Popular 'Pitch Perfect' movies draw students to a cappella group tryouts at ASU.
August 23, 2018

A cappella auditions draw ASU students looking to keep music in their lives

Finding a place to meet friends and be creative is one key to happiness at Arizona State University, and among the more than 1,000 clubs and organizations are several dozen related to playing an instrument or singing. Among those are five different groups who sing a cappella — an activity popularized in the “Pitch Perfect” movies.

Those groups held auditions earlier this week and drew many students who brought their love of music from high school to college with them.

“It might sound cliché but when I saw ‘Pitch Perfect’ I just loved it and I said, ‘I want to do that when I get to college’ and I’m in college now,” said Mauri Barnes, a freshman majoring in film and media studies who was trying out for the Tempetations and Undertones, both co-ed a cappella groups.

Adriana Whitmore has been singing since age 9 and was in the Chicago Children’s Choir and Voice of Chicago. She knew she wanted to continue singing when she got to ASU but wasn’t sure how, until she saw the all-female Pitchforks group perform at the ASU Welcome for incoming freshmen last week.

“I saw them and fell in love and I had to try out,” said Whitmore, who admitted to being a little nervous about the audition.

“Once you start and show them what you’ve got, you have to lay it all on the table,” she said.

Hundreds of students attended the a cappella auditions held at the Music Building over several days this past week.

“We’re looking for people who are going to help accelerate our mission, which is to create a space to make music and support each other as women and be a part of the a cappella community,” said Brittany Sabia, a junior majoring in biological sciences and president of the Pitchforks, who are now in their 27th year at ASU.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

A cappella music is singing without musical accompaniment, and Sabia said Pitchforks members pick a theme and choose songs to tell a story around it.

“Last year, we were discussing the different aspects of being a woman and we had ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ and a mashup of ‘Still’ and ‘Rise’ that brings tears every time we perform it,” she said.

“We also did ‘Independent Women.'"

Because the singing groups typically have fewer than 20 singers, the members become very close.

“I’ve definitely come out of my shell a lot. I came to ASU a little bit nervous and I’ve blossomed over the years having this group of girls behind me,” Sabia said. “Everyone before me was a role model and an influence in some kind of way.”

This will be the fourth year that Eli Bliman, a senior majoring in marketing, will be in the all-male Priority Male a cappella group.

“The first thing I did my first week at ASU was audition,” he said. “I was super involved in my high school choir before I came to ASU and I knew it would be my one non-negotiable. I had to try out.”

Research has found that students who make connections and are involved in university life are more likely to stay in school and graduate, according to Kendra Hunter, senior associate dean of students.

“It’s critical for students to be involved and to get that sense of belonging by contributing to a community and feeling that sense of pride,” she said.

Hunter said that freshmen are still discovering their interests and can be involved in several different activities.

“Whatever it is that students are interested in, if there’s not a club or organization that’s in existence, they can create their own,” Hunter said.

ASU offers clubs and organizations at every location, and students can explore the huge variety through the OrgSync web site, by asking academic advisers and residence hall staff or by visiting the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus. There are several welcome events scheduled throughout the semester.

Bliman said he values the camaraderie he’s found in Priority Male and, while it’s intense, the singing is a creative outlet.

“When rehearsal starts at 7:30 every Monday and Thursday, basically the rest of your responsibilities go by the wayside,” he said.

“It becomes all about the rehearsal and focusing on what you have to do, which is create the most streamlined a cappella music you can.”

Bliman has arranged for the group and been a soloist. His favorite song they’ve performed? “I Want To Be Your Man” by Zapp.

“It’s a super old ‘80s ballad kind of situation that I arranged for the group,” he said. “It’s a good guy number — very soulful.

“And we get to wear these really nice bowties.”

Top photo: Mallory Pierson sings with the all-female a cappella group ASU Pitchforks at the ASU Welcome at Wells Fargo Arena on Aug. 14. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503