I began Stanford with a flurry of expectations from stories of friends not thriving with a quarter system and from teen movies about the college experience. Diverse images containing parades of hookups, parties filled with hazy eyes, papers stacked of work, lonely lecture halls and most important, large groups of people with perfect hair singing effortlessly filled my mind.
This was my skewed vision of a cappella. I was assuming based on the popularity of “Pitch Perfect” or maybe just general talent and litness, that a cappella group members had become the mini-celebrities of Stanford to me (I guess that I missed the highly established faculty, the Olympic medalists and the other wildly accomplished humans that radiate amongst the sandstone buildings and tall palm trees). Entrance into a group seemed like a highly coveted golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. This time, however, chocolate was swapped for camaraderie and musical exploration.
In hindsight, I was not exactly made aware of what rushing for a cappella meant. It may be a bit dramatic to compare this week to Greek life rush at a state school, it’s but not completely inaccurate. Singing and otherwise strutting their talents, members of Stanford’s nine a cappella groups take to White Plaza, post flyers in every corner of campus (even to sidewalks) and perform in dorms to recruit prospective auditionees. New a cappella groups search for talent during the wonderful — not in any way stress-inducing — first week of classes. As quite literally any human being on Stanford’s campus walks through or near White Plaza, they are bombarded with eager, wide-eyed members who wonderingly question, “Do you like to sing?” In desperate situations, the members even use the sneaky and entrapping, “Do you sing in the shower?”
I admittedly fell for the latter tactic and retreated to my dorm room post-a capella group bombardment. As I sat in my room eating hot fries in my unicorn onesie thinking about how I peaked in seventh grade, I signed up for four auditions with the groups that looked the most appealing to me. Choosing a 10- to 15-minute time slot from hundreds of options made me feel super confident and excited for all auditions had to offer. I then attempted to practice some solos and revive my voice from its four-month-long resolute retirement.
I tried to look the part for most of my auditions. I attended Harmonics in my leather jacket and winged eyeliner, whereas for Counterpoint I paired my fluffy leopard coat with gold feminist hoop earrings. I hoped an outfit that was in keeping with their thematic presence would distract from my lack of pitch-matching ability.
Due to the overwhelming support during my voice cracks and inability to repeat clap rhythms, it became increasingly difficult to gauge whether I would have a folder of callback material slipped under my door in the early hours of the morning a day or two later.
The anticipated day came and the sudden callback introduced a new set of tasks to complete. It went as follows: Learn two pieces of music (including some dooo dooo oooo oooos) for every group in 24 hours when you have never sight read a piece of music in your life, then perform it flawlessly while bonding with the group you met a day ago and attempt to mask your lost voice from a week of singing, lack of sleep and general NSO screaming shenanigans. It was easy peasy (duck syndrome at its finest).
The week was far from (pitch) perfect, but I did eventually get my golden ticket. I hope to see you all out for the next performance when I officially move my singing from the shower to the stage.
Contact Alanna Flores at alanna13 ‘at’ stanford.edu.