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True Colors

What it's really like in a college a capella group

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True Colors

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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With the widespread “Pitch Perfect” trilogy and booming career of vocal quintet Pentatonix, days of brief barber shop quartet appearances have been replaced by modern interpretations of the world of a cappella music. Characterized by instrument-free arrangements and often matching outfits, recent producers and writers have run with different ideas in order to paint a pop culture picture of what an a cappella group is.

While every a cappella group is bound to have a different mix of the renowned traits, having a case study of sorts on the record can certainly be both beneficial and entertaining.

Therefore, without further ado, if you’re curious as to how accurate “Pitch Perfect” or Andy Bernard of “The Office” portrays an actual a cappella groups, this article is for you. Rated on a scale of “Blue: it’s true!” to “Gold, that’s old!” I give you a painfully honest, often personal debunking (and sometimes confirmation) of a cappella stereotypes as a member of Marquette University’s premier coed a cappella group, the Gold ‘n Blues.

We sing whenever we hang out: Blue, it’s true! 

Whether walking to or from a practice, performance, meal or simple hangout, a sudden song is absolutely guaranteed when with the Gold ‘n Blues. Our apologies for all the times it happens from the apartment above you or in the classroom above your chapter meeting — but hey, at least the harmonies are good.

We practice each year with the main goal of doing well in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA): Gold, that’s old! 

Though many groups are primarily motivated by doing well in competitions, the Gold ‘n Blues has never entered a competition. Our goal is simply to make music together and hold performances around our community — it always has been and perhaps always will be. Believe it or not, the ICCA is not everything in college a cappella.

We have rivalries: Blue, it’s true! 

I won’t lie and say we don’t try to sound our very best at events when the all-female Meladies or all-male Naturals are also performing, but I also won’t say we have vendettas against them. There are definitely a fair amount of jokes made about other groups, but no real hatred exists.

And when it comes to groups beyond Marquette’s campus, there’s absolutely no animosity — only fangirling, really. (We’re looking at you, the Nor’easters.)

We have ridiculous initiation ceremonies: Gold, that’s old! 

Our initiation ceremony is the farthest thing from formal and technically involves only one thing: singing your audition song for the entire group at a gathering. Drinking a special Gold ‘n Blues drink is encouraged but not required, making the word “ridiculous” the true opposite of any group initiation rituals.

All the guys are gay: Gold, that’s old! 

Nearly all of the guys that have come through the Gold ‘n Blues since its inception have been straight. Most guys in the current group have been in committed relationships with lucky ladies for years, and when it comes to the single ones … let’s just say men who can sing give typical Marquette boys some fierce competition. However, we really don’t discriminate, or care, either way!

We say “aca” before everything: Gold, that’s old! 

Never, ever, ever have I heard a member of our group, or any real a cappella group for that matter, say “aca” before anything. Not even as a joke. “Pitch Perfect” really missed the mark on that one.

Now saying the letters “G-N-,” a Gold N’ Blues reference, before everything, that’s another story … and something that we definitely do.

We don’t have friends outside our group: Gold, that’s old! 

The Gold ‘n Blues really is a campus family. And when you think of it like that, it makes total sense that a member would naturally have (and perhaps even need) friends outside of it. After all, the members of our group have always had different majors, taken different classes and came from various hometowns. That’s not to say the family isn’t there for each other in ways beyond other friendships on campus — but for all members, there’s more to life than your a cappella pals.

Basses are the most easy-going, even-keeled members of the ensemble: Blue, it’s true! 

With a few exceptions, this is a pretty accurate stereotype for the lowest singing members of our group. Our a cappella basses are super reliable — often literally holding the song together — and fly under the radar with their incredible talent. because of the typical vocal ranges of the male artists we draw our music from, solos only come every once in a while for the section. However, that fact often makes the songs our booming basses solo on all the more special, fun and memorable for the group.

We have one soprano in the group who is the group “mom”: Gold, that’s old! 

While there are total “mom” moments from Gold ‘n Blues seniors in particular, having a group mom isn’t vital or even expected. It is true, though, that our sopranos have typically been the more steady mentors (while our altos fall more into the role of “crazy aunts.”)

We have one tenor whose voice makes the ladies all swoon: Gold, that’s old! 

Luckily for us, it’s not just one tenor or voice that makes the ladies swoon — it’s several of them. Especially on a sultry riff or belted chorus, our guys hit their stride (in their own ways) almost every time we sing. Though different voices certainly lend themselves to being heard more during different seasons, our performances have never been “solo shows” with peppy background noise. And that’s a blessing, not a curse.

We have a resident musical prodigy: Blue, it’s true! 

Almost like clockwork, there has always seemed to be a resident music fanatic in the Gold ‘n Blues midst. These leaders can truly arrange any song, pick out any flaw and recall any harmony — sometimes to an extent that can even be a bit annoying. Thankfully, while some personalities may clash and some encouragements may nag, the true good intentions of each musical prodigy shine through to bring about a best case scenario for our (sometimes grumbling) ensemble.

We have a group leader who is incredibly infectious, bubbly and optimistic: Gold, that’s old! 

With both a music board and an executive board within the group, the Gold ‘n Blues has been characterized by an abundance of leadership opportunities filled by an abundance of leaders. Therefore, while a fair share of bubbly spokespeople have come and gone over the years, so have quite chill and steady leaders whose love for a cappella is articulated in different ways.

The Gold ‘n Blues is infectious and optimistic with devoted members that do sing a lot and fall into certain musical stereotypes. Yet as a whole, we and our leaders attest that most of the tales told by “Pitch Perfect” and Andy Bernard are, in fact, simply good comedy.

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About the Writer
Noelle Douglass, Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Noelle is an arts & entertainment reporter for the Wire. She is a freshman from Bloomington, Illinois and plans to major in communication studies and...

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