For many, the word “a cappella” triggers an immediate thought of the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect.” However, collegiate a cappella is not just a concept imagined by the movie’s creators. In fact, Penn State has nine of its very own a cappella groups present on campus: The Coda Conduct, None of the Above, Blue in the Face, Savoir Faire, The Statesmen, Shades of Blue, The Pennharmonics, The Singing Lions and Fanaa.
VALLEY sat down with members of two different Penn State a cappella groups to find out if “Pitch Perfect” paints a proper picture of collegiate a cappella.
Jessica Naegele, senior, is the president of The Pennharmonics and auditioned for the group the second semester of her freshman year.
“I had just transferred to Penn State, and something that I knew I was missing in my college experience was music,” Naegele says.
Having nine wonderful groups to choose from, Naegele decided to join The Pennharmonics, an all-gender performance-based group.
“Something fun about the Penns is that every song we sing is arranged by a former or current Pennharmonic,” Naegele says.
Not only is Naegele on the executive board of the group, but she is also the A Cappella Community Relations Director for the Performing Arts Council, otherwise known as PAC.
“It’s an executive board that oversees all of the performing arts groups on campus and gives them support in any ways they need,” Naegele says.
Naegele helped plan the A Cappella Sampler, an event where all nine a cappella groups perform for each other. Sounds a little like “Pitch Perfect”, right? We were assured, though, that Penn State a cappella differs quite a bit from “Pitch Perfect’s” depiction of a cappella.
“All the groups are all very close and they hang out together… there’s not any rivalries between groups like there is in ‘Pitch Perfect,’” Naegele says. “Not all of our groups compete in ICCAs either. Some of our groups are performance-based or recording-based, rather than competition-based.”
Naegele thinks that a cappella is something that anyone who loves music should give a try.
“If it’s something that you’re passionate about, then share that passion with the a cappella groups here,” Naegele says.
Shades of Blue
We also wanted to hear from newer members of the Penn State a cappella community. Perry Drugan, freshman, joined Shades of Blue last semester.
“I’m from Massachusetts, so Penn State is far from home,” Drugan says. “I wanted to find a group that made me feel like I was at home. For me, that was Shades.”
Drugan loves that everyone has a place in the a cappella community, no matter their voice type.
“The musical theatre singers, the pop singers, the classical singers — there’s a group for every single one of them,” Drugan says.
Not only did we learn that “riff-offs” like the one from “Pitch Perfect” are not nearly as easy as they seem, but that a cappella is extremely important to everyone who does it.
“There’s something about singing that I feel like brings people a lot closer together,” Drugan says. “I’m lucky to experience that with all of my best friends.”
Do you have a favorite a cappella group? Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, and let us know!