UC Davis sorority women sing for philanthropy, personal development
Claire Ongaro, a first-year communication and design major, is a natural singer — she’s not formally trained in singing, but has a natural voice. In high school, Ongaro channeled her musical expression by walking through her house, singing to the audience in her kitchen or living room.
Maybe it was the condensed floor plan, but in college, a dorm room couldn’t satisfy Ongaro’s desire for a musical outlet. That’s where Greek Beats came into play.
“I just wanted to get my singing energy out in a space that is appropriate,” Ongaro said. “Back home I would sing all the time in my house, and it felt kinda weird to just being singing in my dorm with my roommate. Being a part of Greek Beats is meaningful because it is a space where I can just sing.”
Greek Beats is an all-women a cappella group made by and for women in the Panhellenic Greek Community on campus. While the group is limited to a specific category of women at UC Davis, the group embodies a welcoming environment for a variety of women to join.
“The auditions were really scary because I never auditioned for singing before,” Ongaro said. “But being a new member is really cool. One of the older members painted all the new members these Greek Beat plaques — it was kinda like some of the crafts we get from sororities, but it makes it really welcoming.”
Similarly for Julia Rateaver, a fourth-year communication major and the music director for Greek Beats, joining the group gave her an outlet for performing.
“I have always been into music ever since I was little, and I wanted to have a musical outlet when I came to Davis,” Rateaver said. “What I liked about Greek Beats was that it had a fun casual vibe about it where you could still put sorority, school and everything first, but have a fun outlet for your music talent.”
Because Greek Beats caters specifically to the Greek community on campus, there is an understanding about time commitment and the overall busy nature of the Greek system. Nevertheless, this similarity among the girls fosters a collaborative environment and gives them the opportunity to perform.
“The whole mindset of Greek Beats is that we are a bunch of girls who want to do something musical, but don’t necessarily have the time to commit to something really big — we just want to sing together,” said Andrea Martinez, a fourth-year economics and design double major and the president of Greek Beats. “Being in a sorority stuff takes up a lot of time, so we all have a mutual understanding that we have other important things in my life. We do a good job catering to everyone’s other activities, which I think is really important in a college atmosphere — balance is everything. Being involved in other things is really important and having this organization that understands that and wants to work with you and achieve all those goals is great.”
Similarly, the fluidity of Greek Beats was a factor that attracted her to the organization in the first place for Rateaver.
“It is a balance to support our sorority chapters and other things we care about, and if we were in a different a cappella group it might have to make us miss our philanthropies or other sorority events,” Rateaver said.
Aligning with the welcoming nature of the group, a person’s level of a cappella experience does not necessarily impact their acceptance into the group.
“The cool thing about Greek Beats is that a lot of girls come in not having a lot of singing experience,” Rateaver said. “I didn’t have much musical background either. A lot of girls have a lot of musical talent for not having much experience.”
Especially for Ongaro, who is not musically trained, Greek Beats gave her the opportunity to develop her musical skills.
“When we auditioned they asked us if we had any a cappella experience, but it wasn’t necessary to join,” Ongaro said. “It allows for people to grow musically because maybe I will be able to know chords in the future, there’s nothing that can limit me. I had to spend some time learning how to sing a cappella, especially since I never did a cappella before. People in Greek Beats have tips like closing your eyes, focusing on the overall sound and blending your voice to match other tones. It’s about softening your voice, making it not about you. It’s pretty humbling.”
Despite the spectrum of previous training, the group is nonetheless able to create a cohesive sound.
“Since you are in a group rather than just a soloist, you have to work together to make an even, balanced sound — it is a team effort,” Rateaver said.
This unity of sound is used to support a greater cause: Cal Aggie Camp, which pays to send children in the foster care system to camp run by UC Davis students every year.
“A big step for us was adopting Cal Aggie Camp, which is Panhellenic’s philanthropy, and I really want to build on that,” Martinez said. “We are so focused in our own sororities and philanthropic service to others, so I think it is important to do that in all aspects in life. And I want Greek Beats to be part of that and to help out as much as we can since Cal Aggie Camp is such a small organization. To raise money, we do a combination of bake sales, Yoloberry fundraisers and Blaze Pizza fundraisers. Also at the end of the year we do a senior showcase where it’s free but people donate money to us and we donate all that money.”
Adopting Cal Aggie Camp has allowed the women of Greek Beats to immerse themselves into something other than music while still supporting the Greek system.
“Since we are a Greek group we want to donate to Cal Aggie Camp, so we can further integrate ourselves into the Greek community,” Rateaver said. “We also perform at a lot of Greek philanthropies like TKE Sweetheart, Chi O Casino and Arrowjam.”
However, Greek Beats is not limited to solely the Greek system — talent and practice of their caliber has granted them equal standing among other a cappella groups.
“This past weekend we did a show in Central Park in Davis with the Columbia Kingsmen who are from Columbia University,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t anything to promote the Greek community; they just reached out to us through Facebook and wanted to do a show with us. It was super random, but it was so much fun.”
Such expansion is a testament to the amount of growth Greek Beats has experienced since its creation.
“We have come such a long way since it started,” Rateaver said. “We have always had musical talent, but as we become more well known in the Greek community we have attracted a lot more talent to join. People have stepped out of their comfort zone and come to us, a lot more musically-talented people have decided to join so our sound has really developed.”
Likewise, Greek Beats is looking for other routes to expand the organization, like performing at more non-Greek events and even possibly adding Greek men into the group, Martinez said.
Furthermore, growth of Greek Beats itself parallels the personal and musical growth of its members.
“My singing has gotten so much better and now I have so much confidence,” Ongaro said. “I never wanted to sing in front of people before, but now that I got in and have people to support me, I feel a lot more confident in my singing abilities.”
Martinez experienced a specific example of musical growth, testing her abilities to realms she didn’t know she could accomplish.
“We have been trying to find a beatboxer for so long — you don’t know how hard it is to find someone who is a girl, in the Greek system and can beatbox,” Martinez said. “One day at practice, I just kinda went for it and it sounded actually okay. I can only do four beats but they sound decent. I think in the future we are going to try and train our girls to beatbox and try to find some when we do auditions, but I never knew that I could do something like that.”
To Martinez, that grit and willingness to try new things embodies the people who make up the Greek community on campus. Greek Beats has helped develop a new realm of the Greek system.
“I think Greek women are awesome because we tend to do a ton of things; we are not just an a cappella group, we have a variety of interests,” Martinez said. “I think it says a lot about the Davis Greek community. Our group does a good job about integrating everyone. I don’t see a girl in Greek Beats as someone not in my sorority, but as someone who is my friend and that I do a capella with.”
For Rateaver, the moral character Greek Beats embodies has made it a defining part of her college experience.
“Coming in as a freshman, I only really knew girls in my sorority, Delta Gamma,” Rateaver said. “Greek Beats was a good way to get out of that bubble and meet other girls in the Greek community. I wish I could stay in it longer; it made a huge impact on my college experience.”
Written By: Caroline Rutten — firstname.lastname@example.org