HomeResolving Dissonance: Drama in the A Cappella Community

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When Columbia got a new a cappella group this past fall, most people didn’t think twice. A cappella groups, though perhaps not central to life for many people, are a defining feature of collegiate institutions—especially in the Ivy League. So the addition of another band of wandering male minstrels popping up in floor lounges to serenade students with soothing Top 40 hits was just part-in-parcel with everyday life.

But within the a cappella community, the birth of “Sharp,” as the group calls itself, was a dark bit of history, resulting in a disquiet that emphasized the seriousness and professional competitiveness undergirding collegiate singers. Upon founding, this new group poached the big talent in a capella across campus, threatening the established choir hierarchy. Through the silent background efforts of the other a cappella groups to resist Sharp, however, a new tone of cooperation, communication, and respect has developed in this idiosyncratic community that may change it forever.

Sharp was born into a Columbia atmosphere teeming with a cappella offerings. At the end of last year, at least thirteen a cappella groups were active on campus, including one all-male group, three female groups, two Jewish-oriented groups, and two Christian-oriented groups. Offerings included gospel, R&B, rock, pop, comedic music, barbershop quartet tunes, traditional school songs, jazz, Jewish liturgical music, and countless mashups.

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