By Elena Arvanitis '19
If you like to sing, there is a long list of groups you can join on the Close. Chorale is at the top of this list because anyone can join; all the other groups require an audition. These groups include, the three a cappella groups, madrigals, tune in, and the musical (choristers is another selective group; however, it is in its own category because choristers can’t be in chorale). For a long time it has been ingrained in the culture at NCS and STA that you have to be in at least one or two of these auditioned, more selective groups to be considered a “good” singer and that being in just chorale isn't enough to be recognized as talented. However, this elitist attitude some people have of themselves because they are in an acapella group and/or madrigals on top of chorale is just ridiculous. And these are my reasons why:
1. I think I have only ever heard a handful of girls and boys that I think are tone-deaf in chorale. By the time a performance comes, at least from my experience, mostly everyone can sing the songs well and can hit all the notes. If your critique is that many people can sing on key but they can’t learn music fast enough or sight read at the level required for madrigals, keep in mind that this is a skill that is learned. If you are an excellent sight reader, good for you; what you are hiding, though, is that you have probably had a ton of experience singing and reading music. Anyone can learn how to sight read; it is a learned skill that with time anyone can aquire. So sorry, but being able to learn music fast doesn't make you a gifted god.
2. From being in an a cappella group, I can say that mostly anyone is qualified to be in an a cappella group. Maybe you don’t have the prettiest, most lovable voice, but as long as you can sing on key, you can be in an a cappella group. Maybe you will never be put as a soloist, but singing the background parts is fairly simple, and again, in my opinion, anyone can learn them. It’s not that difficult to sing bums or ahhs and also you are rarely ever singing a part alone; most of the time there are more than two people per part. Another big factor about a cappella groups is that they are looking for a specific voice — a fairly mainstream pop voice. The amount of amazing singers I have heard not getting into an a cappella group is mostly because their voice does not fit this specific category. It would be dumb to judge someone’s overall talent just on the tone of their voice. As Isabel Steinberg puts it, tone “shouldn’t be the marker for how good you are.” Also because a cappella groups are student-run, sometimes students may unconsciously pick singers that personality-wise will fit their group. So, there is a lot more than just singing on pitch that goes into getting accepted into an a cappella group; therefore, one’s ability to sing well shouldn't be determined by whether they’ve made the cut.
3. What matters more than being in an auditioned group is joy and appreciation for singing. Matthew Sheets says that being a part of these groups is “all about wanting to sing and wanting to make music.” He also emphasizes the fact that less skilled but more dedicated members are more valuable than “disruptive” members or members “that don't care.” It's pointless being in a group if you don't enjoy it but are in it because it makes you look good and come across as talented. Sometimes I see the “good” singers in Chorale being disrespectful and disruptive because they think they are above it (I’m not exempt from this either) while the members who are in no other singing groups are attentive and polite. These members, who sing on the Close because they genuinely enjoy it and love it, are the real core and stars of the performing arts.