Whether ringing throughout the Chapel or a College House living room, the voices of Bowdoin a cappella are a pervasive force in the community. 

Earlier this week, prospective singers competed for coveted spots in Bowdoin’s six a cappella groups—the Longfellows, the Meddiebempsters, BOKA, Ursus Verses, Miscellania and Bellamafia.

The nearly 80 students involved in a cappella make up a sizeable portion of Bowdoin’s student population. Students and community members flock to concerts, which often have a line out the door. The groups—two all-male, two all-female and two co-ed—span a range of sounds, styles and personalities.

“My gut feeling is that there are a lot more kids auditioning this year than there were last year,” said Max Middleton ’16, member of the Meddiebempsters and president of the A Cappella Council.

Though the A Cappella Council has no involvement in the decision-making process, Middleton acts as a mediator for discussion between the groups, coordinating various a cappella events as well as the audition process.
Auditions took place on Monday and Tuesday evenings, while callbacks took place on Wednesday. The six groups captured the attention of first years and other students during their recruitment concert last Friday, caroling through first-year bricks and placing posters around campus. 

This marketing got many students excited about the prospect of being a part of Bowdoin’s a cappella culture.

“I love the group that comes along with [a capella]; it seems so exciting and awesome here,” said Hannah Berman ’18, who added that the a cappella community would offer an opportunity to meet new people and find a niche on campus.  
There are few spots available  for the nearly 50 singers who audition for each group. The audition process was consistent across groups. Singers were asked to perform both a short solo piece and various exercises to test range, musicality and musical technique. 

Even for the most experienced performers, singing in front of a small group of classmates and peers can be terrifying. Many groups made it a high priority to create a welcoming or even silly ambiance to quell such anxieties.

“You walk in and they’re all cheering you on and so excited you’re there,” said Berman.

The non-musical component of the auditions varied across groups.

Those auditioning for BOKA, one of Bowdoin’s co-ed groups, were asked to prepare a pickup line to deliver to a current member of their choice.
“We try to let that break the ice and make people less nervous when they start singing,” said Caroline Montag ’17, a member of BOKA and Bellamafia.

BOKA and other groups try to engage the auditioning singers in conversation to create a more familiar environment.

One of the all-male groups, the Meddiebempsters employed a “jokingly intimidating” style that made it the most fun group to audition for, according to several singers. Singers were required to tell a joke to members, bringing levity to the audition and helping gauge the group for a personality fit.

“We’re looking for people who will blend into the group, both personality-wise and vocally,” said Meddiebempster Simon Close ’17.

While musical ability was the chief criterion in the decision-making process, personality and group chemistry also played an important role.
“You spend upwards of four or five hours together a week during rehearsals, so it’s really important that everyone in the group gets along as well,” said Montag.

Most groups were looking to replace seniors who graduated last May and encouraged prospective members to audition for multiple groups who may be looking to fill different parts. 

In the event that multiple groups want the same singer, singer decides which group to join.

With two days of auditions, then callbacks and deliberations into the “wee hours of the night,” this week has taken a toll on both current members and auditioning students.

According to Middleton, each auditioning student is evaluated in terms of “how his sound is going to affect the group and what he’s going to bring to the table.”

But for current a cappella members, this hectic time is still quite enjoyable.

“It’s like the most fun thing in the world,” said Middleton.