artists and we have the freedom to fill our concerts with all the things we love.”

So besides the awesome musical aspect, what are some of the perks of joining an a capella group?

(The Royal Pitches)

Well, for one, there are so many great friendships you can make.

Stephanie Blumenstock of Wesleyan University’s Onomatopoeia explains why she joined an a capella organization. “While I of course love learning and performing music with my group, I think my favorite part of being in Onomatopoeia (Ono) is getting to socialize with its members. Joining an a cappella group is a great way to make friends. A cappella groups are usually pretty small (Ono was 15 people when I joined), spend at least several hours together each week to rehearse, and often hang out together outside of rehearsals at events like potlucks. Moreover, you know that everyone in your group has at least one interest in common with you!”

Okay, you’re sold. Now how do you get in?

You’re going to audition.

Most of the singers I interviewed said that the audition process involved singing 16 bars of a song (a verse and a chorus), some blending, and some music-theory. Then there are callbacks that vary by group but usually are testing how quickly you learn music and blend with the other members.

But what’s one universal tip you can use no matter what a capella group you audition for?

Two of our interviewees had similar answers:

Jason Lederman of Northwestern’s ShireiNU: “LEARN TO BLEND! A cappella is all about blending your voice into a section and then into a group. Obviously stand out if you’re the solo or you’re alone on a part, but you don’t want to be the one who sticks out. It not only sounds bad for you, but the whole group.”

Jasmin Jacob: “If you’re looking to be the star of your group, a cappella is not for you.”

Basically, having a fantastic voice is great, but most of what you’re doing is background. If you can’t sing the instrumentals, it’s not going to be a great fit.

But what if you don’t get in?

Well, firstly, don’t be too discouraged if you don’t get in on your first try. Jess Hoover, part of the William & Mary Cleftomaniacs, advises students to not give up. “Keep auditioning! If a group is really soprano heavy this semester, they could easily need sopranos the next. Acceptance into a group is largely based on voice part need. Also, join a group that you’ll fit in with! Singing with people is great, but it’s even better when you’re close friends with all of them.”

But what if it doesn’t work out then?

If you really want to sing, find other groups. There might be a walk-on group, a glee club, chorus, show choir, gospel, and so many other options. Even if a capella isn’t the thing for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t sing. Don’t get too discouraged; it hurts to get turned away from something you love to do, but there are always other ways to get involved.

So, are you looking to sing with an a capella group at school?  Is your group the best around? Sound off in the comments.



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the author

Jillian is better known by her pseudonym “CollegeApp Chick", which is half college application blog and half small private college advising business. She’s currently studying Psychology and Religious Studies at a small public school south of the Mason Dixon line. When not advising, studying, or blogging Jillian is an active member of the Shakespeare theatre club, sandbox improv, women’s chorus, and is an officer in a social sorority. She likes to talk, a lot. Most importantly, Jillian wears dresses more than 250 days a year. For more of Jillian’s tips, find her at her website or her Tumblr.

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