Sophomore design major Greer Shively used to think that a cappella groups were all about nerdy males in the Ivy League system. That was, however, before she heard about The Spokes, an a cappella group on campus.
Now, in the middle of her second year as a singer with The Spokes, Shively has learned a thing or two about the art of a cappella, a style of vocal music without instrumental accompaniment.
The Spokes are hosting HellaCappella, a showcase of Northern Californian a cappella groups. The event takes place Friday at 8 p.m. at Freeborn Hall. Presale tickets are $7 general admission and $5 with a student ID and can be purchased at the Freeborn Hall ticket office. Tickets can also be purchased at the door the day of the performance for $10 general admission and $7 with a student ID
The training involved in a cappella is extensive, as The Spokes arrange their own songs, accommodating a four-part harmony for each song.
“Our rehearsals consist of going through each individual part and then work with mixing them together,” Shively said. “You basically have to have musical ability to be able to mix with other [voices] and hear each other.”
Another component that must be factored into the training is that The Spokes are the only all-girl a cappella group on campus.
“The girls in our group have very big ranges and are very versatile,” Shively explained. “We can all sing pretty much any part.”
Featuring all female voices sets the group apart from other a cappella groups on campus, giving The Spokes their own unique sound.
“It’s really fun to have that kind of dynamic,” Shively said. “We really wanted to have that kind of new sound of all girls’ voices.”
Many of the singers entered the group with previous singing experience. Senior cell biology major Katie Bowen happened upon a cappella singing when she entered college.
“When I was a freshman I knew I wanted to sing in a group, so I went to performances of all of them,” Bowen said. “I just liked [The Spokes’] performance and thought it’d be really fun to be in a girls ‘group.”
Many of the songs chosen are contemporary pop songs – John Mayer, Radiohead, and Earth, Wind and Fire have all been performed by The Spokes. This year, the group added “Disturbia” by Rihanna to their set list.
“We try to make it really diverse,” Shively said. “We want to be creative in our own way.”
One of Bowen’s favorite songs the group has performed is “Celotape” by Flight of the Conchords.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously and [like to] make the crowd laugh,” Bowen said.
Spokes members pride themselves on their production of big a cappella events such as the annual HellaCappella showcase. Sophomore international relations and Japanese double major Mercy Albaran said that The Spokes’ ability to publicize well is what makes them stand out from other a cappella groups.
“Just putting on big shows like this makes [us] stand apart,” Albaran said. “No other group has tried to organize such a large event.”
In addition to the obvious singing and performing that’s included in any a cappella group, the ensemble also functions as a social outlet for many.
“Being in a group with girls, you really get to know everybody,” Bowen said. “I found a couple of my best friends at college in the group.”
A recent retreat The Spokes went on is just one example of the ways in which members are encouraged to get to know each other.
“I think it’s really important to bond outside of rehearsal,” Albaran said. “We’re all really different, but we appreciate our differences.”
JULIA MCCANDLESS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.