“We’re no longer individuals, we’re all the song.” – MJ Gautrau of Mainely Voices
Among the chaos of every college student’s life, it can be easy to forget to nourish the interests and passions that make you – you. When I left for college, my mom made me promise her something, never stop pursuing music. I had no idea how I would find the time to fulfill this promise, and I wasn’t really looking for opportunities to follow through with it upon my arrival at the University of Maine. I thought I was here to focus on school, and not much else, but one day, at UMaine’s Organization Fair, a man in a corgi-patterned button-down shirt asked me if I liked to sing. That man’s name is Juno Buendia, the musical director for an a cappella group on campus. One thing led to another and I am now a part of Mainely Voices, the only mixed a cappella group at UMaine. However, my concern remained, was this group going to take time away from my education? The answer surprised me as Mainely Voices has taught me more than a professor ever could.
One of the major lessons any group can teach you is how to work as a team. Mainely Voices rehearses twice a week and we have performances we work towards which provide the group with a shared end goal. Long time member MJ Gautrau states “It’s a team effort: we all have to pull our weight/do our part to make everything sound great.” Every rehearsal is a rigorous process of learning parts, nailing the notes, and putting everything together to make a cohesive piece. In music, especially when you’re performing with multiple people, there are infinite factors that can influence your sound. You have to sing at the right volume, listen to those around you, and even make sure your mouths are all making the same shape. If any member of the group is having a bad day, or if there is tension between members, it becomes audible. Soprano Shannon Smith puts it simply, “The best acapella groups have amazing group sound – working together to match vowels and blend each part is essential to having a great sound.”
In every team, there are leaders. President Delaney Woodward and Music Director Juno Buendia put countless hours every week practicing, arranging music, taking notes, and planning performances for the group. Interestingly enough, when asked separately about their leadership positions they both remarked on what being in a leadership position amongst your peers can teach you. Delaney noted that “communication in a leadership position can be difficult, especially with your peers.” Juno supported this claim, saying that “being in Mainely Voices has helped [him] grow to find that perfect balance between leadership and friendship.” Another notable leader in the group is MJ Gautrau, who has been a member for six years. She spends roughly twelve hours a week working on the groups’ social media, arranging music, and reviewing pieces. The dedication every member has towards the group is what makes it such an enriching experience. In Mainely Voices, everyone around you cares about what they’re doing and that is also harbored in the music they’re singing.
What makes a cappella so special is not only the teamwork but the music itself. Anyone who even listens to music understands that there is something that touches your soul about a song you love. That moment when you get in your shower or car, play that song and just let loose to it is a universal experience as music provides a feeling that you can’t get from much else. That feeling is only amplified when you get to sing with a group of people, who not only love music in the same way but who love each other. Juno Buendia encapsulates this feeling, “Music brings people together; it’s a universal language.”
Most members of Mainely Voices are studying subjects that have nothing to do with music and those four hours a week that we rehearse become sacred time. MJ Gautrau comments that “It’s really important to [her] to have this outlet…It is an anxiety reliever, a way to relax,” and I’m positive that all the other members feel the same way. When I’m sick and miss a rehearsal, I can feel that I’m a little more stressed because of it. Having time every week to really let go is vital, especially for college students. In addition to this outlet, this group can really help you grow as a person. Matt Donovan, another new member this year, says that “Before this year [he] was terrified to try new experiences but now [he’s] doing singing, jazz, improv, and tango on campus.” Every single member of this group gets as much out of Mainely Voices as they put in, and maybe even more. As someone who was going to let performance and music go, I’ll tell you this: if any part of you is even a little bit curious about a cappella, explore it – I promise you’ll love it.