The fading sounds of applause echo across the huge hall, dying down into nothing as we begin our final set. Our first song of the night is a showstopper, the second a laid back interlude. Our last song, however, is much darker, striking a melancholy theme that will haunt the audience throughout the final moments of our performance.
The hall is quiet now, the lights dim. My head is bowed, mirroring the seventeen girls joining me in the long arc that encompasses half the stage. Before the first notes begin, I calm myself by thinking of the hours of practice we’ve committed to this precise moment, and know that we’ve got it. The song begins, and all thoughts cease.
I knew before stepping onto Duke University’s campus my freshman year that I wanted to join an a cappella group. As early as elementary school, my passion for music expanded from violin lessons and orchestra to classical voice and choir.
At some point during my sophomore year of high school, I realized I had discovered a passion that I retain to this day: singing. Whether it was singing operatic arias for my voice teacher in her living room, or adding to the melodies of my school choir at 7 a.m., I became an addict. I knew that I would never be fully myself in college if I didn’t find an outlet for my voice.
I knew, therefore, that the transition from my home in Seattle to a college on the other side of the country wouldn’t change anything: no matter the workload, I was going to sing. The first week of college, I went to the Freshman Orientation
Show, a performance hosted by every a cappella group on campus to showcase their skills and draw in new talent from the freshman class.
One group completely blew me away, and I eagerly jotted my name down on an audition list, along with a few other groups I had liked. In a week, auditions were over and I was welcomed into my first choice, Duke’s oldest all-female a cappella group, Out of the Blue.
Since then, Out of the Blue has become the most time consuming activity I participate in at school, and the most rewarding. I spend upwards of ten hours a week with the girls in my group, either in rehearsal twice a week or in the various on and off-campus concerts we sing in. We spend Fall Breaks touring together, and weekends singing in concerts that range from locations as close as my dorm to neighboring colleges with other a cappella groups.
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Every year before the start of school, we fly to North Carolina for a weeklong music retreat in preparation for the same Orientation Show that I saw as a freshman. The rehearsals are long and strenuous, but the girls make it bearable, and it’s only possible because every girl in my group is just as talented, committed, and passionate about singing as I am.
This semester, I returned from a semester abroad to the most difficult rehearsal schedule I have had to commit to in three years. Out of the Blue had been accepted to the ICCAs, the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella.
For those of you that follow the popular television show Glee, I imagine that my life over the past three weeks would be an accurate representation of how the show would, realistically, pan out. When I’m not in class, I’m running to rehearsal, and when I’m not in rehearsal, I’m drinking cup after cup of tea, orange juice, and Emergen-C, anything to ensure that my voice is fully prepared for the upcoming competition.
We have spent weeks learning the music, days running choreography and movements, and hours arguing about topics that only an all-girl a cappella group can argue about, like precisely what color nail polish we should all wear onstage. Despite the fact that I myself have no preference, the overall excitement within the group is infectious.
The competition is days away, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. To finally step onto the stage we have been working tirelessly to prepare for will be an exhilarating experience and, regardless of the outcome, I think our entire group agrees that our practice and dedication has been worth it.
The final song begins, and although I’ve stop thinking logistically, I have a few measures before my cue. Amid the minor chords and unresolved dissonances of the piece, I think of all the girls singing today, the girls I have spent my entire college experience thus far singing alongside. Some of these girls are my close friends, one my roommate.
Others are freshman I have just met, new faces I am just beginning to know and appreciate for the unique voice and personalities that they add to the constantly changing persona of Out of the Blue. At this moment, we are all the same: a group of diverse individuals joined by their passion for music and, as the final chord resolves itself, I realize that I really can’t picture college without them.
Whatever your interest, don’t let it fall by the wayside in college. Finding the right outlet for expression could change your college experience
, and make the difference between a mediocre semester and a phenomenal one. Find people who share your passions, and the rest will follow.