A cappella and the Importance of Finding an Artistic Community in College

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Lenore Holditch is a freelance writer and blogger covering education stories for toponlinecolleges.com. Lenore has a journalism background with an emphasis in covering higher education policies, student lifestyle, and the cost of college. Feel free to send some comments her way!

Socializing in college can be a tough experience for some. Most college classes encourage group activity and comparing notes with peers, but rarely do such interactions result in lasting friendships between classmates. In college, people need to share passion or key interest to form any lasting relationship.

I say this because I was one of those college students who had trouble connecting with people in my classes. I studied journalism at my university, and I didn’t make many friends with my fellow journalism majors. Many of us competed to the top spot in writing competitions or for jobs at the school paper, and that competitive spirit often drove us away from each other. It's not something I'm exactly proud of, but the experience did encourage me to look for friends outside of my immediate surroundings, and I'm so glad I did.

You see, I had been part of the choir in my high school. I wasn’t the star singer or anything, but I certainly made lasting friendship with many of the people I sang alongside. After feeling isolated in college for so long, I yearned to be part of an artistic and inclusive community like the one that had developed at my high school.
The answer to my social life woes was there the whole time, it just took me a while to find it. One night I went to my college's website to search through the student-run groups, and sure enough I found several amateur and professional vocalist groups, many of which were openly accepting newcomers.

I happened to choose an a cappella group on a whim, thinking (of course) of the newly aired show Glee and other pop culture phenomenon that had reinvigorated the state of vocal performance. I imagined singing show tunes and pop classics alongside people who truly appreciated what it takes to sing well, forming lasting friendships with them just as I had a few years ago in my high school choir.

The result? After my first session with the a cappella group, I was ecstatic. Even though the players in this group were a mix of casual and classically trained singers (there was even another journalism major among the group!), they all had beautiful voices. It was vocal performance on another level. The sheer power of a cappella singing—the simple but amazing sound of the human voice without any instrumentation—only further amplified the experience. Not only had I found a healthy outlet for my love of music, but I had also found the social group I that I longed for so much.

I knew I had made lasting friends because the bonds we shared in a cappella extended beyond the rehearsal room (even though sometimes it felt like we spent our entire lives in there). Sure, it was exhilarating to transcribe songs into a cappella, to switch roles among members of the group (I was almost always a tenor, though sometimes I could do some spot-on percussion), but it was almost more remarkable to see how easily our chemistry carried over into other areas. As a group we went out together, planned events together, even went on roads trips.

A few years ago a group of us from the a cappella group took a road trip to the University of Texas at Austin to see (in my opinion) one of the best student a cappella groups in the south, The Ransom Notes. It was so amazing to see that a cappella was alive and thriving on such a huge scale. The venue we went to was packed with fans cheering the group on as they swung from old classics to current top 40 hits. As I watched them perform I wondered how many of them started out like me, adrift at school and just looking for a chance to express themselves with people who cared.

Like so many of you who read this blog, I too found the artistic community that I knew existed in my college. In a cappella, I found friends that I still talk to—and sing with—to this day. Whenever I come across a relative struggling in college or hear about a friend of a friend looking for guidance, I tell them to take a page from my experience and consider a cappella.