The last Testimonyshow was just like any other a capella performance on campus: bright-eyed students wove together a narrative with silly skits and intermittent songs, blending their voices to create harmonious arrangements of popular and traditional melodies. The only major difference was that one of the group members began by leading the audience in prayer.
As the only Christian a capella group on campus, Testimony fills a specific niche, giving students with various faith backgrounds and a love for music a tightly knit community that spans generations.
Founded in 1991 by a small group of students looking for a space where they could perform a capella in a Christian context, Testimony has since expanded in number, repertoire and religious diversity.
In agreement with the name of the group, Testimony has a tradition with each show in which a member shares a testimony about a personal experience relating to his or her faith.
Director Alicia Triana ’13 delivered the testimony at the fall show, sharing a personal story about how her faith helped her pull through a difficult period in her life.
“There’s something that comes out of the hardship that puts you in a place where you’re able to celebrate and share it,” Triana said. “Maybe some people connected more than others, but I’d feel glad if there was one person in the room that it really resonated for.”
Despite its many traditions, Testimony does not follow rigid requirements when it comes to selecting music. As long as the songs contain themes that align with Christian doctrine, any genre is fair game.
“Within Christian music you’ll have Christian rock, Christian pop, gospel, and so there’s a huge variety [when it comes to] the style of music, but [there’s more] homogeneity in the content,” said former Testimony member Caroline Hernandez ’15.
Despite being a Christian group with a missionary purpose, Testimony is open to people of all belief systems and backgrounds and has welcomed members that identify as atheist or questioning.
“We don’t discriminate during auditions,” said Triana. “We always ask and make sure people are comfortable with us being a Christian a capella group.”
Triana appreciates the uniqueness of each member of Testimony, and in her opinion, each student brings something indispensible to the group.
“What I love about testimony is that everyone is so different,” Triana said. “It’s a very loving community even though we’re all super different.”
Kate Mayer ’15, Testimony’s financial officer, joined as a Christian last year, but chose to distance herself from her religion during spring quarter. She originally struggled with her faith and found it difficult to express her doubts to the members of a faith-based organization such as Testimony.
“When I first was transitioning out of Christianity, it was difficult for me,” Mayer said. “While we’re a Christian group, we’re not a fellowship group, in the sense that there’s [not] a lot of dedicated time to encourage each other spiritually and talk about issues of faith, so I felt like there wasn’t really a space to explain to people what was going on with me.”
However, when Mayer finally found a time to come forward about her experience, she was surprised to find that she was not alone; two more shared that they were not Christian.
“I found that very comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one,” she said.
Although Testimony is serious about its music and Christian message, the social aspect is equally important. In order to nourish individual bonds, the officers assign “puddies,” or “prayer buddies,” each week, and the pairs are meant to seek each other out and spend some time getting acquainted. Additionally, the first week of winter break, Testimony goes on tour together, performing at churches, hospitals, schools and events in regions ranging from southern California to South America.
The strength of the Testimony community is apparent not just in the closeness of the current members, but also in the continued involvement of past members. According to Mayer, alumni assist the busy undergraduates by figuring out arrangements for their chosen songs, and the large number of alumni that joined the singers on stage for the final song during the winter show demonstrated the lasting influence of Testimony, even after graduation.
“Testimony has really given me a family on campus,” Triana said. “I think when I leave here I can already see that if I tried to [separate myself from Testimony], there would be a huge void in my life.”