HomeContemporary A Cappella League Spotlight: Euphonism

Introduction: As CASA and the Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) continue to grow, so does the group Euphonism. I recently had the privilege of talking with Amanda Aldag, one of the founding members of Euphonism. Her energy for the a cappella genre is infectious, and I hope you enjoy the following interview about her group. 

Q: Can you give some background information about Euphonism?

A: Our website is www.euphonism.com

We have 7 members - bios for each member are listed on the “About” page of the website by clicking on the pictures at the bottom.

Euphonism formed in early 2006. It all started with a Craig’s List ad gauging interest in starting a new group. The organizer invited everyone to meet at the Caribou Coffee at Metro Center (DC area) in February. About 12 people showed up for our first couple of meetings at the coffee shop. After a few meetings, we moved to once a week “rehearsals” in a member’s basement in Vienna, VA (which is all the way at the end of the metro line). We had 3-4 songs from old arrangements I had written for my former groups.

Within about 4 months, we had dwindled down to 5 members. Most of the other people decided that they just couldn’t make the weekly commitment or other things in life came up that interfered with their ability to participate (including the original organizer). The 5 of us decided that we loved it and wanted it to continue, but that we needed a few more members. So in June, we held our first round of auditions and 4 more people were added to the group. 1 new person dropped in a matter of weeks, but we held on to the remaining 8 through our first ‘gig’ - a barbecue for our friends and family in the backyard of the house where we held rehearsals. We sang 3 songs, met each other’s inner circle of friends and shared our love of good food.

A few weeks later, we submitted a request to sing the national anthem for the Caps, which was accepted. So on November 17, 2006, we had our first public appearance....in front of TV cameras and about 20,000 hockey fans.

For the next few months, we made appearances at open mic nights and public spaces, just trying to get the group up to speed in terms of singing in front of people. A lot of our early members had little or no experience performing in a small ensemble.

The pivotal moment for our group (and when things really took off) was when we were invited to sing at the Sunday matinee of the CASA East Coast A Cappella Summit in 2007. We were really inspired by the weekend’s events and workshops and were lucky to grab a coaching session with Diana Priesler and Jonathan Minkoff of Blue Jupiter. Diana and Jonathan provided a level of inspiration that carried us to the next level. They saw talent in us that we weren’t even aware we had. They continue to show the group tons of support and we look forward to seeing them each year at SingStrong and other singing events. 

Since then we’ve performed almost 60 times together as Euphonism - 3 times at the Verizon Center, 3 appearances at the Mid-Atlantic Harmony Sweeps (2nd runner up in 2007), 2 performances for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, regular shows at cafes, small festivals, weddings, and private parties. A full list of our shows is available by clicking the Google map at the bottom of the “Calendar” page on the website.

Q: How did the name Euphonism come about?

A: It took us several months to come up with a name...but Joe Kang came to the discussion with the idea to use “Euphonism” as a combination of the words euphony and euphemism. But later we learned that euphonism is actually a real word and it means a beautiful collection of sounds. Kind of fitting, right?

Q: What are the future plans for Euphonism?

A: Euphonism has been though several membership changes (only 2 of the original members are left) and our priorities are always a moving target. To accommodate this, we have a meeting every 6 months to establish where we are as a group and as individuals and what our group and individual goals are for the next 6 months.

Right now our big goals/projects are establishing ourselves as a leading group in the Contemporary A Cappella League and building off of our CARA nomination this year. We hope to have a full length album out by the end of 2010 and are heading into the studio later in July. We’ve also seen a large increase in requests for weddings this year so we’ve been working really hard on our “love” set. By the end of the summer, our repertoire will exceed 70 songs, which is really exciting.

Q: How often do you rehearse, perform, and get together for fun?

A: Being a part of our group is a pretty serious time commitment for a hobby, but we are up front about that with all prospective auditionees. We rehearse twice a week for 2 hours. We average 1-2 performances per month. As if there is time for it, our social plans often involve each other, food, and as much as possible our significant others!

Q: Do you have a favorite gig? 

A: I think this would be different for everyone and I’m not even sure I could name just one. They keep getting better and better! I think as a group we really enjoyed being asked to be a part of an engagement this past spring. The boyfriend arranged for us to be at Roosevelt Island and told his girlfriend that he heard there would be an informal “roaming” a cappella concert that afternoon. She bought it! When we showed up and started singing, all of these people gathered to hear us. Then we started singing the special song he had requested and he got down on one knee. It was all so romantic- it was hard for us to not cry and keep singing!!

Q: Who has the best sense of humor in the group? Is there a specific humorous incident worth talking about?

A: Everyone definitely has their own interesting personality, but John Baer is our resident class clown. He is always making us laugh....like fall-down-and-wet-your-pants laugh. His imagination is unbelievable and he is great at impressions. And Theresa Bowman (our newest member) is quickly becoming his partner in crime. The two of them have developed a knack for musical comedy improv. I could recount stories for ages, but they just wouldn’t do them justice!

Q: What keeps the group singing and performing? 

A: We love it. And as a group, we keep getting better which makes it fun. We frequently take a step back and look at all we’ve accomplished in 4 years - it’s really something. And we’re all growing together. Joe and I (the 2 original members) have watched each other go through some pretty pivotal moments in life. As a group, we’ve helped each other through all kinds of milestones, good and bad. It’s definitely a little family.

Q: How would you describe the group’s musical style?

A: Most of our repertoire is pop rock, but we have bits of every genre. We take pride in making our arrangements go somewhere and surprise the listener. The compliments we are proudest of are when audiences tell us that they like our version of a song better than the original! We also have a few original songs in the set and hope to have them on our album.

Q: How do you go about picking out music and who arranges for the group?

A: We’ve tried several different method of picking songs, but our current way is to have each person in the group recommend a solo for each member to sing (including themselves). Then each person will choose 3-4 of the recommendations for their solo and sing them for the group and the group collectively votes on each person’s new solo. This seems to work right now since every person in our group can carry a solo. Back when we had members that didn’t want or weren’t ready for solos, we chose songs in a similar way, only we auditioned each solo. We welcome everyone’s arrangements, but the vast majority of them are mine. Charlie and Joe have made some great contributions too. When we are in a pinch, we buy, beg, steal, and borrow!

Is there any other information that you would like the readers to know?

A: Joining the Contemporary A Cappella League was a great step for our group - it gave us more incentive to work hard and more opportunities to share our music and make friends. If other adults are out there reading this and wishing that they could have something like this, just do it! It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but singing with Euphonism is one of the highlights of my adult life. It’s opened so many doors for me, both musical and otherwise. A cappella circles are small and cozy - I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people and traveling to events in so many fun places. Singing is a great outlet - a nice reprieve from a desk job!!

About the author:
Ben Spalding is the head Choral Director at Centerville High School in Dayton, Ohio. At Centerville, Ben directs all of the choirs and the a cappella group Forte. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. Ben’s a cappella roots go back to college, when he was a member of the University of Kentucky AcoUstiKats and a semi-professional group called 5 by Tuesday.  His love for music goes as far back as elementary school and music has and always will be a major driving force in his life.