In university, extracurricular activities and side projects can often become defining parts of life. They can be the perfect way to differentiate yourself, building people skills that can be used in work and day-to-day situations.
We have team members expressing creativity through baking, gardening, 3D printing, DJing, and more. Our team loves to find ways to grow, excel, and improve our creative sides – and it shows in our work.
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but reminisce on the glory days of my university degree in A cappella (I mean, Psychology and English!) When I started university in 2015, I discovered the University of Waterloo A Cappella Club after a quick search online of the more than 250 clubs on campus. I saw UW A Cappella Club at the top of the list and the rest is history.
Like many, I was captured by the rising popularity of a cappella singing after the debut of the Pitch Perfect movies and listening to the music of a cappella groups like Pentatonix and Home Free. I spent five years as an active member of Canada’s largest campus a cappella club, where I met my closest friends, developed new skills, and reveled in what makes a cappella so special – live performances.
So, in a virtual world, what’s the point of staying active as a group, let alone competing as a cappella group that can’t even perform live?
We had the opportunity to catch up with two award-winning groups from UW A Cappella Club to chat about running a club in a virtual world, competing on an international level, and the importance of locking in with your creative side.
Challenge and change in an online world
Earlier this month, groups from all over competed virtually at the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals. In the central region, The Water Boys placed third and the Unaccompanied Minors placed second. On Friday, April 9, the Unaccompanied Minors placed third in the semifinals, giving them a chance to compete in the Wildcard round to move on to finals later this spring.
When it comes to performing virtually, the competition required a completely new skillset. While arranging songs without any instrumental accompaniment remained the same, rehearsals took on new forms online. Members recorded their voices on anything from at-home studio microphones to voice notes on their phones, which were then mixed together to pull all the voices together. Creative video editing became the new sidestep and cross-club Zoom socials replaced late-night bubble tea runs after rehearsal.
“None of us had done a cappella like this before, we all learned as we went,” said Eric Pye, Co-Musical Director of the Unaccompanied Minors and fourth-year Mechatronics Engineering student. “The idea that you can make it happen if you try – that is liberating.”
Timothy Jo, Co-Vice President of The Water Boys and second-year Honours Science student said engagement and organization were very important for the survival of the club this year. “We really focused on centralizing the groups so we could work together to overcome challenges we all were facing as a whole.”
Like minds from diverse faculties
Music brings us together, it always has. Kelly Jiang, Co-President of the Water Boys and third-year Computer Science student says it’s the like-minded goals of the club as a whole to make music and share it that makes the club so successful.
The UW A Cappella Club is Canada's largest university a cappella organization, with upwards of 200 members over the course of a year and 6 different a cappella groups to join. Because it is so diverse, there are options for people to join at any level and opportunities to meet friends from across all faculties, not just arts.
“The amount of work that was put into these sets was astounding. We had a massive amount of volunteers, all learning new things on top of school work to create something. It really shows that people love what they do,” said Angelo Lao, Co-Music Director of The Water Boys and fourth-year Software Engineering student.
And it’s not just the stage time that people love. “The best memories are the moments between performing when you’re hanging out with the group of people you’ve worked so hard with to create something with,” added Jo.
Don’t stop creating
After catching up with The Water Boys and the Unaccompanied Minors, both groups agree that they are excited to perform back in person again, but are grateful for the creative outlet a cappella gives them and the social support that comes with working together as a group. Not to mention the ability to capture a high-quality recording of something groups have worked so hard on, looking forward to looking back on these videos someday to remember the time spent creating something together with like-minded passion.
Creativity and self-expression are important. While you may not join a singing, dancing a cappella group to blow off some steam, any side project is helpful to allow space to “recover” from the work week and leave workplace stress behind. Creativity isn’t just good for the individuals, having something more relaxed and in control is good for school work and professional work as well.