Vivacious. Excitement. Exquisite. Family. Crazy. Apart from the last two, one might wonder what these words have to do with each other. But these words, as put forth by its own members, describe The Acoustics aptly and holistically. There’s something about The Acoustics that makes them different from the rest of the a cappella scene at Boston College. As a result, they have certainly carved out an impressive place on campus as a group of artists and friends, transmitting their infectious energy as it courses through the group’s members and, in turn, to the audience through song.
With so many a cappella groups on campus, co-ed and not, it may seem difficult to differentiate one from the other. The Acoustics are, by far, one of the most active at BC.
“Whenever we get an opportunity to perform on campus, we try our best to make our presence known because we also recognize how diverse the a cappella community is,” said Matthew Michienzie, The Acoustics’ musical director and MCAS ’17. But the differences of such a group are best realized behind the scenes, rather than on the day of performance.
When I walked into one of The Acoustics’ rehearsals, it was clear that the group has a unique dynamic. In different ways, the members made visible the true nature of The Acoustics. Some brimming with wisecracks and energy spoke and sang wildly, while others were more reserved in word and song, and still others stood out as leaders of this group of indiscernible character. With these differences, The Acoustics find a compelling niche. Coming from different backgrounds, schools, musical tastes, and personalities, these singers make for an eclectic bunch. This diversity, akin to the range of sound waves that make up the group’s performances, may be its greatest strength, as it culminates in a varied collection of musical ability and personality.
These differences within the group manifest themselves in the songs that are performed. The musical evolution of The Acoustics comes about through, but is not constrained by, the passage of time.
“We do everything from rock, to hip-hop, to country, to oldies, and everything in between,” Michienzie said. In democratic fashion, the group’s song selection process allows for such a range of songs to come into play and the repertoire of The Acoustics to remain unpredictable and fresh.
The result is a collection of songs that span from Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” to Foo Fighters’ “Best of You,” Misterwives’ “Our Own House,” and CHVRCHES’s “The Mother We Share,” to name a few. Such a varied collection brings a welcome sense of freshness to one of their shows.
Where other groups may choose songs based on specific performance qualities or thematic cohesion between songs, The Acoustics are motivated by a more personal reason.
“We choose songs based on the soloist, not based on the type of music we want to sing,” Daniel Pollos, CSOM ’19, said. As the years go by and members graduate, The Acoustics feel the loss of soloists among their ranks and within their collection of songs. When they integrate new songs for new people, the challenge is as much about filling a void as about remaining true to a tried and true method.
The songs are integral to the unity of the group, Michienzie explained.
“We try to make sure that the songs we are performing resonate with us on a level that goes beyond the notes,” he said.
This democratic process of choosing songs allows for The Acoustics to coalesce behind a soloist in such a way that it is easy to make the song truly their own. Members make way for the soloist, lending their voice as support, until their time comes to take centerstage.
But much of The Acoustics’ success can be attributed to their relationships offstage. The group elevates its soloists, as their collective vigor gives support through the notes they sing and through, more importantly, the strength of the camaraderie they share. Fueled by an emotional investment, in the songs they choose and the people who sing them, The Acoustics are seen as one of the most authentic groups on campus. The group’s beautiful songs are audible, but its sincerity is palpable.
Through friendship, the group is able to succeed in harmonizing on musical and emotional levels.
“The better we relate together, the better we sound,” Julia Gill, CSON ’17, said.
When you watch The Acoustics, the intimate connection between its members is clearly visible. As they look into each other’s eyes, smiling while keeping themselves composed, the level of kinship seems high, closer than the semicircle they form on stage would suggest. As one member looks or sings with another, this vibe of love and connectedness propagates throughout.
“We prioritize our personalities and how we interact with one another,” Enjay Brown, MCAS ’19, said.
Using personal relationships as a foundation makes the music better. The bonds between the members are essential to the cohesiveness of the group. Interplay between members serves an important purpose on and off the stage. There is no feigning of emotions or enjoyment in either environment. While it can be hard to discern the sincerity of full smiles on stage, one can rest assured that for The Acoustics, the sentiments expressed are real.
“We are having fun,” Margaret Douer, MCAS ’18, said. “We don’t just look like we are having fun.”
Performing with the utmost integrity, while shedding unnecessary stiffness stemming from meticulously formulated songs, The Acoustics exude passion and joy. Moving forward, keeping with tradition and the times, The Acoustics look to establish themselves as one of the most forward-thinking a cappella groups on campus.
“I hope to see the younger members of The Acoustics evolve as I graduate this spring,” Michienzie said. “I want to see them take on future challenges for the betterment of the group just as many of the upperclassmen have.”
On stage, as they perform, The Acoustics may appear as an amalgamation of talent lending their voices to a song for a small moment of time. Though this is true, it explains only half of the picture. The other half is that The Acoustics are a family.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor