College a cappella community grows with new season of auditions – The Cavalier Daily


Each year, a cappella auditions in the fall bring clusters of singers to the lawn. Some are currently members of one of the University’s 14 a cappella groups, eager for talented new recruits. Others are hopeful but nervous auditionees, making their way to audition for as many bands as possible.

For former choir members, theater kids, or just people who love to sing, the a cappella community is the place to be. Each band creates and performs their own arrangements made for vocals only – no instruments.

At the University, a cappella groups native in 1953 with the Virginia Gentlemen, an all-tenor and bass band that remains very prominent on Grounds today, still with high-caliber musical talent and classic orange and blue striped bow ties.

Third-year student and current music director Dean Barton knew he wanted to audition for the band even before he came to Grounds.

“Micah Iverson was on Season 18 of The Voice, and he was also on The Virginia Gentlemen, Barton said. “I saw him on The Voice and I was like, ‘Oh, this is what I want TO DO.'”

At this year’s auditions, Barton hopes to find people who are passionate about the band, whom he considers family.

“Just someone who really loves to sing, can hold a pitch, and is generally excited to be part a cappella at U.Va.” Barton said.

Fortunately, this year’s fall auditions attracted many enthusiastic potential members from all classes. Most new auditioners know the notable reputation from the University’s a cappella community and, like auditionee and freshman Natalia Leaf at the College, they see a cappella auditions as a way to keep enjoying the show.

“I’ve always wanted to be in an a cappella group,” Leaf said. “I love to sing and act, and I’ve heard a lot of great things about the a cappella stage here.”

With so many groups in the a cappella community, every singer can find the place they feel like they belong. Although many bands on Grounds traditionally focus on western pop, others bring different styles to the table.

Medha Prakash, a fourth-year college student, is president of Ektaal, the university’s only South Asian-American fusion a cappella group.

“I think what makes Ektaal really special is just the diversity of genres that we approach,” Prakash said. “All of our members have such diverse stories…and they bring their musical taste and contribute to our group, which is absolutely phenomenal.”

This year brought back the traditional pre-pandemic audition process, after slightly tweaking auditions last year and fully online auditions the year before. After filling out an audition form and waiting outside in the summer heat, the auditionee walks into a band’s Lawn Room, greeted by three or four smiling faces, air conditioning, and a piano. Although each group may perform the initial audition slightly differently, the basic structure remains the same.

“We usually have auditionees, they sing scales up and down, then they do pitch encores,” said Liza Harold, fourth-year engineering student and vice president of Harmonious Hoos. “We play a few notes for them and they just sing it to us…then they sing the solos they’ve prepared, and if they can beat the box, we ask them to beat the box.”

Aside from talent, testing an auditionee’s personality is almost as important. If a group likes a particular auditionee, they can invite them to a social encore as well as a singing encore. The social reminder is designed to help auditionees get to know the dynamics of the group and hopefully take some of the stress out of the auditioning process by making new friends.

Singing encore takes auditioning to the next level, where auditionees are typically asked to learn part of an a capella arrangement and sing it along with the band, while preparing solo songs. While the talent of auditionees gets them past the first round, blending in with existing members, both musically and socially, is what brings auditionees into the group.

Current band members know firsthand just how stressful this audition process can get, and they do their best to ease some of that pressure by making sure auditionees feel welcome throughout the process. . Hoos in Treble, one of the University’s all-treble a cappella groups, even set up a waiting room this year next to their audition room where auditionees could drink tea with some of the “Hittas.” – current members of the group.

“I feel like the audition process can be very, very intimidating for most people,” said Deborah Yu, president of Hoos in Treble, a fourth-year education student and Batten. “I know I was very intimidated my freshman year, so we wanted people to feel comfortable and get to know us before they walked into the audition room…And after [the audition]we just try to make sure you feel good before you leave.

Despite the differences between the bands, many members came to a consensus on the best advice for their incoming auditionees – to audition for as many bands as possible.

“There are so many [groups] here at U.Va., and they’re all amazing,” Harold said. “So I guess just cast your net wide and have fun.”

With another round of auditions in the books, one thing is certain – the a cappella scene at the University is thriving, and the groups are hoping that the new members they choose will continue their tradition of excellence both in music and in camaraderie.


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