HomeContemporary A Cappella League Spotlight: greenTONE

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To be perfectly honest, having been born and raised in Florida, all I really know of the United States is the east coast and California. I’ve never been familiar with what happens in the middle of the country, so having the opportunity to get to know the ladies of greenTONE from Madison, Wisconsin was a real treat.

As one of the original founding Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) groups, greenTONE was established between the Summer and Fall of 2007. Founder, Laura Kruschke - Sercombe, sang with University of Wisconsin-Madison’s all-female group Tangled Up In Blue and her accomplishments there both as a member and the group’s music director from 2002 to 2005 lead her to want to continue a cappella after college, forming greenTONE. I had the chance to talk to Laura over the phone the other day, first taken aback by her thick Wisconsin accent, and then realizing that Laura and greenTONE were the embodiment of the ideals of the Contemporary A Cappella League.

The first thing I wanted to know was, why the name greenTONE? Did the founding members have some attachment to the color green? Was there actually a story behind the name? When I asked Laura, I was actually quite impressed with the reasoning behind the name. When greenTONE and CAL first came to be, Laura found herself at the home of a certain Deke Sharon with the decision of what exactly to name the group. The founding members knew that they wanted to tie both the community and music into the name of the group, and because Madison, WI sees itself as a very environmentally friendly or “green” community, greenTONE seemed like a perfect fit. Using the color green in the name also automatically gave the group a signature color and outfit- using green as a unifying color amongst all the ladies, much like Laura had experienced with Tangled up in Blue.

The ladies of greenTONE hold careers ranging from a hairstylist to the assistant manager of a bank to a special education teacher, and even a police officer. It’s a group of eight busy women balancing career, family, social life, and singing. When I asked the ladies if it was easy to fit the group into their schedule, Katie O’Grady, who has been with the group from its inception, said, “All of the girls in the group have full-time jobs outside of greenTONE along with involvement in dozens of other activities ranging from competitive softball to fashion shows--we are BUSY people!  As a result, we all really work hard to make committing to the group manageable for everyone while maintaining a high expectation for the work done in rehearsal.”

The group also strives to fight against the stigma of all-female a cappella. As the lone ranger of post-collegiate a cappella in the area, as Laura described them, they try to do music that appeals to all audiences and not typically done by most all-female groups. When I asked the group to describe themselves musically, Katie said, “People see ‘Female A Cappella Group’ printed on a program and tend to cringe in anticipation of high-pitched arrangements of overdone Madonna and Ani DiFranco songs. That's not us. Laura designs each arrangement to sound really full and escape the treble-heavy sound that is a pitfall for so many female a cappella groups. Plus, while we definitely pay tribute to classic female artists, we also make an effort to include surprises--I don't think many female groups do songs by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young and it sets us apart.”

Upon talking to the ladies, you definitely get a sense of family, in fact Laura’s cousin is in the group. You can tell that they are very close knit and not only in it for the music and love of singing, but for the camaraderie as well. All of the ladies are within eight years of age, making it easy to laugh and feed off of each other’s energy, but each play their own role, from leader/mom Laura, to Tia the fashion advisor, and Amanda the newbie. While they love singing together, the ladies are rather lonely in Wisconsin and would love to see a lot more post-collegiate a cappella action in their area.

It was such a pleasure getting to know these ladies, and I really wish I could see them perform in person. From weddings to Brewers games to rooftop parties, you can catch greenTONE performing anywhere and everywhere in the Madison area. You can also sometimes catch them on local radio and they’re hoping to record and release a CD in the near future. For more information on greenTONE, you can find them on Facebook, visit their website at www.greentoneacappella.com, or email them at greentone.acappella [at] gmail [dot] com.

About the author:
After studying music and recreation management at Florida State University, Lauren 'Lo' Barreiro has recently moved to the Boston area and enjoying the a cappella lifestyle of the Northeast. While at FSU, Lo sang with the award-winning all-female group, AcaBelles, for four years and was the group's music director during the 2009-10 school year. Currently, Lo is a team member of The Vocal Company, an accomplished arranger, a regular contributor to CASA.org, and is an instructor at SoJam 2010.