Harmonizing lives: Students and their Camaraderie with A Cappella

<p>GFS a cappella performing in front of a full auditorium for the annual GFS a cappella invitational fest in February | Source: Germantown Friends School </p><p><br/><br/></p><p></p>

GFS a cappella performing in front of a full auditorium for the annual GFS a cappella invitational fest in February | Source: Germantown Friends School

The Germantown Friends School (GFS) a cappella group (a vocal ensemble without instrumental accompaniment) located in Philadelphia, will be recognized as a class for the first time this upcoming 2023-2024 school year. Founded in 1995, GFS a cappella has been an extracurricular activity for over 28 years. 

As a member of the a cappella group, I am excited about this transition and have taken the opportunity to write about the experience singing in a cappella provides. 

Beyond the musical allure of a cappella, it is a comforting place that allows singers the opportunity to grow together and individually. A cappella is more than just an activity; it serves as a catalyst for fostering resilience and the development of students. As testified by GFS a cappella members, the ensemble builds confidence and life skills such as teamwork, self-confidence, and creative expression. 

Every year, GFS hosts a two-night performance invitational during which a cappella groups from local high schools and regional universities perform. 

Momoko Takahashi, a mezzo soprano in the GFS a cappella group describes her most challenging moment in a cappella, “We were performing all of what we had learned up to that point. Not only that, we had to learn some dance moves for the medley, and we were in a time crunch and had long rehearsals leading up to it.” 

Takahashi describes her experience at the GFS a cappella fest, “We rehearsed together, putting on great shows during the fest. Afterward, everyone was congratulating one another and shared how much love they had for the group. I felt more connected to the ensemble than ever before.” 

Through a cappella performances, students learn to perform well under stress as well as work efficiently under pressure. A cappella students learn that hard work is rewarding and performing is exhilarating. 

Allen Drew, the GFS a cappella director, describes his role as gratifying. “Everything about music mentorship feels rewarding to me. I love helping students take something they already love and develop increasing passion and skill for it. I love nurturing their love of singing–when you love something, you are much more likely to continue with it throughout your life. ” 

As Drew guides students through intricate harmonies, he also teaches the significance of teamwork, discipline, and passion. 

Drew highlights the challenges a cappella singers may experience, “Many students are overly focused on ‘getting things right’ and not making mistakes. Music only really happens when you move from your head to your heart–when you leave behind your desire to control and avoid mistakes and fall into the current of the song together with your friends. When this happens, music happens.” 

The struggles Drew describes require students to build trust in themselves and accept their mistakes; these skills develop emotional intelligence. Letting go of perfectionism and embracing vulnerability fosters compassion and resilience. Through singing, a cappella members learn to develop their collaboration skills. 

Drew shared, “An a cappella group is very much a vocal team, with only a few voices on each part and a great deal of interdependence. Everyone must rely on one another to sing well as a group.” 

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In essence, singing in an a cappella ensemble leads members to harmonize their voices and create an exceptional musical experience as a unified vocal team. The teamwork as a vocal ensemble extends from singing to performances as well. 

Chloe Braum, a soprano, graduating senior, and co-president of GFS a cappella, explains how a cappella transformed her high school experience. “I joined a cappella in my sophomore year, during online school. Even while divided by screens, I felt a meaningful connection with the other singers. Our first performance was online and the highlight of my remote learning experience.”

Braum's love of singing, sparked by membership in this ensemble, has led her to seek a cappella experience in college. 

A cappella encourages independence, emotional intelligence, forgiveness, friendship, and trust. Demanding performances and rigorous rehearsals help students thrive under pressure, work efficiently, and appreciate the reward of hard work. These experiences not only enhance their musical abilities but also prepare them for the challenges they may face in various aspects of life. As students grow together and individually through a cappella, they learn invaluable lessons and experiences that will serve them throughout their lives.

Braum says, “A cappella has transformed my life in ways that I will never forget.”


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