A cappella groups see success on winter interim tours

by Amelia Rosch | 1/4/15 5:45pm

From visiting the world’s largest pecan in Seguin, Texas to singing at Google to driving for nine hours with 17 other singers, Dartmouth College a cappella groups took advantage of the six-week winter interim period to travel the country and introduce people to a cappella.

College a cappella groups traveled to California, around New England and across Texas this year.

Alyssa Gonzalez ’17, one of the Dartmouth Dodecaphonics’ tour managers, said that she had known that she wanted the group to go to Texas because the majority had not been before.

Max Gottschall ’15, the Dartmouth Aires’s musical director, said in an email that the group’s decision to go to California instead of their traditional East Coast tour was an anomaly.

“We love the tradition, but we were approached with this opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it,” he said.

In contrast, the Dartmouth Decibelles chose to stay on the East Coast, since they had gone to San Francisco and Los Angeles the year before, their business manager, Latika Sridhar ’16, said.

She said that non-New England tours tend to make less money for the groups, since they have fewer shows and higher travel expenses.

“Those trips end up making a little less money, since we do try to reimburse for flights and things like that,” she said. “When we go along the Northeast, we have a lot more shows, usually, at least when I’ve been here.”

For most groups, going on tour has financial benefits.

Gottschall said that the financial aspects of the tour, such as travel costs, were less of a challenge for the Aires, thanks in part to exposure from their time on NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

Sridhar said that their tours and the resulting CD sales make the group a lot of money.

“We produce every couple years and that funds the tour, and the tour funds the CD production,” she said. “It’s a cyclical thing we have going.”

All a cappella members interviewed emphasized that going on tour helps groups become closer and create a family-like atmosphere that can be hard to find at the College.

Dodecaphonics president Katelyn Onufrey ’15 said that tours give new members an opportunity to bond with older members that they might not have during the fall term.

“It’s the first term that the freshmen are in, and it’s so busy that it’s hard to get to know them well,” she said. “It’s so hectic with getting ready and doing introductions, that tour is really the first place you get to hang out with them 24/7.”

She said that something as simple as car rides helps members to bond, since they have nothing to do but talk with each other. She said that the Dodecaphonics’ relatively large size helps the group socially, since members have more opportunities for connection.

Gottschall said that he enjoys being able to spend time with the other members while doing something about which he is passionate. He said that some of his favorite moments were the “weird” ones, such as playing video games at three in the morning or starting impromptu soccer games on the beach.

Gonzalez said that the Dodecaphonics’ show at the Crespo Elementary School in Houston was one of her favorite parts of the tour. She said that it was the students’ first time seeing an a cappella performance in real life and she enjoyed bringing something to them that they had only seen in moves like “Pitch Perfect” (2012).

Co-tour manager Alisa White ’17 agreed, saying that being able to see the impact that their performance had on the children and their teachers was incredibly rewarding.

“After our performance, one woman who works at the school came up to us in tears and said she had been waiting thirty years for a day like this,” White said. “That was one of those days that makes the hours of work put into planning tour, rehearsals and music so worth it.”

While tours provide fundraising opportunities and the chance to travel the country, they have their own challenges and require months of planning.

Gonzalez said that she and White began planning the Dodecaphonics’ tour in the summer and that finding housing for all 18 members was one of the biggest challenges they faced. She said the group ultimately stayed with alums along their route.

“Since we couldn’t just stay at members’ houses, it was a little bit difficult to reach out to an alum that we had never met before,” she said.

White said that one of the most difficult parts of their tour was the logistics of traveling, from flights to navigation. She said that though in the past group members drove their own cars, she and Gonzalez needed to rent cars to transport the group. She said it was also difficult to figure out how to fairly reimburse members for their flights.

Gonzalez said that while the College does not subsidize the tours, they did put them in contact with a car rental agency.

Onufrey said that the group’s relatively large size can present logistical challenges for travel.

For the Aires, Gottschall said that even small details, like figuring the best route to events, can be difficult.

“GPS is great but sometimes doesn’t help once you get close,” he said. “And there are other challenges: making sure you leave enough time for things to go wrong is huge.”

The Dartmouth Cords and the Rockapellas also toured during the winter interim period. Representatives from the groups were unable to be reached by press time.