Acapelicans to Cast More Inclusive Net

Victoria Garber, Arts Editor

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Amidst the flurry of the first week of school, the Acapelicans, formerly an all-female a capella group, are changing their designation to “non-dude.” The decision follows a group conversation over the summer about how new members might feel more welcome in a group with a more inclusive title.

“Saying we’re an all-female group means that there are lots of non-dudes, lots of trans people, non-binary people and female-identifying people who aren’t feeling comfortable joining this group, possibly, and we don’t want that to be a problem,” said Emma Blackman, College senior. “It’s a supportive, really good environment and we want to make that as inclusive as possible, but also not having men,” she said.

While the shift is a recent one for the group, its members view it more as a change in labeling than in the group’s attitude, which has always been open to diversity. Their concern was largely that certain individuals might be hesitant to audition for an all-female group, and even though there is a deliberate space for preferred gender pronouns on their audition form, they worried some prospective members may never have thought to look.

“We’d have accepted people who didn’t identify as female before, but [many] probably wouldn’t have auditioned for us, so now I feel like we have more of an opportunity to be inclusive as opposed to hoping that people would see through our name,” said College Sophomore Kira Findling. Amara Granderson, College senior, agreed.

“We have had non-binary folks before in the group, but I think that our job is to market ourselves in such a way where the audition sheet isn’t just going out to certain people,” Granderson said.

All of the members are excited about the potential for new and possibly deeper voices, as well as exploring some vocal directions less typical of women’s a capella. College senior Olivia DeToma explained that this is relatively new territory for a capella, an art that has traditionally occupied a framework of soprano-centric expectations.

“I think another part of the conversation that you can’t leave out is how our sound would change,” she said, “because expanding your demographics, like Amara said, also expands, literally, the types of voices that you’re getting, and I think that in the a capella world there’s this really weird kind of attitude like, ‘oh, all-female groups need to sound one way, they need to sound like girls, or they need to sound like women,’ or whatever.”

These are the sorts of attitudes the Acapelicans aim to change through inclusion and awareness. Some of them had never even heard the term “non-dude” before they began attending college, but it’s an idea that could gain a lot of traction, and they view college campuses as ideal places for this shift to take root. They’ve seen similar designation changes in a couple of on-campus vocal groups, including the Oberlin Treble Ensemble, formerly known as the Oberlin Women’s Chorale.

However, they’re reluctant to characterize these changes as a trend, as it implies commoditization of diversity and non-binary voices as somehow hip or fashionable.

“[That’s] an uncomfortable word, because I feel like ‘trend’ kind of insinuates, oh it’s ‘cool’ now, you know, it’s 2016,” said Granderson.

They also made sure to clarify that the potential for more vocal diversity is an exciting byproduct of their decision, rather than a contributing factor in the discussion.

“I wouldn’t want [anyone to think we’re saying] that we’re only opening up our group to non-dudes so that we can get deeper voices,” said College senior Zoë DePreta to emphatic, group-wide agreement. “Just having more people coming to us from the start just biologically gives us different voices.”

The decision comes at a critical time for the group, as they are trying to reach out to any and all non-dude talent on campus before their auditions at the end of this week, to be held in Bibbins Hall Room 213, Friday, Sept. 2 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 3 from 1 to 3 p.m.

When asked what they’re hoping prospective members will ultimately bring to the group, the consensus was “enthusiasm, fun, and the disposition to mesh both socially and vocally with the group.”

“We’re looking for members who are enthusiastic, regardless of their vocal range. Maybe they can make cool mouth sounds, maybe they can play the piano, maybe they can write or arrange music. Any of those things are things that we’re looking for. They don’t all have to be combined,” Blackman said.

“And blend!” said Granderson. “We’re all a bunch of divas, but … when we’re all together, you [have to] turn it off and blend it in.”

 

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