By Dagny Lu '15 and Stephanie Steinbrecher '16 Staff Writers
Find out what makes each of Claremont’s eight* a cappella groups unique just in time for their performances at the 17th annual Southern California A Cappella Music Festival (SCAMFEST) on Friday, Nov. 9th at Bridges Auditorium!
The Women's Blue and White
Year Formed: early 1980s Number of current members: 17 Signature songs/performances: “Wasted On the Way” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
The Women’s Blue and White was founded at Pomona and were named after the school colors. “We are the only all-female a cappella group on the 5Cs. So basically, if you’ve seen Pitch Perfect, that’s us—only without the projectile puking,” said Stephanie Parks (SC ‘13). The group gets together to practice three times each week. “WBW is like its own little family. We’re serious, but at the same time we’re a pretty goofy group of individuals, and we like to have fun,” said Parks.
Parks shared with us her most memorable experience as a member of the group. “Last year, we took an impromptu trip to Baldy for one of our rehearsals. Singing up in the mountains and being able to look up and see the stars was incredible. It’s the little things like that that makes WBW so fun.”
The group performs at events throughout the year such as Pomona’s Founder’s Day, The Shakedown Café Birthday Party, and Alumni weekend. “We usually hold at least one snack concert and one end-of-semester concert every semester,” said Parks.
The Claremont Shades
Year Formed: 1995 Number of current members: 16 Signature songs/performances: “Fuck You” by Cee Lo Green “God Bless the Broken Road” “The Winter Song”
The Claremont Shades is the first co-ed a cappella group at the Claremont Colleges. Founded in 1995 as the Claremont Shades Of Harmony, the group currently includes sixteen members from all five colleges.
“We are like a big family. Everyone in the group is really close. We are all very supportive of one another and members usually stay in touch after graduation, ” said Priya Srivats, a senior at Scripps College and the event coordinator of the group this year. Priya joined The Claremont Shades in her spring semester of freshmen year. “I love to sing, and being a member of Shades has been a great way for me to keep music in my life throughout college. It has also helped me develop my leadership skills.”
It is one of the group’s traditions that at their end-of-the-year party each year, the seniors will “re-audition” in front of the rest of the group by performing the songs they sang for their auditions back when they first became a member of the group.
The Claremont Shades practices three times each week and sometimes more before big events. “We love to make music and have fun. Music is really important to every member of the group, and we choose songs that we think the audience will enjoy,” said Srivats. The group performs at different schools events throughout the year such as the new student orientation and snack concerts. “We also do two tours each year, one in spring and one in fall, for which we travel to sing at schools, hospitals, farmer’s markets, etc. For our last fall tour we went to Berkley and performed at the local farmer’s market,” says Srivats.
The Claremont Shades will be hosting SCAMfest on Nov. 9 in the Big Bridges Auditorium at Pomona College.
The After School Special
Year Formed: 2002
Number of current members: 13 Signature songs/performances: “The Heart Medley,” a mashup of three different sappy boyband songs. A Lady Gaga medley they started performing right after “Bad Romance” came out.
The After School Special probably has one of the sexiest acronyms on campus, and they certainly know it.
“Our green trucker hats that we all wear for every show have ASS printed on the front, and it is tradition of ours that after every performance we always bow backwards to give the audience a good look at our ASSes!” said Bryn Morgan, a senior at Scripps and the group’s event coordinator this year.
At ASS, members proudly refer to themselves as ASSlings. “New members are called ASS babies and our fans are our ASSets!” said Morgan.
Bryn Morgan joined The After School Special during her first semester at Scripps College. “I was instantly part of a hilarious, musical, and loving family. We spend a lot of time together both in and out of rehearsals. We are all close friends and provide support for one another no matter what. It’s a special connection,” said Morgan. “If there’s one thing that has made my college experience fantastic, it’s been being a part of ASS!”
The 5-C a cappella group performs at various school snacks and campus events through out the year. “We’re getting into touring more also—we were down in San Diego a few weeks ago for an a cappella invitational concert and have been talking about doing a tour of a number of schools in California,” said Morgan.
Bryn also shared with us the group’s creative process. “We like to cycle through music—singing the songs for too long is not only boring for audiences but it’s boring for us!” said Morgan. “We are really collaborative and we love to have fun while making music. Sometimes if we want to arrange a song, rather than having one or two people sit down and arrange it, we’ll just stand in a circle and improvise until it starts sounding good, each person making up a part. We like to change things as we go to improve, for example I’m writing a rap verse right now to replace one that none of us liked on one of our songs.”
The Mood Swing
Year Formed: 2004 Number of current member: 18 Signature songs/performances: “A Change In My Life”
The Mood Swing likes to keep that sense of whimsy in their song choices. “We like to challenge ourselves with different styles of music and we are always open to learning new things. There isn’t any song, artist, or type of music that we won’t rendition. Mood Swing sings it all!” Stephanie Kim, the music director of Mood Swing this year and a sophomore at Scripps College, shares with us the essence behind the name of the group.
Stephanie Kim has been a member of the group since her first semester at Scripps College. “I had done a cappella in high school and wanted to keep doing it when I came to Scripps. I think it is a great way to meet people while doing music.”
The group practices three times each week. Members spend a lot of times together outside of practices as well. “The time we spend together outside of concerts and practices has been one of the most memorable experience for me as a member of the group. We go to parties together, hang out at Fruizen, and have movie marathons. It’s like having a new family. We always have a great time!” said Kim.
What qualities do you look for in new member? “We look for people with fun personalities and who are open to new things,” said Kim. The Mood Swing performs at different school events through out the year.
Year Formed: late 1990s Number of current members: 13 Signature songs/performances: “Baby” by Justin Bieber Songs by MIKA
“You know you’ve spotted a Midnight Echo member when they are wearing crazy pants,” said Charlotte Leasia (SC ’13) about what sets her fun-loving a cappella group apart. “Crazy pants are the signature item of our a cappella group. Their wackiness and quirky details help make the performance interesting. They nicely complement our singing and dance moves.”
Currently with 13 members (not counting the members who are studying abroad), Midnight Echo has members from all 5Cs. Midnight Echo performs frequently at the Snack Concerts on the Frary steps and enjoys singing for donuts at Mudd.
Midnight Echo have found inspiration in and have derived their identity from “Baby” by Justin Bieber and gutsy and sassy songs by MIKA. “We are in the process of considering bringing Britney back,” said Leasia, shedding some light perhaps on upcoming projects by the a cappella group. The group practices three days a week. Leasia admits that there is not a common characteristic about the group’s musical choices, but this only serves to add to Midnight Echo’s unique personality: “our songs change all the time, like the colors of our crazy pants!”
Ninth Street Hooligans
Name: Ninth Street Hooligans
Year Formed: 2009
Number of current members: 19
Signature songs/performances: “Ridin’ Dirty” by Chamillionaire
“Whip My Hair” by Willow Smith
It all started for the black and lavender-clad Ninth Street Hooligans in the fall of 2009, making the group the youngest a cappella group at the Claremont Colleges. “We've had to find our own unique style and audience, and I think we've done just that. Our performance of Chamillionaire's ‘Ridin' Dirty’ and Willow Smith's ‘Whip My Hair’ at last year's SCAMfest helped establish us as one of the more comedic groups,” said president Mark Irwin (PZ ’14).
Currently at 19 members with 7 graduating this year, members come from six of the seven Claremont Colleges and hail from all over the world—Singapore, China, Korea, Botswana, Egypt, and India. This diversity only adds to the group’s uniqueness.
When auditioning new members, or “Nooligans,” the group looks for a mix of personality and vocal blending, skills, tonality, pitch, and range. When asked what the most important quality in a potential Nooligan is, though, Irwin cited what Hooligans call THE X FACTOR. “This is a combination of hatred and latent sexual tension buried deep within a person's soul. When harnessed, THE X FACTOR is an almost unstoppable force.”
Comedic geniuses, incredible vocalists, and possessors of this special trait, Ninth Street Hooligans look to Dionysus, their in-house deity, as well as the pigeon, their spirit animal, to fuel their inspiration to rendition songs such as Kelis’ “Milkshake” (another crowd favorite).
If one thing is certain, it is that this group is serious about their music. The Hooligans have performed at many special events at the Claremont Colleges including SCAMfest as well as casual Snack Concerts on the Frary steps at Pomona.
The Kosher Chords pride themselves on being the Jewish a cappella group (although not all members are Jewish) at the 5Cs. “We sing chords. These chords are kosher. I wish this were a longer story,” said member Sarah Loebner (SC ’14) about the source of her group’s name.
Year Formed: 2009 Number of current members: 13 Signature songs/performances: “Shalom Ray” “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid”
Practicing three times a week, the group “can’t get enough of each other,” said Loebner. “We’re pretty much up for anything. We try to include songs related, however distantly, vaguely, or tenuously, to Judaism, but even that we don’t always adhere to,” she said, citing a Hebrew song entitled “Shalom Rav” as their favorite as well as their rendition of “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid.”
The group loves to have a good time, as demonstrated by a particularly unique tradition: “If someone says the word “everybody” during rehearsal, we spontaneously jump into a lively rendition of ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).’”
Kosher Chords members are an incredibly close and humorous group of people, with representation from all but one Claremont school. When asked about what she has gained from being a member of this a cappella group, Loebner said, “I think Kosher Chords has given me invaluable experience as being one part of a whole. Teamwork is something we can all utilize when we take that big step into the ‘real world’ after we graduate … I know that the time we spend together is dedicated to reaching that goal of creating harmonious music together, but it’s amazing to unwind and just sing away the stress, pressure, and anxiety of college life.”
See them perform at Human Symphony, Hillel functions, Wednesday Nighters at Harvey Mudd College, and Pomona performances like Snack Concerts.
*Men's Blue & White could not be reached for comment.