As an incoming first-year/someone interested in joining the acapella scene this coming fall, you surely have questions.
What is acapella??
Basically, singing without instruments as the background. It’s just us – we’re the melody, the harmony, the beat, the background noise…
Wait, so like Pitch Perfect?
Yes and no – an important difference is that we do not have ~*choralography*~, although we are definitely open to it (and have done it before).
How/when do I audition?
Audition times are in the fall (around late Sept) and sometimes spring (early Feb). There are posters everywhere. (Welcome to Bowdoin, land of posters) There will be directions to the sign-up sheets in Smith Union.
What is a typical audition like?
Audition slots are about 5 minutes, so they are short and sweet. You will sing your solo (about 30 seconds to a minute, usually a verse and chorus), we do some range checks, and sing-backs. Callbacks are a large-group setting where you sing a different solo, learn the block to a simple song, and sing in the block with us. We try to make both individual auditions and callbacks as stress-free as possible, as we’ve all been there. After callbacks we order pizza, and you’re welcome to come back and hang out with us for a bit!
What song do I sing?
One of the most complicated questions for any audition. Here’s a good, basic list to keep in mind.
1. Something you are very familiar with (to avoid mess-ups, even when stressed!)
2. Something that feels comfortable in your range (don’t try to sound like someone else)
3. Something that brings out your singing style.
4. Avoid picking songs made famous by incredible singers – unless you put your own awesome twist to it!
5. Avoid overdone songs (ask your friends what songs they are singing). Variety is good!
Wait, “range”? I don’t know what my voice part is.
Your vocal range is the span on the piano of how high and low you can sing. Generally, if you are a female who likes singing high, you’re a soprano. Females who like singing low are altos (and those who sing in the middle are mezzos). Males who sing high are tenors, low singers are basses (middle are baritones). Nobody is one single voice part – most people can sing two or three parts. For example, we have an alto who sings tenor/contralto for every song, because her voice fits better there. If you aren’t sure of your voice part, you can leave the space blank or write something in – during the audition we will test your range. You might even be switched from one part to another, dependent on the song. People’s vocal ranges can also change and develop through training. Don’t worry about it!
I’m in a sport and have two labs and am part of baking club. What’s the time commitment?
Yep, we understand. Like the “Become a BOKAN” page says, scheduling happens once you have become a BOKAN, and we work around all our schedules to find some time in the week that works for all of us. Occasionally we will have an event we cannot work around, but keep in mind that rehearsal is mandatory, otherwise we wouldn’t sound as great as we do! This semester (Fall 2023), our rehearsal schedule is from 6:00 – 7:45PM on Sundays, and 8:45 – 10PM on Mondays and 8:45 – 10PM on Thursdays. Occasionally, we get out of rehearsal early. Due to scheduling changes each semester, rehearsal times are subject to change.
As a first-year/new member, will I have a say in the songs we learn?
Absolutely. We are always open to suggestions. New members are never powerless! Each semester there comes a time where we need to brainstorm more songs to learn. Anyone who has an idea can put it into the pile and vote. If you want to arrange it as well, even better.
Do first-years get solos?
Anyone can get a solo! We audition as a group (everyone auditions) and do a vote or discussion on the top three choices. Then those final three perform with the block and leave the room as we all deliberate, we try to come to a unanimous decision. As long as you audition, you have a chance!
What is the senior concert?
Every group has a senior concert at the end of the year to celebrate their seniors. It is usually when each senior gets a chance to sing a solo of their choice, and the other group members may say some words about them. Overall, a very emotional time, as it is possibly the last time the seniors will be singing with the group. Some groups publicize it, and some groups choose to keep it invitation-only. Usually BOKA’s senior concert is open to everyone.
What’s the deal with the colors?
Each group has a different “dress code” for performances in order to distinguish themselves. BOKA wears jewel-tones because we’re awesome. A member may wear a solid colored dress/jumpsuit or a white shirt with solid colored pants. This differentiates us from Ursus Verses, who wears black and white. Miscellania, an all-female group, wears black dresses. Bear Tones, a treble-voice group, usually wears blue and black. The two male groups, Meddiebempsters and Longfellows, both wear very uniform suit jackets with ties, but the Meddies wear navy jackets with polar-bear ties and the Longfellows wear black. On occasion groups deviate from this dress code (usually during the winter concert, we wear ugly Christmas sweaters, jeans and Bean boots, and sometimes we do Canadian tuxedos), but it’s what you would normally see.
Where do you rehearse?
We mostly rehearse in in the basement of Gibson (music hall).
Should I audition for more than one group to increase my chances?
Audition for the groups you want to be in! If you don’t care, audition for all of them! If you get into more than one, you will receive a phone call asking you to decide* (in a short amount of time) which one you prefer. Choose BOKA. 🙂
Yep. If you are accepted into more than one a cappella group (any one person can only be accepted into a maximum of four), then a member of the all-a cappella council who is not part of the groups you were accepted into will call you. This means you should probably chill in your room so as to have access to the phone if it rings. The person will tell you which groups have chosen you, and then you may either take five minutes to think and give them a call back with your choice, or decide at that moment. Unless you have dreamed about being in a certain group for ages, you should take the five minutes to think, talk it over with friends, make a pros/cons list, and just decide for yourself which group’s personality you fit in with best. Choose wisely!
Where do you perform/how often?
The number of performances are dependent on how many extraneous events invite us to perform. There are some fixed performances: all-a cappella recruitment concert, first-year dorm-sings, family weekend, Bursurka, all-a cappella Christmas concert, BOKA’s senior concert and the spring finale. Some extras we have done: Greenstock, St. Paul’s Church Human Trafficking Awareness Event, Women’s Resource Center Sexual Assault candle walk/vigil, Boody-Johnson house, Gelato Fiasco scoop-a-thon, Bowdoin’s presidential inauguration (Fall 2015), admissions performances, Bursurka episode 2, Scholarship Luncheon, Relay for Life, Women’s Track Secret Meeting, and Earth Day.
We also sometimes have joint concerts with the Meddies, Missy, and groups outside of Bowdoin (Spring 2016: Manic Optimists, from Bates)! We have also been invited to sing at a Bowdoin-Bates-Colby “competition” in Spring 2018. St Mark’s Wick Choral Festival in 2023, LL BEAN for the past two years (since 2021).
Do you guys record?
Yes! We once every two or three years. We recorded the year of 2014-2015, driving down to a studio in Portland, which is now on Soundcloud with 11 tracks! To find those tracks, go to our Repertoire tab. We just recorded Spring 2017, and those tracks will be out sometime this summer! This time, we had someone come from New York and we recorded on campus. We plan to record next year (2024).
Do I have to know how to read music?
No, but it sure is helpful! Many members learn better by ear, anyway!
I have sung before, but only solo-type performances. I’ve never sung in a group. What can I do to increase my chances?
There are members in BOKA who had not sung before – either in a group or at all! Being able to sing in a group and having experience doing so is definitely helpful, but doesn’t necessarily increase or decrease your chances of getting in. There are several other factors that contribute to our decision. However, being able to blend and have some vocal technique and control is very important. If you are looking for things to learn, here are some ideas!
– Scales (solfeggio)
– vocal warm-ups (ones that go up/down by half-step)
– How to blend and control your voice to make dark/bright vowels
– Controlling vibrato (if your vibrato is very strong)
– Increasing your range (usually through vocal warm-ups)
Again, acapella is about being able to switch from being indistinguishable from the group members to a strong solo voice and back again. We don’t expect you to take voice lessons in order to gain control over your voice – as before, many members have learned these techniques simply by being in BOKA – but having a modicum of control over how you sing is a very valuable skill!
I beatbox like a boss, but don’t sing much. Can I still audition?
Yes! Since not many people can perc, we’d love to hear you!
Is there aca-animosity?
If there is, we don’t know about it… A little group rivalry only serves as an incentive to perform well.
Will you perform my arrangement?
Usually a member of BOKA arranges the next song, but contact one of us and we’ll take a look at it!
What is BOKA’s social life like?
Like many groups in other aspects of your life, things work better if we are comfortable with each other. If you join BOKA, you are sure to have ~15 new friends you can get meals with, say hi to on campus and hang out with! We have weekly dinners at Thorne right before rehearsal where we joke, talk and get ice cream. Sunday Sundae.
We also have the occasional weekend fun! The dynamic in BOKA is one of friendly banter and overwhelming love for each other <3
We hope these answers helped clear up any confusion or worries, and we hope you want to have a future with BOKA!
If you still have burning questions (can I wear my pj’s to rehearsal? would you judge me if i bought a bowdoin acapella baseball hat? can we start a snack rotation? will anyone go with me to get midnight mozzie sticks?) feel free to email one or both of these lovely people: