The rest of the college a cappella world catches up to BYU

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BYU students made their venture into a cappella music 20 years before the movie “Pitch Perfect” came out. Now, even more students are making music “all from (their) mouths.”

BYU A Cappella Club President Matt Winn said singing has always been a major part of the extracurricular path that makes up college life. A cappella is a popular singing style in colleges around the country. This style captured the attention of many with its reliance on the human ability to make instrumental sounds strictly by mouth.

“I think that a cappella singing at some colleges, like BYU, has been popular for probably the last couple of decades. I think that is attributed to the culture that loves

BYU's a cappella group "Vocal Point." (Photo by Jaren Wilkey.)
BYU’s a cappella group “Vocal Point.” (Photo by Jaren Wilkey.)

music and singing, the Mormon culture especially,” Winn said.

New a cappella groups are created each year at BYU. Some groups, like Vocal Point, are male-based groups; others, like Noteworthy, have a female foundation, and those like the group Duly Noted feature both men and women.

Winn said he started off as a club officer two years ago and then was elected by popular vote as president of the club. He said if people want to create an a cappella group on campus, they usually come talk to him and pitch their group idea. He mentioned that group requests have become more frequent since more people became aware of a cappella singing.

“Recently I think the big push has been because of the movie ‘Pitch Perfect.’ A cappella has started to come out of the shadows and has really become a bigger movement,” Winn said.

According to the BYU A Cappella Club Facebook page, the club was started in 1992 and has been the base of everything a cappella on campus. The club puts on a showcase with the many groups on campus each semester.

The two most well-known a cappella groups on campus are Vocal Point and Noteworthy. Although Vocal Point and Noteworthy are the only BYU-sponsored performing groups, Winn estimated there are around 13 a cappella groups at BYU.

Scott Hendrickson, sophomore at BYU and a cappella percussionist for the group Duly Noted, explained his journey into the world of a cappella. He said Jake Tengelsen, a former Vocal Point singer, began the group and personally invited him to come audition and join. Although Hendrickson had already auditioned for a few groups, he was able to become the vocal percussionist for Duly Noted. Duly Noted recently won the riff-off, an a cappella competition at The Wall.

Hendrickson mentioned how singing a cappella varies from the classical style and how much time he spends for the group.

“It’s a different style of singing. It’s more contemporary, with a lot of pop music,” Hendrickson said. “We only rehearse once a week for two hours, but we have to learn and practice our parts by ourselves. So I would say that it takes an extra two hours a week to learn our parts and practice.”

The group Vocal Point was created in 1991 by Dave Boyce and Bob Ahlander, making it just as old as the BYU A Cappella Club. Since its formation, the group has gained major popularity both on campus and around the country as it captures the attention of the Mormon community. Vocal Point gained national attention when it participated in NBC’s “The Sing Off” in 2011.

Adam Heimbigner, a junior at BYU and the vocal percussionist for Vocal Point, said he heard of the group in high school and  tried out twice. He became a member of the group after his audition in 2012. He also mentioned how much time he spends on learning his part, practicing with the group and performing.

“On a weekly basis we will spend about 10 hours of rehearsal together, and I will probably spend 10 hours of my own time practicing my part,” Heimbigner said. “We typically spend anywhere from eight to 12 hours the day we have the show.  So we’ll spend 20 to 30 hours a week doing stuff.”

Heimbigner said Vocal Point has a “diverse fan base,” which means the group travels more often than the typical group at BYU. The group performs at larger venues like BYU—Idaho and more intimate venues like high schools and small towns.

He also said a cappella is a style of singing that allows him to express himself and explained his belief as to why a cappella has become popular among colleges.

“Singing a cappella is such a new and different thing, and college is the time to experiment and try new things. Most people haven’t done it before,” Heimbigner said. “More recently, things like ‘Pitch Perfect’ and shows like ‘The Sing Off’ have really helped show that a cappella music isn’t like Doo-wop or Barbershop but can actually be a cool thing.”

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