By Madison Stapels
A cappella has become more and more popular recently due to shows like The Sing-Off and Pitch Slapped and the Pitch Perfect movies. At Michigan State, there are a bunch of a cappella groups that expertly execute their renditions on Top 40 hits. Hear what Lauren Wilson of Ladies First and Gabe Isa of State of Fifths have to say about their time with a cappella.
What drove you to get involved with a cappella?
Lauren Wilson: Throughout high school I was always involved in music and the arts, and I wanted to continue that during my college career! I knew about collegiate a cappella through watching The Sing Off in high school and really wanted to try it. Four years later, I am now the music director of my group and attending and getting to teach at a cappella festivals!
Gabe Isa: Growing up, I participated in middle school and high school choir as well as played instruments in my free time. The music programs were extremely encouraging of extra curricular groups for students and happened to offer a variety of A Cappella groups (all male, all female, co-ed), so I took a chance and auditioned! I sang for 2 years at my high school with a group called “Desperate Measures” and absolutely loved the experience, which is what drove me to audition in College.
What does a cappella mean to you?
LW: A cappella means the world to me. It has brought so much joy and happiness in my life. This unique genre of music brings people together in such a unique way. Singing can be quite vulnerable because you are putting a piece of who you are out into the world. So when a group of people come together with only their voices, it can produce a magical and pure sound. A cappella holds such a special place in my heart and I hope to continue with it after my time at MSU is done.
GI: For me, A Cappella is an outlet from the stress of school and life. I get to hang out with 14 of my closest friends and sing our favorite songs for people. It doesn’t get much better than that!
How has a cappella changed your life?
LW: A cappella has helped me find some of the closest friends I have met in my college experience. It has also opened up my musical horizon and shown me how magical the human voice can be. Because of my time in the Michigan State A Cappella community, I hope to work with the different national a cappella organizations in my future career.
GI: I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had never gotten into A Cappella. I’ve made so many lifelong friends and had so many rewarding experiences with some of the greatest people I have ever met. I owe many of the things I have today to State of Fifths – friends, musical hobbies, a career, life experiences. I’m truly thankful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the A Cappella community. It has absolutely been life-changing experience.
Favorite A Cappella memory?
LW: My favorite a cappella memory was when Ladies First performed at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in 2014. We had not competed in a few years, so most of the members (including myself) had never been a part of this competition. After we performed our set, the crowd went wild and we all had the biggest smiles on our faces. We had put in so much hard work and it had definitely paid off! We ended up winning three of the four special awards and placing second, moving onto semi-finals!
GI: I have too many to narrow it down to just 1 favorite, but I can say that some of my fondest memories of a cappella are from our annual tour of the Traverse City School District. The past few years, we’ve gone from school to school performing at assemblies for K-12 students in TC. A Cappella is huge in their community and seeing the kid’s reactions when they hear us singing their favorite songs is priceless. We also end up getting to spend a lot of time just hanging out as a group, which is the best!
Favorite a cappella song you have performed and why?
LW: Strangely enough, my favorite a cappella song I have ever preformed was last summer at Camp A Cappella, a summer camp created by Deke Sharon and Brody McDonald that is open to all ages that I have attended the past two summers. Each student is put in a small ensemble based on age and skill, so I was performing with the other college students. We were given Geronimo by Sheppard, which was a song I wasn’t too familiar with, but I fell in love with it after the first time we sang it. It was amazing to look around and see all of the passion and love for a cappella in one room, which really came across in our final performance. Being able to perform with and in front of people who have traveled from all over the country because of their love of a cappella was truly an indescribable feeling. This genre obviously doesn’t use instruments, but what a lot of people forget about is that its all real people singing. They all put their hearts into the music, which adds electricity, excitement, and love to the final product.
GI: “Lost in My Mind” by The Head and the Heart. This song hits home with many of the Fifths. One of our favorites my sophomore year, we sang it during our 2014 ICCA set as a closing piece and it was one of the most emotionally moving songs I had ever performed. The arrangement was beautiful, the song was soulful and uplifting, and we just clicked with it in a way that was so powerful.
Advice to someone who wants to get involved in a cappella?
LW: Audition! All groups have fall auditions and some have them in the spring, and groups’ needs are always changing. If things don’t work out the first time, either audition again or find a few friends and start up your own! There are plenty of free/very cheap arrangements out there for all types of ensembles to help you get started!
GI: Do it, and do it now! If you like singing and friends, it is the perfect hobby to get into. You will meet some great people and talented musicians and learn so much from the experience. At Michigan State (and MANY other colleges/universities), groups will usually advertise their audition dates and details both on campus and on their social media. If you’re interested in joining a group, seek out the ones that are available in your community, listen to their music, and see which one’s most fit what you’re looking for! Never be scared to audition, it may be the best choice you ever make!
Vocalosity, the aca-perfect a cappella experience comes to Wharton Center on January 26. From one of the producers of the ‘Pitch Perfect’ movies and the NBC show, ‘The Sing-Off’, Deke Sharon captures the excitement of a cappella live. Bobby McFerrin also comes to Wharton Center for a night of incredible music and storytelling on February 6, get your tickets now! Tickets can still be purchased for this exhilarating event or call the Wharton Center box office at 1.800.WHARTON.