Student bands face the future after graduation

Student bands face the future after graduation

A few hits of a snare drum snap as two guitars whiz through interconnecting slides of high notes.  Above the reckless timbre, a soft female voice begins to sing out. All the sounds are brought together bringing into one explosively energetic song, officially beginning band practice for East Lansing-based band Audio Monarch.

Audio Monarch is comprised of four Michigan State University students. The band typically practices in the basement of a Charles Street duplex, where of two members live.

Audio Monarch preforming. Photo via their Facebook page

Percussionist Mark Kanitz said the band encourages a free-form type of practice.

“It’s a free flowing jam fest most of the time,” said Kanitz, a food industry management senior.  “It is unrestricted creative expression channeled into our basement.”

This expression was brought together years ago when Kanitz and guitarist Austin Spencer met.

“Austin and I have known each other since the fourth grade,” Kanitz said.  “I started playing guitar in seventh grade and he picked it up right after.”

While Kanitz found hobbies elsewhere in sports, Spencer continued to perfect his guitar skills. It was not until they were juniors in high school when the two friends decided to try and make their own acoustic songs in Spencer’s basement.

“We didn’t play publicly until the senior year talent show,” Kanitz said. That was our coming out of our cocoon.”

Five years later, Audio Monarch is still running, but now includes singer Hannah Pilarski and guitarist Alex Rushlow with Spencer and Kanitz.

Kanitz said the East Lansing music scene initially intimidated him.

“At first, the college scene was daunting and exciting at the same time,” he sad.  “No one knows you, so you can be your very own real self all the time.  You are what you make yourself to be.”

Kanitz said the challenging task of making it in the premier local band scene is not uncommon, but continues to be a struggle for Audio Monarch.

“It’s challenging gaining an audience from a huge campus, but that also means there are 40,000 plus students alone who have never heard you before,” Kanitz said.  “On the other hand, it has been difficult to prioritize classes and music.  We are all good students and we want to do well in school, but music is the passion fire.”

Aside from the stresses from school, local bands face problems staying together after departing post graduation.

“What comes next does make me nervous,” Kanitz said.  “Balancing starting a career in the business world and chasing the dream of professional music will not be an easy task.”

However, Kanitz said he has a plan.

“I think beating the stigma of being a broke and starving artist is possible,” he said. “But we may have to do some things very few artists have done and that is have a salary career and pursue music until we’re ready to make the jump to music full time.”

Spencer agreed.

“The plan is to eventually pay the bills with music,” Spencer said.  “I’ll be moving to Chicago after graduation where there will be tons of opportunities to continue playing.”

Sonya Major, a MSU graduate, joined the local band The Blue Effect just a year before departing from the university and hasn’t looked back since.

Major said being in a band is something she’ll never forget.

“It has completely changed my approach to music,” she said.  “I have been exposed to a much wider variety of music than I was before, and I feel like a much more well rounded musician.”

“I also have been practicing playing instruments more, which is a much bigger challenge to me than singing.”

Major said she began singing at a fairly young age and music has always had a significant emphasis on her life, but acknowledged that making it big doesn’t come easy.

“The hardest part is that you have to trust everyone to do their part,” she explained.

The Blue Effect includes members Sam Bayoff, Brian Burgoyne, Alex Burgoyne, Kevin LaRose and Major.

“What’s special about the Blue Effect is that it is a constantly changing organism,” Major said.  “It started as something completely different that what it is now, and there have been many phases in between. Right now we’re working on a set of originals, we’re having a great time doing it, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Elm Street Recording, a low cost, high quality studio in Lansing, has recorded close to 150 albums and numerous demos and singles with various local bands around the Lansing area over the course of almost 10 years.

Employee Ryan Wert said there are tangible keys to success for college bands in and around East Lansing.

“The local bands that really have a lasting effect on Lansing’s music scene are the ones that play like the place is packed for every gig, regardless of its size,” Wert said.  “The really good bands are always engaging their fans and that makes people way more interested in going to see them.”

Kanitz said developing an audience is something he believes to be important to the lasting impression of Audio Monarch. With his band’s future in question, Kanitz said he remains happy with the state of things.

“When you are doing the thing you love, with the people you love, it isn’t too hard to keep going,” he said.  “Struggles rise and fall, but when you share the same vision, nothing is too much to handle.  I’m confident in us.”

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Students get a ready for a summer of music

Students get a ready for a summer of music

Every year, college students flock to amphitheaters, concert halls and theaters for a round of annual summer concerts.  With the warm summer wind crawling through the air and the carefree relaxation of the season dominating, artists invade cities melting with summer heat annually, selling out summer tours and festivals such as Bonnaroo, Summer Camp, Lollapalooza and Faster Horses Festival.

While the Wharton has plenty of concerts to see this summer, students are going beyond Michigan to see their favorite acts. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

“Summer concerts appear to be special because you are not only paying to hear an artist you enjoy, but you’re paying for the atmosphere,” said Lindsay Shafer, an education sophomore.  “I believe outdoor summer concerts and festivals are becoming more popular because they offer more than just a show.”

Since one of the most famous summer music festivals in 1969, Woodstock, festivals such as Lollapalooza (established in 1991) and Bonnaroo (established in 2002) have toured the United States with a treasure trove of varying musical acts each year.  These acts include hip-hop, rock, pop and even comedy troupes.

“This summer I will be going to Summer Camp,” said Kevin Smith, a media arts and information and communications junior. Summer Camp is a music festival in Chillicothe, Illinois.

Summer Camp sets up shop every Memorial Day Weekend.  At the festival, a variety of activities are also held. There are centers for children called Kids Camp, which allow children to be attended to during the concerts, as well as a family-friendly area in which most adults and children participate.

Since 2001, Summer Camp has expanded to more than 15,000 attendees, while hosting more than 100 bands on their seven stages over a period of three days.  This year’s headliners include Moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and the Trey Anastasio Band.  For the full lineup, see http://summercampfestival.com/lineup/.

“At many festivals there are extra activities, campgrounds, chances to meet people and an opportunity to see more than one artist,” said Shafer.  “I also think it has become a lifestyle for many people our age.  Going from festival to festival with a group of friends makes for a very exciting summer.”

For many college students, music festivals are the time to let their hair down, not shower for a few days and live as if there is no future or past.  With a warm breeze and cold refreshment, summer festivals may seem like a type of paradise.

Another popular music festival is Faster Horses, being held July 19, 20 and 21 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  This country music festival headlines with some of country music’s most famous names, including Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.

At Faster Horses, audiences are able to camp in the “rolling Irish hills” of Michigan while enjoying some of their favorite country musical acts.  This year, the show is being dubbed the “three-day hillbilly sleepover.”

Not only are music festivals popular during the summer season, but also regular music tours.

“So far I’m going to see Grizzly Bear and The XX at The Fillmore in Detroit on June 12, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the Kalamazoo State Theatre on June 24,” said Amanda Heckenkamp, a sociology freshman.  “Any concert is special, regardless of the season, because there is absolutely nothing better than being able to support someone in what they love to do, and love the art that they are creating at the same time.”

Like Heckenkamp, Shafer expects to see some of her favorite bands in the warm and relaxed days of summer this season, including The Lumineers and Cold War Kids.

“Summer concerts are popular because it’s one of the few times of the year where you can fully enjoy them, meaning you don’t have to worry about classes,” said Smith.  “But more importantly, they create a distinct memory for that summer that will stand out from the rest.”

Heckenkamp agreed with Smith on this.

“Summer concerts are so popular because there is more time to be able to attend them and more time to have fun,” she said. “Summer concerts have a different vibe.  Regardless of the artist, the shows seem to be a little more upbeat and everybody’s feeling good and are more carefree.”

For a complete list of upcoming concert dates and ticket information in Michigan, check out: http://www.miconcerts.com.

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Women’s History Month celebrates a history of changing stereotypes

It has only been 93 years since the passing of one of our nation’s most influential amendments to the Constitution.  On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment made it possible for all women to vote, a long and ultimately successful struggle of many women activists of the early 20th century.  Almost one hundred years later, Women’s History Month has become a prominent month-long remembrance for the United States.

“Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate our sheroes, past and present,” said Emily Dievendorf, the policy director for Equality Michigan.

“To those women who have paved the way and those women who are working now to create better representation of women…so that someday soon we can be treated as equal under the law.”

Women’s History Month marks the ever-changing roles of women in society.  What began as International Women’s Day in 1911, Women’s History Month established into the current month-long celebration in 1978 by the United States Congress.

In 2011, the Obama administration released a report marking 50 years of progress.

This progress has shown itself in various ways, which has immensely helped the feminist and equality cause.  It is clear that the roles of women in film, music and even everyday activities, have changed strikingly in recent years.

“Women were limited to traditional roles that we as a society would, or should, consider as sexist—roles that denounce women in authority,” said Amanda Heckenkamp, a sociology freshman.  “Now, women have the opportunity to take on more respected roles, like Geena Davis as the President of the United States in the TV series Commander in Chief.  Even Murphy Brown created a lot of controversy because she chose to be a single mother on the show.”

When one looks at early female characters on television shows such as The Brady Bunch or Leave It to Beaver, it is impossible not to note the simple construction of the woman.  Primarily a housewife, serving a family and rarely doing anything else, women in older television shows differ immensely from characters in new programs such as actress Kyra Sedgewick on The Closer and Maggie Q on Nikita.

Portrayals in film, above all else, have strongly shaped the evolution of roles for women.  Women used to be held as pristine objects and even highly sexualized.

“Take, for example, Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider films,” said Mara Abramson, a women’s and gender studies sophomore.  “Though she is the protagonist—which in and of itself is an accomplishment, because generally speaking females never play the main character in a movie. Unless, of course, it’s a romantic comedy—she is still clad in highly sexualized tight-fitting clothing to serve as a reminder that she is still a female and should always be viewed as a sexual object.”

Emily Snoek, a women’s studies and social relations and policy senior agreed.

“I think it is important to think critically about what we’re seeing in popular culture–advertisements, reality television, high fashion, celebrities, news broadcasts, etc. because all of these things affect how we think about ourselves and the women and men in our lives,” said Snoek.  “Considering whether or not women’s roles are evolving or just expanding within the roles already assigned to the female sex is interesting and not easy to answer.”

If the roles are evolving, it is safe to say that Women’s History Month is leading our society to a proper understanding of gender and sex.

“Women’s history month is an important month to observe because the fight for women’s rights is far from over in the United States,” said Dievendorf.  “All communities disproportionately affected by discrimination and exclusion are better served when we shine a light on how they have been affected by history and how they have helped to shape it.”

Like most equality movements, activism is key and the fight for equality does not end at feminism.

“I consider each movement to be unique, but appreciate that the central focus for movements advocating for women, communities of color and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities is the same: to attain the justice and fairness that our country prides itself on valuing,” said Dievendorf.  “Knowing our history can enlighten us as to where our voices are still lacking and inspire today’s citizens to take a more active role in creating positive change in our world.”

To many advocates for the movement, the fight will not truly end until genuine equality is achieved for women and all others in the world.

“Women’s issues are not dead. Feminism is not dead. And we do not have equality yet,” said Snoek.  “This month celebrates all of us and should be commemorated for just that.”

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Black History Month is a time to reflect on progress

Black History Month is a time to reflect on progress

If you catch yourself peering through a history textbook, you will undoubtedly find stories of the modern African American.  From the days when Gone With the Wind was a reality to when an African American woman sat down courageously at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the trials, experiences and joys of African American life have dissolved into the modern mind, and are appreciated more and more each year.

“Black History Month is a time of year that acknowledges the contributions of people of African descent in U.S. and Black Diaspora,” said Dr. Austin Jackson, assistant professor in African American and African Studies.

“Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African-American to receive a Ph.D. in Harvard University, first established it,” said Jackson. “What started first as Negro History Week in 1926, evolved into Black History Month today.  It’s celebrated in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and other parts of the world.”

Black History Month has become a major topic of discussion for students young and old.

“I’ve been learning about Black History Month since elementary school,” said Kaylee Storey, a psychology and religious studies senior. “Every year, when it comes along, I think that it is a good reminder for things we should appreciate on a regular basis.”

Each year, Storey finds Black History Month as a commemorative and insightful time.

“Black History Month is so important,” said Storey.  “Because of it, we have the chance to raise awareness of our past and find a way to be proactive for even more change in the future.”

The importance of Black History Month is often debated.  Controversy has sparked between many members in and out of the African American community.  Notably, Morgan Freeman, famed Academy Award winning actor, once professed that he did not want a Black History Month, rather that black history is American history.

Jackson debated the importance of the month with his students.

“Most of the students in the class are white,” said Jackson.  “As they discussed The Autobiography of Malcolm X, students said that Black History Month was imperative, since the textbooks they read in school either excluded or misrepresented the Civil Rights Movement, American chattel slavery, while at the same time affirming a wide range of racist stereotypes about black people.”

Black History Month allows people to reflect on how far African American leaders have come. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Kyler Wilkins, a computer engineering senior, agreed with the importance of the month long remembrance.

“Black History Month is a time of reflection for me and my life as an African American,” said Wilkins.  “While I never have experienced day to day oppression, segregation, and blatant mistreatment, my parents have and my grandparents even more so. It’s so strange to think that if I were born a generation earlier the way I am now I’d have a completely different life in terms of how the whole world viewed me.”

Because Black History Month proves to be necessary for many people, it is a way to remember the past for guidance and look to the future for hope.

“Black History Month is imperative, on multiple levels,” said Jackson.  “It is a moral and ethical responsibility, to make sure that children — both my own and those I’ve been privileged to teach — receive a comprehensive and inclusive understanding of history.  This means making sure that they understand the rich and remarkable history of people of African descent in the Americas and beyond.”

With a bright light shining in the future, Black History Month still stands as a beacon of remembrance—a symbol of American history that is essential for all to recognize.

“The fact is,” said Wilkins, “we need to set aside a time of reflection each year to remember where we were, where we are, and therefore how far we’ve come. The next step is to look at where we’re going to go and how we can help bring everyone to the same level of awareness and respect.”

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Students weigh in on who deserves this year’s Best Picture at the Oscars

Students weigh in on who deserves this year’s Best Picture at the Oscars

As the blistering cold winds churn around campus, across the country in Hollywood, the mildly warm heat is mingling with red carpets that are being rolled out and gowns and tuxedos that are being chosen as the kick off to award season has just begun.

Behind the flashing lights of the paparazzi lenses and aside from the glittering gowns and Hollywood gossip, award season, most notably The Academy Awards, serve as a time to honor and praise the year in films.

The 85th Academy Awards, airing Sunday, February 24, on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EST, have turned out nine nominations for Best Picture.  These nine nominations include: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.  With such a large list, it comes down to many factors to decide on which deserves the acclaimed award.

“A lot of it depends on Hollywood politics,” said Peter Johnston, the Digital Media/Film Production Manager in MSU’s Film Studies Program.  “Or the way the Academy wishes to be portrayed, honoring a certain director or producer’s career rather than the particular film.  That’s the cynical answer.”

Though Hollywood politics are a major factor, it is not the only decision maker.

“The optimistic answer,” continued Johnston, “is that when a movie tells a fascinating story in an innovative way with great performances, and combines all the strengths that film can put on display, that is what makes a Best Picture.”

With an array of fair and unfair deciding factors, the nominees are always the cream of the crop when it comes to filmmaking of the year.

According to Indie Wire, Lincoln will prove winner of the annual race, but Zero Dark Thirty should be the winner.

Zero Dark Thirty is a serious contender from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, who won in 2008 for The Hurt Locker.

Though different movies, they depict specific time periods in American history.  Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, illustrates the last four months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life.  The film explored the Civil War and the struggle to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Zero Dark Thirty, a modern piece of U.S. history, is a dramatization of the events leading up to and during the hunt for terrorist Osama bin Laden.

“I don’t know what to predict this year,” said Shea Norling, a journalism sophomore.  “I didn’t expect Argo to win at the Golden Globes, but it did. I don’t know if the Oscars appreciates it as much, but my choice would be Argo if I had to pick.”

Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, has been the surprise hit so far this award season.

Josh Braude, a comparative cultures and politics sophomore, agreed, “My favorite film to win, the most Oscar worthy, is probably Argo.”

Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film.  The film is another piece of American history depicting a CIA operative and his team rescuing six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in Tehran, Iran.

“It just won the Golden Globe and I think it has a pretty good shot. I think that Lincoln may upset because it’s an excellent Spielberg film,” Braude said.

Gary Susman of Moviefone.com wrote in a January 2013 article “the odds are slim that ‘Argo’ can win an Academy Award for Best Picture without even having been nominated for Best Director. Last time that happened was 23 years ago, when ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ took the top prize.”

Another favorite proves to be the small-scale film, Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Based on the one act play Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar, Beasts of the Southern Wild shows a young girl, Hushpuppy, as she struggles with her father’s failing health and the melting ice caps flooding her home in the Louisiana bayou.

“It’s a small film, a very inventive story, shot on 16mm film and with an army of dedicated volunteers,” said Johnston.  “I was a little surprised to see it nominated, really, and would love if it won.”

Aside from the film being nominated, star Quvenzhané Wallis is nominated for Best Actress at the ripe age of 9. Wallis instills a record of being the youngest Oscar nominated actress in Academy Award history.

“I loved that little girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild,” said journalism junior, Zack Peña.  “She’s got some nice skill for her age and she’s likely to gain a stellar career from this film, but she simply hasn’t had the same experience and training as other great actors have had.”

With so many film choices, we can’t forget about the musical spectacle that came to life. Illustrating the painful and emotional journey of a set of individuals during the French Revolution, Les Miserables is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name and later adapted in the 1985 stage hit by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil.

“I think Les Miserables deserves an Oscar,” said Amanda Cowherd, a journalism freshman. “It was beautifully produced and epic, yet it still stayed true to the original story.”

Cowherd remained confident in the film.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t give musicals a chance, but they’re very powerful,” said Cowherd.

The last musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was Oliver!  in 1968.

“I think this is a decent crop of films this year,” said Johnston.  “I predict Lincoln to sweep most of the categories it’s nominated in.”

With Oscar on his way to The Dolby Theater, previously known as The Kodak Theater, Hollywood buzz is proving to be anything but quiet.  There is still time to see the nominated films that are awaiting the big gala, hosted by Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane on February 24.

Check out a full list of nominations at the Oscars official website.

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Check the TV Guide: Three shows that are captivating students

Check the TV Guide: Three shows that are captivating students

There’s something about coming back from a long day of classes and heading straight for the computer or television that really relaxes sophomore, Emma Davis.  The comparative cultures and politics student loves being captivated by characters and plot lines of certain shows that create a means of escape from her busy, homework infested college life.

Not just any type of television show does this for Davis, though. No show truly fascinates her much like Once Upon A Time on ABC. 

“I think the excitement of adventure and danger and romance of fantasy shows allows us to escape our normal lives for an hour or so,” said Davis.  “But it still allows us to relate through the inherently human themes of desire, lust, revenge, and sorrow.”

Once Upon A Time, created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (who also crafted the ABC drama, Lost), is a fantasy-based drama that follows the enthralling chronicles of well-known fairy tale characters Snow White, Prince Charming and the Evil Queen—but with a twist.  Because of a horrible curse from the wicked Queen Regina, the beloved fairytale characters become stuck in our world, in a town called Storybrooke, Maine.

“While Once Upon a Time is based on fairy tales we all know and love, the shows writers have put their own twists on them, making the show both familiar and unexpected,” said Davis. “The idea of two dimensions, one in the ‘real world’ and one in the fairy tale world, is also very captivating.”

The reason the show is so captivating proves to be because of the relatable characters, something extremely imperative for any television program, and the escapism linked to it that helps college students de-stress, Davis explained.

“Fairy tales have lasted through the ages, which I think shows that while they may not be identical to our real lives, their are themes and ideas that run through them that sit true with all humans regardless of age, ethnicity, location and what have you,” Davis said.

Though fantasy has entranced audiences around the globe, a simpler genre has also gripped the public for years.

Back by popular demand and premiering on Netflix in the spring of 2013, Arrested Development centers on the Bluths, a dysfunctional, and often times idiotic, American family.

“I’m thrilled it’s coming back because it’s such a high quality comedy,” said Evan Adams, a political theory and constitutional democracy student. “During its air time it received Emmys and other notable accomplishments yet it was canceled prematurely. Maybe it was just ahead of its time.”

Filming for the fourth season began in early August, 2012, which, according to creator Mitchell Hurwitz, will be a predecessor for an upcoming theatrical film, as reported by The Huffington Post.

Because the show is premiering and running on Netflix, there is some outcry from audiences.

“It being on Netflix is disappointing, but it just further makes the point that people don’t always appreciate quality writing and performance in TV and film,” Adams said.  “Either way, I’ll watch it.”

New to NBC this season, The New Normal follows the family of David and Bryan, an overjoyed homosexual couple from Los Angeles that are in the process of adopting a baby from a surrogate.

“This show is important because it represents homosexuality becoming more accepted and more mainstream,” said Emily Snoek, a women’s studies and social relations and policy senior.  “Having a show focused on gay characters is new and valuable.  It just shows how much more mainstream the LGBT community and issues are becoming.”

The New Normal brings relatable humor and heightened social issues to the forefront that blend, according to Snoek, into an entertaining and emotional plot that can relate well to the LGBT community, including the one at MSU.

“I believe the media is an incredibly important way to view what is happening in society,” said Snoek.  “The New Normal shows that the media is paying attention to a new and important demographic.”

While Arrested Development, Once Upon A Time and The New Normal are supremely different programs, they captivate audiences and are important to what is going on in society today.  Aside from this, they are a perfect way to relax after a tiresome day and to escape into a whole new world.

Davis explained, “We live vicariously through these characters and that somehow fulfills our desire for the adventure, humor and romance while we relax on our sofas.”

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Behind the curtain: A look at MSU’s own Acapalooza

Behind the curtain: A look at MSU’s own Acapalooza

Blinding, pure white lights shone down upon a black painted stage, ridden with dust and neon tape.  Purple and white Christmas lights strung across the stage’s edge and twinkled luminously as the audience filed in for the imminent concert.

Maura McGlynn leads the Ladies First group in practice. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Acapalooza, a Michigan State University a cappella community tradition, is an annual event showcasing the campus’s a cappella talent.  Essentially a concert, Acapalooza is a two-night event where MSU’s a cappella singing groups perform, one after another in a two-hour long showcase.

But what is an a cappella group?

An a cappella group is a collection of 15-20 singers, co-ed, all male or all female, that use only their voices to sing a song, including all the background instruments.  Some voices act as the guitar, the string, or even the trumpets, while a soloist sings the lyrics and a beat boxer pounds out the drumbeat.

The evenings of October 5 and 6 were filled with the melodious harmonies, percussive beat-boxing and choreography of seven unique on-campus groups including: Capital Green, The Accafellas, The Spartan Dischords, Ladies First, RCAHppella, Spartan Sur, and this year’s first-time hosts, State of Fifths.

The host group is in charge of the event.  From ticket sales, poster making, scheduling the event and introducing the groups during the performance, the host groups are the overseers of the event.

Sonya Major, one of State of Fifths’ music directors, said that hosting the show as a group for the first time was not only fun, but also a supremely exciting venture.

“Hosting Acapalooza was definitely a learning experience,” said Major, a senior majoring in linguistics with a minor in Arabic and specializing in Jewish studies at MSU.  “I hope we use it to grow and move forward as a strong group.”

But hours before all of the sweet sounds and tight harmonies began, Hannah Community Center, the location of the two-night event, was bombarded with student-singers.

Each group is scheduled a sound check time.  During this short stint, the groups run their sets, or group of three songs they chose for the night, and test microphones with the soundboard and sound technicians located in the balcony of the 483-seat auditorium.

Major said warm-ups are an important process before any type of show.

The Accafellas after a great practice and audition taping. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Behind the swaying black curtains of Hannah Community Center’s stage after sound check, the energy simmered with anxiety and excitement.  Groups, huddled together in preparation, sang scales and warm-up exercises to practice for the upcoming show.

“The moments leading up to going onstage are really influential on the following performance.  It’s really important to focus and feel as cohesive as possible,” said Major.

Aside from warm-ups, pre-show boosts are also implemented.  From dancing to “random hug time,” each group has a unique way to energize before stepping out onto the stage.

“Some of the stuff we do is really silly,” laughed Major.

No matter how silly the exercise, the a cappella groups’ focus exercises are essential.  Likewise, there is no denying the sense of community that goes on backstage.

Huddled in a large room beside the entrance to the balcony, the a cappella groups chatted, sang and danced, all in preparation for the two-night event.

“It’s chaos! Completely wonderful chaos!” said economics senior Shama Lakdawala, a member of Spartan Sur.  “We met so many people throughout the weekend it was insane.  We were so excited to finally get a chance to connect with everyone in the a cappella community.”

Though created four years ago, this Acapalooza was Spartan Sur’s first, and they were ecstatic to perform at this year’s event.

“It took us a while to really get our feet off the ground,” said Lakdawala. “In the last two years things have really picked up for us. We have been very fortunate to have started singing with other south-Asian a cappella groups around the country, but it was so exciting for us to perform at Acapalooza at our own university.”

Spartan Sur is not your run-of-the-mill a cappella group, though.  As a south-Asian group, Spartan Sur fuses melodious south-Asian music with American pop and rap.

“It’s important to know about the world around you,” explained Lakdawala.  “And for us, it’s important to stay grounded to our roots. Sur allows us to see our worlds collide in the form of music, which is pretty cool.”

For Spartan Sur and the other six groups at Acapalooza, performing well is certainly the goal, but it is just as important to have fun.

As each group walked on stage, shouts are sounded from the audience, welcoming the performers.  As silence covered the crowded auditorium, a distinct humming and tinny note is blown from a pitch pipe, allowing the singers to find their starting pitches.

“Walking on stage with 14 of my favorite people is a really cool feeling.  It really solidifies the unity needed to do our best,” Major explained.  “There’s nothing like that feeling in the world.”

After the pitch is blown, the groups begin their three-song set, entertaining and connecting with the enthused audience.

Dr. Kirstin Parkin of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, as well as advisor to State of Fifths, raved about the university’s a cappella community.

“This was not my first a cappella concert, but it has been years since I’ve attended one.  This was also my children’s first a cappella concert,” Dr. Parkin explained, “and they truly enjoyed it.  We will definitely be attending more.”

Once the groups finished and the applause was through, the audience filed out of the packed Hannah Community Center. Without a community-based show until next year, the two-night concert closed as quickly as it opened. With the balloons taken down, posters recycled and lights unplugged, there was no denying between audience and performers that Acapalooza ended on a high, pleasant and harmonic note.

Photo editor Julia Grippe provided a glimpse into what practice is like for a few a cappella groups in the video below.

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