A cappella: Is it the new cool club? Coming to college as a freshman, I thought it was. I imagined a cappella groups sitting at the circular tables in dining halls, laughing together and just being beautiful and popular. Life for them, I assumed, was exactly like Pitch Perfect, down to every detail: rebellious sing-offs, pretty clothes, even the sexual tension. It all seemed so perfectly orchestrated and cool.
I wanted in.
I have always been a performer—if the shower counts as a performance space. Despite my lack of experience, my friends in high school had convinced me that with my voice, I would be a shoe-in. Coming to Boston College, I had high expectations of the music scene. It didn’t disappoint. During the involvement fair I zeroed in on the singing groups with the most enthusiastic people, the flashiest signs and the cutest guys.
I spent my very first week at college chasing that dream, running back and forth between practice rooms and auditions to perfect a verse and chorus of my favorite songs. From songs like “Love on Top” (to show off my high range) to “Heard It Through the Grapevine” (just because I loved to sing it), I was determined to impress the pants off the a cappella recruiters. I went through an entire bag of throat lozenges in four days in my frenzy to make my college experience just like Anna Kendrick’s. And I knew I could—if I just found a singing group that wanted me. With four auditions under my belt, my shoddy statistical analysis told me that at least one group would ask me to join.
For a while, it seemed like all of my work was going to pay off. I got a callback for one of the best groups on campus, the Bostonians, and sweated excessively through their 4-hour final audition. In a huge circle of current members and young hopefuls like me, we sang our lungs out. We sang with our voice parts. We sang in small quartets. We sang solos. By the end, my voice felt like it had run a marathon.
After the whole ordeal I drudged back to my room and, exhausted, collapsed onto my beloved bed. But I was too excited to sleep. I knew from the stories of Bostonians alumni that after final auditions, the group broke into the freshmen dorms, kidnapped the new members from their beds and dragged them to some mysterious location to sing. In the middle of the night. I imagined candles, chanting, ritual sacrifices—all the usual elements of witchcraft and collegiate a cappella. Covers pulled up to my chin, I waited for hours for the group to come whisk me away to their late-night singing initiation.
Of course, no one came.
I woke up the next morning to the first light of dawn with my eyes crusted together from exhaustion, and instantly knew my dreams of popularity and notoriety had been crushed. I’d never be that cool, hip a cappella girl with the troubling a cappella-cest romance. It was a tough realization for an idealist who had already planned her entire college career around getting into one of those groups. I called my mom many, many times to cry in her ear. With the amount of tears I shed, you’d think I’d just found out I was allergic to chocolate or cheese. That, obviously, would have been a tragedy of epic proportions.
I decided they must have had too many brunettes in the group already; they were looking for more diversity. Or maybe I was too tall. I was no giant, but it did seem like the other girls were short. Really short. The kind of short where people always want to pinch your cheeks, pick you up and/or card you until you’re 35. Or maybe—probably—I just wasn’t good enough.
Because I had done everything but tattoo the a cappella group’s logo onto my bicep, I desperately, and thankfully, had to reevaluate my priorities. Rather than wallow in my misery, I joined different clubs, including Boston College’s 160-member chorus, the literary journal Stylus and the student magazine, The Gavel. I knew these weren’t necessarily the kind of clubs that would catapult me to instant campus-wide fame, but they were valuable opportunities for me to meet new people and hone in on other skills, like editing and competitive eating.
It took a while, but I really began to feel at home where I ended up. I never re-auditioned to the Bostonians the next fall. Of course, I still rock out to that final scene of Pitch Perfect, and yes, I still have the very strong urge to snap my fingers along to a song and beat-box the drum track. Nothing will stop me from trying to convince my friends to sing a part of the terrible arrangements I make of popular music. Apparently, nothing will stop them from saying no.
But thankfully, that initial rejection doesn’t mean as much to me anymore. I may never be the cool a cappella girl with tons of piercings and a great taste in vinyl tracks, but I am a great dancer (self-proclaimed) who can make a killer ice cream sundae and still hit the final note in “I Will Always Love You.” That’s enough for now.