Voices gather for a cappella talent

by Victoria Valenzuela

What do you call singing without instruments and using only your voice to form every sound as it blends together in perfect harmony and pitch? Aca-awesome. Vocal Vixens, San Diego State’s all-female a cappella group are proving themselves to be a powerhouse with incredible talent, one note at a time.

After the division of existing a cappella group Sunset Clefs, the group was created in 2012 along with co-ed group SoundWave and male-dominated group Preposterone. With 11 current members, Vocal Vixens consists of four sopranos, four second sopranos, and three altos to comprise their signature sound. Meeting twice a week, these ladies combine an infectious playfulness and love of singing with a dedication that shines brightest through their awe-inspiring performances.

“We’re a lot of fun,” Vocal Vixen President Hilary Erbland said. “We keep it light, but we’re also really serious about the group. We’re all very committed.”

The women perform songs from many different genres including Top 40 hits, R&B, country, and Broadway tunes. The group’s members are equally as eclectic and diverse. With a variety of musical backgrounds and singing styles, the women of Vocal Vixens combine their individual talents to produce seemingly effortless results. Included in this mix is sophomore country crooner Bailey Keck and sophomore opera vocalist Mckenna Burns.  Their voices intertwine with fellow Vixens whose prior singing experience also includes musical theatre and choir.

Though it has only been a year since their inception, the Vocal Vixens have been making themselves known throughout the SDSU community and beyond. Students may have seen them recently traveling to several locations on campus, belting out One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” to promote the boy band’s film release of “This Is Us”. More notably, the group was featured in the Asian Pacific Student Alliance’s 17th annual Fashion Talent Show this past April, held at the Open Air Theatre. They also lent their singing presence to the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony at USCD in March and the Womyn’s Outreach Association’s Take Back the Night event. Continuing this trend, the group will be opening up for the production of “Venus In Fur” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre on Nov. 13.

There is much work to be done behind the pretty melodies, for the members of Vocal Vixens arrange all of their own music. Each song they perform must be broken down to determine how it would sound if the background parts were replaced by voices. Once this is accomplished and the harmonies are divided up, each member is given the opportunity to audition for a solo within the song. Enter choreography and extensive practice, where the real work begins as the ladies exercise their creative prowess and bounce ideas off one another.

“It’s very humbling,” Vocal Vixen member and biology junior Clarice Mendoza said. “We learn how to take criticism and how to make ourselves better.”

The presence of 11 different personalities would appear to be the perfect recipe for divas to emerge.  However, the Vocal Vixens have managed to avoid such conflict.

“There’s no drama,” Vocal Vixen member and nursing senior Jerilyn Serafica said. “You’d think there’d be drama because it’s an all-girl group, but we’re really open about each other. We take each other’s comments into consideration.”

Hoping to add four to six additoinal members to the ensemble, the ladies will be holding auditions following their “Aztecs Got A Cappella” recruitment event later this month. All three of SDSU’s a cappella groups will particpate, giving those interested in auditioning a chance to preview their individual styles. Anyone who loves to sing is encouraged to try their hand at a cappella, even if their skills are limited to solo concerts behind a shower curtain.

“There’s absolutely no experience necessary,” Erbland said. “We’re open to everybody.”

Looking ahead, Vocal Vixens have their sights set on taking their act to the next level for competition. They hope to one day advance to the International Championships of A Cappella in New York City.

“That’s definitely more into the far future, for future generations of Vocal Vixens, but we’re trying to build up our now-freshmen to be able to take that on,” Mendoza said.

For now, an attainable aspiration lies in attending an a cappella conference held at The University of Southern California next year.

“That’s what we’re aiming for right now,” Serafica said. “Baby steps.”

As exhilarating as the performances may be, the most rewarding aspect of the group is the sense of community the members feel among each other. For the Vocal Vixens, they’re much more than singers harmonizing to the same tune—they’re family.

“It’s just nice being able to connect with the girls, and being able to hang out.  Like, we’re all sisters outside of rehearsals,” Mendoza said.

Musical director and interior design senior Lauren Zinn recognizes it’s ultimately the love of their craft that forges such a strong bond between the women.

“Everyone’s different, but I think that’s one of greatest things,” she said. “We’re all different, we all have different majors, we’re all different ages, but we still can come together and enjoy music together.”