The final a cappella performance of the spring semester comes from Room 46, Colorado College’s co-ed a cappella group. Originally formed in 1992, they are the only group on campus to currently accept both male and female members.
Like many members of The Back Row, first-year Nathan Wolfenbarger knew that they wanted to participate in CC a cappella after seeing the groups perform at Admitted Student’s weekend. While Wolfenbarger had never done a cappella before, they had participated in choir before coming to CC.
“I think that all of the new students this year had the same experience,” said Wolfenbarger, stating that they were all inspired by the performances either over admitted students week, or at NSO. “We all knew immediately that we wanted to do a cappella.”
Wolfenbarger auditioned for two groups, but “wanted to do Room 46 because [they] loved the energy that they had at the admit- ted students open house. They sang ‘Lean On Me,’ and it was intoxicatingly fun.”
The three a cappella groups at CC all have distinctly different vibes and styles. “Each group has a totally different personality,” said Wolfenbarger. The variation between the different groups leads to a fun, supportive atmosphere within them, rather than one of competition. It’s common to see a cappella singers in the audiences at all three concerts.
Room 46’s repertory is incredibly diverse, and they make sure to mix it up with a variety of speeds and genres at every show. “I really like the more upbeat songs, the ones you can really dance to,” said Wolfenbarger. “This semester we got a new beat-boxer who’s a transfer from Berkeley College of Music who’s really incredible. It really adds so much to the group sound. His name is Sterling Rudding.” The group holds auditions every semester to look for possible new members.
“[The auditions are] pretty much the same process for everybody. We have them sing scales and do warm-ups,” Wolfenbarger described. “We want to make sure they can match pitch and remember a short song, and then harmonize with that.” There’s a lot more to getting in than just musical talent, though. A big defining factor is simply how well the singer would mesh within the group. They need to be able to “work with other singers and be a soloist. It’s important in our group that everybody gets to solo at some point in the concert.”
Another contributing factor to Room 46’s unique sound is the fact that most singers arrange their own songs. “A lot of times I help with warming up, making sure we’re on key, giving the pitches. Sterling also helps with that quite a bit,” said Wolfenbarger. “A lot of times Sterling and I will sort of guide the arrangements so that when we’re improvising something, it’ll go a little bit quicker.” Wolfenbarger and Rudding both come to the group with a background in music theory.
While having the knowledge about music theory is definitely helpful, the group also has plenty of members who don’t have much of a background in music. “They’ve grown so much over the course of this year. We all come from very different backgrounds,” said Wolfenbarger.
Wolfenbarger’s “favorite thing about being in Room 46 is the crazy concerts that we get to do. Last semester we actually performed in a castle in Manitou Springs. Someone brought us out there to perform at a dinner, and it was the strangest experience,” said Wolfenbarger. “We performed recently in a Whole Foods, which is a totally different experience—being background music at a fundraiser.”
A cappella at CC, according to Wolfenbarger, is extremely different from a cap- pella at different schools. Both Room 46 and The Back Row attended the A COppella event at DU this semester, a festival for groups from around the state. “We were so different from everyone else there,” he said. “Many of them had choreography, and it seemed like a very different atmosphere. The groups at CC are incredibly laid back in comparison.” For their two songs at the festival, Room 46 sang “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorrilaz and “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes.
“Room 46 has really defined my CC experience,” said Wolfenbarger, who also plays harp and piano. “It’s one of the only extracurricular things that I do. I’d also just really like to mention Delaney [Tight], who’s the leader of the group. She seriously makes everything possible. She books all of the gigs, makes sure we’re all on time, and is really just the spokesperson of the group.”
The theme of this semester’s concert is “Hot Tub Time Machine,” where all of the songs sung are throwbacks to different decades. “We’ve got some Beach Boys, we’ve got Gwen Stefani, and the Black Eyed Peas. A lot of fun stuff from elementary school and beyond,” said Wolfenbarger. The group has used their surplus meal plan money to cater the event, “so there will be free food for everyone who comes. And it’s not actually just pizza.” The event will take place Friday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong Hall.