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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Striking a chord at this year’s Acapalooza

Photo courtesy of Ashley Stallings

Students perform at Acapolooza in 2022.  

Saturday night, Feb. 18, Rudder Auditorium was filled with excitement, nervousness and energetic choreography. With beatboxers, background vocalists moving in sync together and soloists lost in their own performance, Acapalooza brought a “Pitch Perfect” glamor to life. 

Texas A&M’s internationally ranked coed a cappella group, HardChord DynaMix, hosted and coordinated this year’s Acapellooza showcase at Rudder. College and high school acapella groups around Texas and a semi-professional acapella group performed at the concert. Construction science senior Mouhammed Ouwaida was the emcee for the night, singer and special events coordinator for HardChord DynaMix. Armed with quips and tenor vocals, Ouwaida introduced groups from Rice, North Texas, the University of Texas and A&M.

“I just kept telling myself to put my best foot forward and that’s how I felt I did,” Ouwaida said. “The energy of the audience really just brought it home for me.” 

While the audience enjoyed the seamless performances, the background production of the massive a capella concert took a lot of dedication and preparations. The show took over seven months of preparation, Ouwaida said.

“I invited all of these groups back in September, [and] scheduled [for] Rudder Auditorium in October and from there, it just kind of catapulted once we got all the groups confirmed,” Ouwaida said. “I was able to spend some of my own time to organize how I wanted the night to look like, who I wanted to hire to put on the show, the kind of elements we wanted, such as the projections.” 

While it is easy and understandable to be annoyed with mass emails, Ouwaida said such emails are an easy way to get the message out to Aggies. Ouwaida said it seemed to have worked well in spreading the word about the Acapoolooza showcase. 

“A month leading up to this event, [Acapalooza] was skyrocketing, so we had to advertise,” Ouwaida said. “We [passed out] flyers on campus, we went to sororities, [and] I went to KBTX to advertise for this event.” 

With musical groups on the stage, Rudder Auditorium erupted with support for their loved ones performing, whistling when singers hit the right notes. Texas A&M’s all-female group, “Femmatas,” was once such a group that energized the stage. As part of the Femmatas, biomedical sophomore Anushka Kesavalu said she was thrilled about her group’s performance, including her solo of “Zombie” by alternative rock band The Cranberries. 

“Honestly, it was so invigorating [to] be able to sing with all of my best friends,” Kesavalu said. “It was so amazing to be with all of them and [spending] that time with them.” 

Two of Kesavulu’s friends came bounding toward Kesavulu, congratulating her and carrying the excitement off the stage as much as the performances on the stage. 

“It’s amazing that my family came and my roommates have come to almost every concert I’ve been in,” Kesavulu said. “And the two girls that just came up, being able to see them too, is incredible. They’re so supportive and I love them so much–I’m so glad I have such an amazing support system to be with me.” 

Among the lineups at Acapalooza was “A-Side” from A&M Consolidated High School. While they were among the youngest of the groups, they performed like seasoned professionals. One soloist, junior Aiden Ross, sang with a soft, feathery voice According to KBTX, Aiden Ross was awarded best soloist in a past competitive acapella competition with high school and university students.

When the programming for the event had subsided, the high schoolers of A-Side were among the few that stayed on the stage, basking in the dimming lights and rejoicing with vigor. 

“Honestly [we are] a family, like, on hours of putting together and everybody loves each other and [is] so caring,” Ross said. “And like, yeah, the amount of work we put together to form such a strong bond between us that we can connect through music.” 

Ross sang “Everything I Did to Get to You” by Ben Platt, an emotional ballad about loneliness, vulnerability and self-retrospection.  

“Honestly, whenever I first got the part for [the song], I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna need to work with this song because it’s a very difficult song to perform and just the amount of hours that I put into the song–that’s my number one listened to song and Spotify by like a landslide,” Ross said. 

“All the hours [gave] me this connection with the song where I just feel so comfortable singing it,” Ross said.

Like Ross, the passion put into every group’s songs and choreographies abound onstage- all with distinct songs and voices, a peek into the dynamics of acapella groups. Competing with the University of Texas’s, or UT, “Noteworthy”, radio television film freshman Kenna Tolman said she wants to be trailblazer for female beatboxers. 

“There aren’t that many female beatboxers out there,” Tolan said. “The only time you see them is in an all-female group,  whereas in mixed gender, you typically see a male beatboxer because people have historically been stereotyping beatboxers as men rather than women.” 

With songs like Bishop Brigg’s “Fire,” an eclectic take on a country song and Sam Smith’s intimate “Prayer,” the choreography of UT’s Noteworthy was spright on their feet, especially so for beatboxer Tolman. 

“It is nerve-wracking to go into any type of art and stand on a stage in front of a big audience and expose your art like that,” Tolman said. “Especially in an art form in which you’re a minority. People will have expectations for you.” 

In any case, Tolman said girls who feel hesitant about pursuing beatboxing should go for it.  

“Beatboxing has no gender,” Tolman said.

For the a capella showcase, talented and diverse groups read from the same hymn sheet; regardless of rivalry, Ouwaida said they were all there for the same reason: to perform. 
“One of my personal values for this event was camaraderie and friendship,” Ouwaida said. “It was all about just being together and enjoying the moment.”

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