“Do you know Fat Amy?” “Does one person go ‘doo doo doo’ and the other ‘ca ca ca?’” Telling my campers this summer that I was in an a cappella group at Bowdoin was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made as a camp counselor, all lies about being Harry Potter’s nephew and a Norwegian goat farmer aside. I have none other than “Pitch Perfect” to thank for my problem, or as people now would say and I cringe at the sound of it, “aca-drama.”

For campers and Bowdoin students alike, this movie has allowed outsiders to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of collegiate a cappella. 

My sister somehow convinced me to watch “Pitch Perfect” one night this summer, and being a member of Ursus Verses, I thought it would be a good idea to see what all the commotion was about. 

While some might say that the movie is biographical of their involvement in a cappella groups, I’m much more hesitant in making this comparison, and not just because I have yet to see somebody projectile vomit while singing in the Chapel. 

For me, a cappella has been a much less contentious and much more easygoing experience. Every Sunday, Monday and Wednesday I head to Main Lounge in Moulton for Ursus rehearsals just like how I go to weekly BSG meetings in Daggett. 

And while nobody sings at BSG meetings, they’re honestly not too different from a cappella rehearsals. 

It might be cool when watching the movie to think that one person decides to sing a song and then everyone magically knows their part and starts to bust out the harmonies, but rehearsals have just as many hurdles to transcend as student government does, or any other student activity at Bowdoin for that matter. 

The movie romanticizes the idea of preparing songs to sing. It completely ignores arranging music, which can be a grueling process of writing notes one at a time onto a computer program while going back and forth between YouTube videos and the Finale file of the song you’re working on. 

Nobody is going to sit through a movie of somebody sitting alone at their computer for hours arranging a song for their group, but the amount of time and effort that this can require is a significant commitment, especially when groups are performing a lot of songs in a semester.
Bowdoin a cappella is markedly different from the music scene in the movie. 

While Val Jam and Pres Jam, collaborative concerts with the Longfellows and Missy, Meddies and Bella respectively, may suggest some competition between groups, the tension between groups is really minimal. And though there may be friendly rivalries, no two groups are extremely different. 

After speaking with Emily Tucker ’15 and Adi White ’15 of Miscellania, I realized that one point where the movie and Bowdoin have considerable overlap is the social scene. 
Although the dynamics and people in the movie are grossly exaggerated and this creates caricatures like Fat Amy, there truly is a team dynamic to the groups.

With the amount of time we spend in Ursus going over parts, deciding on vocables—the ‘doo’s and ‘ca’s which my camper marveled over—and singing our songs again and again, teamwork is key. 

Though there may be a lot of hard work involved, the social aspect of this team is also a big draw for me, Tucker, White, and Dan Lipkowitz ’14, a fellow Ursus member who saw a cappella as a good way to meet new people.

I was never big into team sports in high school and I wasn’t good at those that I did compete in.
Being last to pass through the slalom on your alpine ski team every time can certainly make for a good laugh with teammates, but that bond only goes so far. 

Where “Pitch Perfect” gets it right is how singing together and the adrenaline of performing for an audience can unify a group in ways that other clubs can’t. 

Singing, especially with the advent of shows like “Glee” and “The Sing-Off,” attracts a wider array of students: where BSG is typically interesting to people who like politics or student activism, singing is a fun outlet for people from drastically different social circles, and Ursus has introduced me to people who I likely wouldn’t have ever become friends with otherwise. 

“Pitch Perfect” isn’t completely off-mark. 

The team dynamic is definitely apparent in Bowdoin’s groups, and the movie does a good job of portraying this. 

Though a cappella may be a lot of hard work, our parties are guaranteed to have better singing than what you’ll hear in the basement of a generic College House party.