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In Sync

In a drafty hallway backstage at a local concert hall, fourteen students stand in a circle, eyes shut tight. One by one, they squeeze hands.

“You’re awesome!”
“You’re great!”
“You are going to do an amazing job!”

Senior Chris Hoffman, a burly baritone who is president and lead arranger of Sigma’cappella, embraces each member in a bear hug.

They grab their mics, breathe deep and take the stage. A pitch whistle sounds a single note.

This is the 2017 International Championship of Collegiate A cappella. And that’s their cue.

Showtime.

 

They come from cities like Chicago and Philadelphia and Seattle, from small towns in Maryland and Georgia and Massachusetts. They are film and health majors, business and theater students. Some have been singing all their lives. Others are flexing their vocal chords for the first time.

Together, they light up the stage as members of one of Hofstra’s five a cappella groups, a vibrant culture that is about more than music.

“It’s an amazing feeling when you sing with a group of people that come from different backgrounds,” said Maryland native and community health major Gabrielle Spann, ’19, of Sigma’cappella. “And then you take a step back and you’re just in awe of the sounds you’ve produced.”

Along with Sigma’cappella, Hofstra’s a cappella groups include The Hofbeats, Makin’ Treble, The Dutchmen and The Chai Notes.

Courtney Cox, ’19, president of The Hofbeats, says she’s an introvert, but you’d never know it watching her on stage at the 2017 ICCA quarterfinals, held at the College of Staten Island. Chest heavy, shoes sparkling, lights beating down, she sings more than a melody. She projects confidence.

A cappella group

“A cappella really pushed me to make my voice heard,” said Cox, who also sings with the Hofstra Chorale.

A cappella was Cox’s amplifier, pushing her to pursue majors in three different areas, including music, business, and vocal performance. She also became an Orientation Leader, helping others to fall in love with Hofstra the way she did.

“One thing about a cappella is that you are exposed,” said W. Houston Dougharty, Vice President for Student Affairs. “You are your authentic voice when you’re singing. And I think that is really reflective of what I find Hofstra students to be.”

Said journalism major Anders Jorstad, ’18, of the Hofbeats: “If you’re playing an instrument, you’re using a tool to do something. A cappella is much more involved. It’s very intimate. You feel like it’s more you than anything else.”

 

BIGGER THAN OURSELVES

A cappella group

English major Sarah Bonamino, ’17, of Makin’ Treble brushes on a metallic gold eye shadow and light pink lipstick before taking the stage. Despite growing up in a non-musical family, singing has always made sense to her.

Video/television production major Hannah Billbrough, ’18 of Makin’ Treble prefers a shimmery bronze shadow, and her lips a matte brown. She came from a background in theater but never thought she’d be in an all-female a cappella group. And yet here she is - in a dressing room with Sarah and 17 other girls, putting on makeup, curling hair, sharing bobby pins and laughs.

Contrary to the culture and rivalries of the Pitch Perfect movies, these students are a family. Whether helping each other with schoolwork or cheering each other on in the Shakespeare Festival, their bond runs deep.

“I probably wouldn’t have met these girls anywhere else,” said Bonamino. “A cappella is a great way to make friends. It’s a great way to feel like you’re a part of the Hofstra community.”

Senior resident assistant and public relations major Chris Hoffman, ’17, of Sigma’cappella, credits singing with helping him become an effective communicator. And beyond that, he’s able to better understand the importance of belonging to and representing an entire community.

“Whether that’s as a member of the resident assistant staff, a volunteer for the debate, or as a member of the greater Hofstra community, at all times I think about being on display for the entire world to see,” said Hoffman. “How will my actions reflect on who I am as an individual and as a part of something bigger than myself?”

Sigma’cappella, Makin’ Treble and The Hofbeats stand on stage with six other groups at the end of the ICCA quarterfinals competition, waiting for the winners to be announced. Remnants of cheers and claps from the announcement of third place echo through the auditorium as the judges begin to announce second place.

“Sigma’cap…“

Screams flood the auditorium. The members of Sigma’cappella jump up and down, bumping into each other as they exchange teary hugs.  Finally, one member runs across the stage and takes the certificate, waving it high above her head as she runs back to her family.

A cappella group

LIKE MAGIC


“Hofstra always brings their A-game,” said ICCA Mid-Atlantic Producer Holli Kitching. “When you leave the judges and audience members feeling something at the end of your set, you know you’ve done your job. That’s exactly what Sigma did.”

2017 marks Sigma’cappella’s second time advancing to the Semifinal. Theatre arts-performance major Caroline McFee, ’18, of Sigma’cappella, walked away with an award for Outstanding Soloist. Music major Connor Martin, ’18, of The Hofbeats, also won for Outstanding Arrangement, and the group placed fourth overall in the Quarterfinal.

“I am so proud of these singers for bringing my arrangements to life and for showing Staten Island what we’re made of,” said Martin. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a feeling.”

Exercise science major Patty Alzaibak, ’20, of Sigma’cappella, also won for Outstanding Soloist in the Semifinal.

Hofstra’s a cappella scene is one of constant growth. They all push each other to be better; at music and at life. There’s this molding of experiences that happens when these students come together. Through getting to know each other, they’ve come to understand how their backgrounds influence the way they sing and the music they love.

“Music is the soundtrack to everything,” said film major Andrea Davis, ’19 of The Hofbeats. “If there was no sound, life would be dull. I think music picks up your spirits. It just enhances everything you feel.”

And a cappella? “It has this magic.”

A cappella group