an ode to a cappella
There are many aspects of my high school experience that I don’t exactly miss. I’m glad to have those long hours, inflexible schedules and catty cliques past me. However, there is an aspect of high school that I miss dearly: a cappella.
Participating in an all-girls a cappella group throughout high school was beneficial in so many ways. Singing without instruments and working as a team added so much joy to my life and a break from the monotonous routine of school. For this reason, it was on my radar when I started at UNC. The vast selection of groups on campus made it simple to seek out opportunities.
During my first semester at UNC, I signed up to audition for an all-girls group on campus. Incidentally enough, I caught strep throat just days before the audition.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I signed up for a co-ed group’s audition and chickened out before my audition time. At that point in my life, I was terrified of rejection. I’d heard horror stories of people auditioning for 5+ UNC a cappella groups, just to be turned away from each one.
Although my summer 2020 internship search has molded me into someone much more receptive to constructive criticism and a challenge, I was scared. Putting yourself out there and showing a group of judges (also your peers) a very personal aspect of yourself – your singing voice – only to be told it’s not good enough?? No way, sophomore year me said.
I was involved in other extracurriculars at school, so it was easy to push the notion of an A cappella group to the background of my mind. I saw A cappella groups advertising their auditions in the pit, and I didn’t think too much of it.
However, this article that I wrote for The Daily Tar Heel put a cappella back in my conscience. I interviewed members of two a cappella groups, The Tarpeggios and Tar Heel Voices. They both spoke to the friendship and sense of belonging their groups fostered. They emotionally spoke about their connection to music and how it has helped them become more confident and enthusiastic people.
After the interviews ended, I told them about how I participated in high school a cappella. They were excited, and some questioned whether I pursued it in college. I would wistfully tell them, “It just didn’t work out with my schedule,” but internally I knew it was the fear of getting turned away that kept me back.
Interviewing those a cappella members tugged at my heartstrings. I was taken back to my chorus instructor’s room at lunchtime and my days singing and making music with friends. Since nostalgia comes up in my blogs pretty often, here are all the things I love about a cappella and the ways it has benefitted my personality and work ethic.
- Community: My high school, like any other, had a set social hierarchy and cliques across the board. Yet when I came to Mrs. Tilson’s classroom to sing, those boundaries and frivolous “friend groups” went away. I made friends with people who I otherwise would’ve never gotten the opportunity to know on a deeper level. Just as our voices blended together, the social castes and cattiness melted away. The gaps that music can bridge are so beautiful and unique. It is an opportunity we don’t utilize often enough as humans.
- Confidence: Exposing one’s self to the vulnerability of singing in front of others is a strength. Many are unwilling to do it, worried about what others will think or whether they’ll mess up. So often, we put boundaries up around ourselves and shut the intimate aspects of our being off from the rest of the world. A cappella is an amazing way to break down that barrier. Even if you aren’t a soloist, giving your voice to others is a wonderful way to build self-esteem. I found an adrenaline rush from performing. Even if I had little mess-ups during a performance, it would be validating to hear a positive reception of the music. More importantly, I felt proud of myself for putting myself out there for others to hear. I found that a cappella gave me a voice – literally and figuratively – and enabled me to speak boldly and with self-assuredness.
- Cohesion: In a cappella and in life, being a team player is a critical skill. One of the most important aspects of singing in a group is learning to blend your voice with others. It’s imperative for the 10 or more voices in the group to sound like one gorgeous tone. You have to have a listening ear. Even in the middle of a performance, you have to constantly listen out and correct your pitch so that the whole group sounds melodious. If you aren’t a team player, you won’t blend with the group and will hinder the goal of sounding like one collective body. This translates perfectly to the professional sphere. In the workforce, you have to be a collaborator and a coachable employee in order to succeed. You have to work well with others and adjust to spontaneous changes as they come. My a cappella experience has prepared me for this important trait, and I am grateful for that opportunity.
I fervently believe music to be one of life’s greatest gifts. It transcends our worldly differences and the trials that we experience every day. I often find it to be a break from the boring and mundane, and there is a different song for every mood and moment. Even though I regret not being more directly involved with music in college, it’s something I will always love and pursue. I want to make more music throughout my life. I’m done shying away from it in fear that others won’t like my voice or the music I play. It’s an integral part of me.