Singers Vie for Coveted Spots in A Cappella Groups

Nicole Gutman

First-years and returning students alike spent the past weekend vying for a coveted spot as a new member in one of Oberlin’s six ever-popular a cappella groups. The new recruits possessed a variety of skill levels. Some had lots of performance experience, while others had no experience at all. Similarly, some candidates auditioned for more than one group, while others tried out for just one specific group.

One of the ensembles auditioning new members was the Obertones, a 25-year-old all-male group started by Arnold Lee, OC ’88. Lee was exposed to a cappella by his brother who sang in an Ivy League group, causing him to fall in love with the art form and decide to bring it to Oberlin.

“Despite having lost seven members in the transition from last year, we are not treating this like a rebuilding year,” Obertone and College sophomore Colin Seikel said. “We’re thrilled about how the audition process is going and the vision smells good in the oven.”

This year was the first in several that the current members of the Obertones returned to campus to put on a first-year showcase concert during orientation week. They performed in Stevenson Dining Hall as well as in some of the co-ops to get first-years interested in joining. The Obertones audition process was short and sweet: They asked candidates to perform a few exercises to test their vocal capabilities and to sing 60 seconds of a song.

Oberlin’s newest a cappella group mirrored this process. CHALLaH Capella, the only Jewish music group on campus, was founded just last year. Although many members of the group are Jewish, they welcome members of all backgrounds. For the audition, hopefuls were asked to go through some vocal tests to gauge their musical abilities and to sing part of a song. As a group, they’re one of the most versatile, singing religious songs of all sorts; songs that just have Hebrew lyrics and pop songs by Jewish artists.

CHALLaH Cappella looks to expand this year and get themselves more widespread recognition on campus as a Jewish a cappella group. They are hoping to book some performances at Shabbat dinners in the Kosher Halal Co-op as well as at the annual A Cappella Study Break. Additionally, the group is considering a Hanukkah concert for sometime in December.

The two all-female ensembles, Acapelicans and Nothing but Treble, took a similar approach when auditioning new members. Both sing a wide variety of genres of music, making group dynamics an important aspect for current members to consider. They asked their perspective members to sing a verse and a chorus of a song, a round that had to be learnt on the spot and a handful of singing tests not dissimilar from those of other groups.

Acapelican and College sophomore Maya Zeemont said that the group looks for “individuals who can not only hold their own as a singer, but also blend well with the group. We want each song to sound cohesive, without one voice sticking out too much.” Zeemont also said they are looking to perform in different venues and events such as Fairchild Chapel, the A Cappella Study Break, Parents and Family Weekend and potentially during Commencement week.

At press time, most groups are going through or completing the process of choosing from all the singers who auditioned. While the singers wait anxiously to hear back, the rest of campus excitedly looks forward to the new spin fresh faces will bring to a beloved musical tradition.