I Am In An A Cappella Group, But My Life Is Not Exactly Like "Pitch Perfect"

I Am In An A Cappella Group, But My Life Is Not Exactly Like "Pitch Perfect"

No, we do not have riff-offs.
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It's the beginning of the spring semester. It never fails that you have to go through the dreaded icebreaker stage. It usually consists of your name, major, year in school, sometimes your hometown, and a fun fact about yourself. My response is usually, "Hi. I'm Megan Pellock. I'm a sophomore, Public Relations major and my fun fact is that I am in an a cappella group on campus". I immediately get a slew of questions. The main one being, "so like 'Pitch Perfect'?". In short, sort of.

The group I auditioned for and became a member of is called Secondary Dominance. It is the only all-girls group on Illinois State University's campus (kinda like the Barden Bellas). I auditioned with Adele's song, "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)". I went through the audition process with not a lot of thought of getting into it. To my surprise, I made the callback list. Before I knew it, I got a screaming voicemail from the members of Secondary Dominance (SD) to tell me that I had made the group. The next week, I was in rehearsals learning the music.

The first song I learned was "Sk8ter Boi" by Avril Lavigne. Seeing that piece come together as a whole, the cohesive song was amazing. All of the girls worked so hard to make sure everyone was blending, harmonizing, and making sure dynamics were there together as a group. I had been apart of singing groups before, but nothing like this.

The first performance came along, which was a collaborative concert that showcased the other three a cappella groups: Acafellaz, the all-guys group (kind of like the all guys group in "Pitch Perfect"), The Clef Hangers, one of the mixed groups on campus, and On The Brink Of Normal, the other mixed group that sings jazz a cappella. If you look at "Pitch Perfect", you can see the rivalry between the Barden Bellas and the Treblemakers. Take the riff-offs for example (we do not have riff-offs). That is not the case between any of the a cappella groups on campus, especially the guy's group. We are all a big, happy, singing family. So much so that during the collaborative concert (the name being "Acapalooza"), we all come together to sing a song. It shows how close-knit we are as a community. We also know that we always have each other's back. They are always willing to give constructive criticism, record our concerts, and support us no matter what.

Now the one thing about our a cappella group that is similar to "Pitch Perfect" is that we compete in an a cappella competition called the ICCA. This stands for International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (kind of a mouthful). As a group, we prepare a 12 minute set of songs that have soloists, a beatboxer, and the others singing. Along with just singing, we dance. At the end of the competition, we get scored and awards are given and also to see who moves to the next round. Last year, my a cappella group placed fourth out of ten groups. It was a huge accomplishment for the group. We worked really hard and it paid off.

Through ICCA's and the community that surrounds a cappella, I could not be more grateful for the girls that I get to make music with. These have become my closest friends in college. I know that they will always have my back and will want to see me succeed in making music as well as in life. We have had bonding events and sleepovers together. With that, we have had moments of pure laughter, sadness, and joy. Overall, we just enjoy each other's company.

Now, this article may or may not convince you that people in an a cappella group do not live the life of "Pitch Perfect", but the movie does portray the hardships that a group can face, the great times a group can face, and the friendship that is there to last a lifetime. College is said to be the best years of your life. For me, it's because of SD.

Cover Image Credit: Emily May Photography

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.
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When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.

Sincerely,

Your Dance Teacher


Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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