Muhlenberg a cappella community faces uncertain virtual future

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Photos by Shaun MacWilliams, courtesy of Muhlenberg College

Normally, the fall semester is a time when Muhlenberg’s six a cappella groups are thriving. Each of the groups hold auditions in the fall semester, primarily for the freshman class, and the communities with the groups begin to build. Unfortunately, due to the unusual circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Muhlenberg A Cappella Council, led by president Zach Rabishaw ’22, made the difficult decision to suspend a cappella for the semester, which cancels all auditions, rehearsals, and events.

Rabishaw explained that the decision to suspend a cappella was not a decision that was made lightly and that it was not due to a lack of interest. The decision was made primarily because a large number of students who are involved with the six a cappella groups made the decision to take the semester or the year off. It is also difficult to hold virtual rehearsals due to latency issues, so groups would not only be meeting with fewer people then they would need, and they cannot hold auditions or rehearsals in the current circumstances.

The Muhlenberg A Cappella Council has a president, secretary, and a treasurer, who are elected for each academic year, as well as two representatives from each of the a cappella groups (the Chaimonics, the Acafellas, Girls Next Door, InAcchord, Noteworthy, and the Dynamics). Rabishaw’s role as president on the council serves to oversee large all-a cappella events and the relationship between the groups. This semester, he is working on the organization of a virtual version of Berg’s Got Talent, which would involve pre-recorded and edited content. The only challenge will be to see if all six groups are able to participate, since the event cannot fairly and appropriately happen without all six of the groups.

Even though the council helps the groups communicate with each other, each group has their own autonomy in how they function individually, which is coming into play in new ways this semester. While serving as president of the Muhlenberg A Cappella Council, Rabishaw is also the president of the a cappella group known as the Chaimonics. During the official suspension of a cappella at Muhlenberg, the Chaimonics are having Zoom calls and virtual game nights to maintain the community.

Similarly, the Acafellas, under the leadership of president Ryan Carey ’21, have been working to “facilitate the continued existence of the community” despite the new virtual situation. Small gigs are still happening for the group in which they can send in videos. They are also meeting every couple of weeks to just check in and see how everyone is doing. Carey expressed an interest in still making music with the group, but he has yet to see how this will be possible. 

The Acafellas want to finish recording the album that has been in the making for four years as well, and they hope to release that this semester if the circumstances allow for it. Maintaining the community within the group is extremely important to Carey. He explained that the group is in the process of switching platforms that they use to communicate (from GroupMe to a Discord server) so that alumni and current members who are taking the semester off can be included as well.

Helena Bryant ‘21, president of Girls Next Door, expressed a similar sentiment, expressing her group’s desire to maintain the connections within the group, saying that this “is one of the most important aspects of GND, or any of the a cappella groups for that matter.” She described the ways her a cappella group is working to do this, saying, “GND specifically, decided to schedule a meeting time for once a week where we can all come together to hang out or discuss business. That business entails us figuring out ways to have different fundraisers remotely, as we still want to be able to have an impact in the Muhlenberg and greater Allentown communities.”

Both Carey and Rabishaw expressed both concern and excitement over the future of a cappella at Muhlenberg. If a cappella is suspended in the spring semester as well, then the following fall semester will mean that there will be two new classes auditioning for all of the groups. This will naturally result in a large shift in the dynamics of the different groups and what a cappella at Muhlenberg on the whole will look like. Despite these major changes happening in the a cappella world on campus, the community is still strong and excited, so it is certainly going to be an interesting future for Muhlenberg’s a cappella groups.

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