Vocal group (also know as the ISU ACA-nerds)
Since its birth in 2016, the vocal group has grown into an a cappella ensemble with independent, strong singers. A group of musical minds.
By David de Geus, music teacher
‘Dum, dum, deh, dum dum deh…’. This is the sound that comes out of the music room on Monday afternoons these days after regular lessons are over. Fourteen students stand in a circle. They sing and listen to each other. Some of them move to the groove, while others are still trying to figure out their place in the ensemble.
It’s the weekly vocal group rehearsal. Students from grades 7 to 11 get together to share their passion: singing and music. Some of them have been part of the group for a long time. They know exactly what we’re about, while others just joined this year, trying to blend in, carefully following what the rest is doing.
This vocal group is one of the first musical ensembles in this school. Going back to the spring of 2016, there was a small secondary choir practicing in the library during lunchtime with Ms De Villiers as the leader. After I joined the school in 2017, I took over the group and now we have grown into an a cappella vocal group with independent, strong singers.
Sometimes we come up with our own arrangements; we design musical patterns ourselves and we put them together to form the accompaniment to a song we like. We use technology: recording software, a loop station, beat boxing, but sometimes we sing ‘clean’ a cappella too. “Aca-nerds” is what people like us are sometimes called. But we carry that name with pride, comparable to a group like Pentatonix, or any group from the “Pitch Perfect” movies.
As a conductor, this is a fantastic group to lead. It’s basically the group I would have loved to have in my own high school, but never had. Now, as a music teacher at this school and as vocal arranger, I can make this happen for these students (and a for myself too ;-)).
Sheeran and Bieber
The students have a big say in the songs we do, we have an ongoing conversation about that.. From a jazzy close harmony version of “Somewhere over the rainbow” to our own arrangement of “I don’t care” by Ed Sheeran and Bieber; we sing a diverse repertoire, being open-minded, trying to explore new things, and also using songs that represent our own subculture. We don’t shy away from classical pieces like the “Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart, but of course we also sing Billie Eilish.
Commitment and joy
On January 6, the vocal group will join me in giving a workshop at the NUOVO new year’s event for teachers in the Muntgebouw here in Utrecht called “making connections through music”. It’s on a day off for the students, but most of them will still be there. This is a testimony to their commitment to the group and the joy they find in singing together.
“Du, du, du, du du duh…” The last notes have been sung and it’s enough for the day. Still singing and humming, the students leave the classroom and I am looking forward to next week already.
Do you want to hear the ensemble practise? Then please watch this short clip on the ISUtrecht YouTube channel.