Written by Peter Owens. Media by Bri Phillips.
Not many of you may know this, but I may be the only person on campus who was once president of a college a capella group. It is this unique experience that qualifies me to make broad, sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about the nature of Greenville’s campus as it pertains to the proper environmental conditions necessary for sustaining an instrument-less group of sparkling young adult voices. With only minimal further ado, I present to you four reasons why Greenville’s proverbial soil is perfect for growing a strong, deep-rooted, perennially blooming a capella group.
- Music is highly valued in the Greenville community. One of the first things I heard when I moved here was the joke
that “anyone can start a band in Greenville.” While it is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the truth lies in the reality that there is always someone wanting to make excellent music. The level of musical talent here is higher than at any other place I have ever been. Chapel bands, Elkhouse, Madison Letter, Crowns – heck, at my undergrad, we were lucky to have one solid worship ensemble per semester, let alone half a dozen. An a capella ensemble representative of the average musical prowess of Greenville musicians would be a tremendously gifted group of young people.
- Independently-run student groups seem to be popular and sustain themselves well. Aside from the astronomical number of bands which all seem to have their own distinct yet healthy followings, groups like Joyous Chaos, house churches, students involved in Not For Sale, and Ultimate Frisbee enjoy strong and consistent participation from their respective constituencies with little or no administrative assistance from faculty and staff members. Students find a niche with which they are comfortable serving, playing, and interacting, and commit to it for the long-term. A capella takes work, and I’m convinced that the right mix of students committed to making stellar music and riotous entertainment are ready and waiting to be uncovered.
- Everyone here is hilarious. I am not blowing sunshine up anyone’s derriere. Everywhere I turn there is something hysterical happening on campus: Adam Crouch’s SWOLO Body Building Seminar, @GCMingle and @FakePapyrus, the aforementioned Joyous Chaos. Even just sitting in the DC, I can’t help but be amazed at the wit and creativity that spews from the conversations at the tables. The kind of a capella that everyone loves is two parts music, one part stand-up comedy. Nobody likes it when, between every song, some popped-collar bro-friend sidles up to the microphone and croons, “This next song is by John Mayer and it’s called ‘Your Body is a Wonderland.’” That is boring and if I wanted that I’d just make a Straight No Chaser Pandora station. Knowing your listeners, comedic timing, humorous choreography, audience participation – it takes intelligence and a quick tongue. I’ve seen plenty of that at Greenville to know that it wouldn’t take much cultivating to get a room of two hundred people to erupt in side-splitting laughter.
- Everyone loves “Pitch Perfect.” Seriously. I have yet to meet a person who was like, “Pitch Perfect? Nah, I didn’t care for it.” Everyone raves about it. If I had a nickel for every time that Michael Lawrence and Tanner Reed made a reference to that movie, I would be able to buy most of a small fountain drink at the Union.
I love a capella. It was a hugely formational part of my college experience. I learned how to work with individuals who were different than me and get along with guys I didn’t really like (ask me sometime about the time we were returning from a gig in Michigan). I learned how to be confident in front of a room full of my peers and make tons of people laugh, I made friendships that I will keep for the rest of my life, and most of all, I made amazing music with amazing people. I don’t remember most of the stuff I learned in college classrooms, but I guarantee you that if you got me and a half dozen of my a capella buddies from college back together today, we would remember every note to every song we sang – it was that fun and that meaningful.
If you love a capella like I do, or if you have a passion for music, or even if you’re just curious and want to figure out what all the foolishness is about, come to the Upper Union at 9.30 on Thursday, April 18th. We’ll talk about a capella, watch some videos, and maybe even do some singing of our own. I’d love to see you there!