A cappella groups lack popularity – not fun

University a cappella group 7 Days is helping give the singing tradition exposure in the Midwest area.

A cappella singing groups aren’t on most students’ concert radar, but the tradition may be gaining ground in the Midwest.

on the web

To hear 7 Days, go to myspace.com/7daysacappella or visit www.umnsevendays.com.

7 Days, the University’s a cappella group, has only existed for five years, but is already seeing interest and attendance numbers go up.

The group is also setting ambitious goals for national success. It recently placed second at the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella’s Midwest Region quarterfinals and went on to compete in the semifinal round at Northwestern University.

Kyle Gamboni, the business manager for 7 Days, said Midwestern interest in a cappella is spreading.

where to go

fifth annual spring concert
when: 7:30 p.m., April 18
where: Ted Mann Concert Hall
for more information: www.umnsevendays.com

“There are definitely some up-and-coming groups,” he said, referring to the ICCA competition.

Gamboni said most of the groups in their region were from Michigan and Illinois. 7 Days was the only Minnesota group.

Compared to some East Coast universities, which are home to many well-known a cappella groups – the Yale Whiffenpoofs are one – Midwestern groups seem to be a lesser deal.

Matthew Mehaffey, associate director of choral activities at the University, said the difference could be that the East Coast groups have simply been around longer, and that they traditionally have a “feeder program” at private schools.

“A lot of kids that went to these Ivy League schools came from private schools in the New England area,” Mehaffey said. “They came through the glee club tradition and went to collegiate a cappella.”

Jeffrey Stern, a music graduate student, grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and participated in two a cappella groups as an undergraduate at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He said he doesn’t think the popularity is about the amount of time the Ivy League schools have been around.

Stern said the containment of the tradition could be because people often stay in the geographic region they grew up in.

“New York state schools attracted New York students,” he said. “George Washington said they had students from all 50 states, but realistically, nearly everyone was from the Northeast.”

Similarly, he said, there is a formal choral tradition in the Midwest that doesn’t exist in the East.

Despite the geographic barriers, the social dynamic that comes with a cappella seems to remain the same.

“We notoriously break out in song in the streets,” said Lloyd Clausen, the music director for 7 Days. “It’s super cheesy, but even on a 12-hour car ride to Michigan, we’ll start singing to the radio and trying to come up with arrangements.”

Most a cappella groups perform arrangements of popular music. 7 Days’ repertoire, for example, contains “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood and “Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5.

Stern said although his group at George Washington University was serious about rehearsals, they were all close friends.

“When we partied together, yes, we would break out in song,” he said.

Jimmy Tracy, 7 Days’ vocal percussionist – a fancy term for beatboxer – is one of the group’s newer members. He said the dynamic of a cappella groups is like no other.

“Choir people are a weird, goofy bunch,” he said. “They sing whenever they can. You’ll say three words and they break into lyrics.”

“It’s exactly like a Disney movie,” Clausen said. “Our lives are like musicals. I think we all have a dream of choreographing the student assembly down Northrop Mall in a big number.”