A new pitch of A capella


Credit: Courtesy of Arden Knapp

The Muses, the all-female a capella group at WHS, pose for a photo before their annual show. “I am really excited for the new kids! We have three new freshmen who are really great. I think they’re going to add a lot musically, but also their personalities are great and I am really excited to see where we go,” senior Arden Knapp said, one of the three directors of the Muses.

Once the nervous auditionees on stage, the A Capella directors are taking on a new role this fall. As directors of the T-tones, Muses, and the Madrigals select new members for their groups, they consider the qualities of an A Capella member and reflect on their roles and experiences.

This past September, the directors of the three ensembles came together and organized the annual audition. For A Capella, the audition process is different from what one might think. The directors, along with Mrs. Carroll, set up in the chorus room to hold “blind auditions.” White boards were set up across the room to form a wall, so the auditionee could be behind an apparatus while they were performing.

Senior Arden Knapp is one of the three directors of the Muses.

“[During auditions], we have the auditionees sing a scale going up and down to test their range. The directors also have them sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, just so we can get a base sense of what their tone sounds like, and then we have them sing a 30-second solo song,” Knapp said. “Lastly we have Ms. Carroll play a few notes on the piano, and then the auditionee has to sing them back to us so we can hear their oral recognition.”

After the initial audition, a select group of auditionees were asked to return for callbacks.

“During callbacks, they are in a quartet,” senior Josh Ellenbogen said, an assistant director of the Madrigals. “They are matched with three other singers and voice parts, so they just have to sing a song so we can see how they match pitch.”

As a director for the Muses, Knapp looks for certain traits among the auditionees that she think would blend well with the group.

“We look for somebody who will add a lot [to the group] with their voice. We look for somebody who is a good background musician, but [can] also have a really big solo and kill it on stage.”

Ellenbogen also spoke of the criteria the Madrigal directors looked for in a new member.

“I know the directors are really looking for, at least for blind auditions, someone who can one, sing well; two, match pitch; and three, hold their own in a group,” Ellenbogen said.

But, talent isn’t all that matters, for the directors consider the auditionees’ personalities as well.

“For Muses specifically, we look for somebody whose personality is going to blend well with everyone else’s. Being in a group with 12 girls, there is drama, people have bad days, and people can get a little catty, so we try to look for people who we feel will bring in a good sense of fun personality, who will be kind, and won’t create any drama,” Knapp said.

Senior Sidney Toga, one of the three directors of the T-tones, also looks for specific qualities in the auditionees.

“Obviously the first thing that comes to mind would have to be the actual musical aspect, which means they can hold a part well, they don’t have any intonation issues, which means they can hit all the right notes, and they aren’t off key or anything. As far as character goes, we love fun loving people who are just in it to have fun, but will also be a substantial part of the group,” Toga said.

Toga believes that the T-tones are more than just a group of students who want to sing.

“We are way more fun than the other groups. Everyone else is so serious when they are on stage. We love to dance around and have funny introductions. We just love to have fun on stage,” Toga said.

However, Ellenbogen argues that his group, the Madrigals, is unique in that they are co-ed, and therefore is the best.

“I think that other than being the best overall, us being [a] boy-girl [group], we are allowed to reach a different level of music that the other two groups are restricted [from because] of their single-gender affiliation,” Ellenbogen said. “So we can just do a more diverse spread of music.”

As a director, there are specific responsibilities correlated with the role. For Knapp, she has numerous duties to perform in order to keep everything in line.

“I host a bunch of rehearsals, I arrange a lot of the music, and I make sure things are running smoothly. I lead warmups in rehearsal, and I make sure everybody is staying on task,” Knapp said.

Despite the several jobs Knapp and the other directors are responsible for, it doesn’t overshadow the excitement for the new year.

“I am most excited for the new kids! We have three new freshmen who are really great. I think they’re going to add a lot musically, but also their personalities are great and I am really excited to see where we go,” Knapp said.

Toga is also thrilled about the new members.

“We lost five members, we added another five, so I am feeling like there is a lot of new juice in the group, and everyone is really energetic and ready to go,” Toga said.

Check out the list of the new members here: News Brief: New a cappella members announced