The UConn A Cappella Association recently had their Spring Rush concert where the nine a cappella groups were able to show their talents. Cara Brundage, a junior member of the Chordials, sat down with me to discuss how a cappella has impacted her college career.
Chordials mebers, left To right: (Bottom) Stephanie Sponzo, Alina Grimshaw, Claudenae Cousins, Emily Lattanzi, (Top) Cara Brundage, Emily French, Rebecca Paul, Cayla Puglisi, Nicole Rodier, Jessica Sikka, Amanda Violone
S: Tell me a little background on yourself– What year are you and why did you decide to join an a cappella group?
C: I am a junior at UConn majoring in Psychology with a minor in Business, and I have been singing since I was in third grade. I believe singing is something you carry with you your whole life even if it is just in the shower or the car. I did a cappella and arranged music in high school with another all female group, Muse. When I got to UConn and went to the rush concert, I had an instant click with the Chordials; which I have been part of for three years. At the rush concert I saw the group that I was destined to be in, and I knew they was the perfect match for me. There was also an upperclassman in the group who I had sung with in high school, and she was in the position I currently hold now. I knew I would feel really comfortable singing with them because I had sung with one of their members previously, and we all connected really well.
S: What impact has being involved with a cappella and the Chordials specifically had on you?
C: Being a part of the Chordials has allowed me to grow and develop my team and leadership skills. I’ve met a huge network of alumni who have stood in my position and thinking of them encourages me to do my best. I am surrounded by incredibly strong women who empower and encourage one another to reach all of their goals, both as a group and in our own personal lives. We have RA’s, Stephanie Sponzo who is running for Student Body president, I am a manager at Whitney Dining Hall, we also have women in Greek life, and others who work crazy hours and still manage school and a cappella. We have a wide group of majors from business to STEM, which just adds to the depth and dynamic of our group. There are eleven other amazing girls in the ensemble, but throughout UCACA all of the a cappella groups have incredible members involved in a variety of activities around campus. Being in a cappella allows us to support and bond over something we all enjoy: spreading happiness through music.
The Chordials backstage before a gig at Eastern Conneticut State.
S: Tell me more about the history of the group.
C: We were founded in 1998 as the first all female group on campus. When a cappella took off, it was mostly men’s barber shop quartets. Although they were always there, all-female groups really broke out in the late 1980’s and when they made their first appearance it was new and exciting for the school and society in general. The Chordials have played a large role in the UConn community for almost 20 years now. At our fifteenth year reunion, most of our founding sisters and past members came out to see the growth of a group they began decades before. It was amazing to see these women with children and various jobs come together to support something they loved in college, and who are still super passionate about our group.
S: What is your personal role in the group?
C: I am the co-music director with Jess Sikka. We plan rehearsal, figure out what gigs we have coming up and how to make our songs sound the best with the diverse talents we have. I just finished arranging a song called Poison that was covered by Postmodern Jukebox. We make sure that everyone works together in our group to pick songs and everyone’s input is important.
S: What is your favorite memory of the group, and what is something you are proud of?
C: If I had to pick one, it would be my freshman year we auditioned to open for Pentantonix. This set the bar super high for what would come, but to be honest some of my dearest memories are just being with my group on stage. They become your friends and your family and I met some of my best friends through the a cappella community. You make connections with UConn as well as other a cappella groups across New England and those friendships hold some of our best memories. (Cara also told me she met her boyfriend through an a cappella invitational event—too cute!) I have friends in every group and it spans larger than just the Chordials. The whole association works together to foster a healthy and enjoyable musical environment for everyone. This year the University of Connecticut A Cappella Association donated $1,500 to HuskyThon and they raised the most out of any medium sized group. I think this is something the whole association is truly proud of. It was huge for us because not only was it our first time doing this as an association but also the first time some groups participated. This was a huge step because it backed up what we already knew- we are a part of a community that has so much to offer and we should continue to help in any way we can. I knew from the start that the a cappella association was incredible but to have them help and be a part of the UConn and HuskyTHON community was a great feeling.
S: Is there anything you want our readers to know about a cappella?
C: As funny and enjoyable the movie Pitch Perfect is, its not an accurate portrayal of most a cappella experiences. They touched on some of the hard aspects of a cappella, but there is a lot of tough, behind the scenes work they did not show. Some groups meet 5-10 hours weekly. It is commitment that requires everyone to give their all. To see your group succeed in new ways is incredible, but it requires each member to be invested and believe in what we do. During auditions, the auditionees who get in are the ones who have already shown they are invested and passionate. There are so many members and it is a huge family that is super accepting. We want people of all walks of life and all levels of talent to experience the music that bonds us together.
Catch the UConn Chordials February 27 at 6 p.m. at the St. Mark’s A Capella Festival!