Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass a cappella groups S#arp Attitude and The Hexachord’s on ‘Sing It On’ television series

(Courtesy of Sue Teplansky)
(Courtesy of Sue Teplansky)

Last winter, University of Massachusetts a cappella groups S#arp Attitude and the Hexachords were chosen to compete on season two of “Sing It On” – a show featuring the best of the best in collegiate a cappella groups – where they battled it out for their chance to win the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) finals.

According to Variety magazine, co-executive producer John Legend was quoted saying his goal in creating the show was to “capture all of the emotion and excitement of the ICCA competition, in addition to covering the personal stories and friendships that make a cappella a true community.”

Before his stardom, Legend was a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s a cappella group Counterparts, where he helped the team make it to the ICCA finals in 1997.

In addition to S#arp Attitude and the Hexachords, the newest season of “Sing It On” featured Faux Paz from the University of Maryland and Off The Beat from the University of Pennsylvania.

S#arp Attitude was established in 2011 by co-founders Alissa Platcow and Melinda Packer with two main goals in mind: To perform at the ICCA’s and to host an annual event showcasing all-female a cappella called “Lady Jam.”

According to the group’s website, current members includes Packer (graduate student),  music director Archie Gopal (class of 2017) , president and social media director Jen Hrebenak (’17), business manager Marguerite Lee (’18), treasurer Michaela Bowen (’18), choreographer and stylist Bekah Philip (’19), Erena Hriskos (‘19), Parlee Hayden (’19), Sam Cormier (’16), Aldila Yunus (’16) and Taryn Wilson (’15).

Hrebenak said they applied for the show by “sending in a bio about who we are and what we stand for, and some videos and clips of us performing,” to a woman from Pop TV who had reached out to them.

In the following stages of the application process, the film crew from Pop TV came to shoot some trial clips for the show that were later evaluated in Los Angeles by producers who made the ultimate decision to include both S#arp Attitude, as well the Hexachords.

Although S#arp Attitude didn’t win the ICCA’s this year, the group said that the most important thing they learned while being involved in such a competitive experience was that “when all the glamour is over, we’re still going to be just as competitive and work just as hard.”  Adding that the experience was “unforgettable.”

Hexachord’s decidedly small group includes music director Craig Simonetti, Matt Chastain, Katy Geraghty, Linnea Henningson, business manager Xander Teplansky and Brandon Hetherington, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The Hexachords attracted interest and longevity in the show for both pushing the envelope with their smaller group and the drama created off of the fact that Henningson was previously a member of S#arp Attitude.

Henningson spoke of the network’s attempt to instigate bad blood between the troops saying, “at first there was tension … but then we all talked about it and realized the only true tension was the competition factor, we both just wanted to represent UMass.”

Teplansky said he found the experience of being on the show “challenging in the fact that you really had to represent your best self.”

Gopal of S#arp Attitude said that “Sing It On’s” TV crews often pleaded with members to reenact scenes in a more dramatic and high strung manor in order to develop more interesting characters, which some members of the cast catered to more than others.

In competition for a title as serious as ICCA winners, Chastain said he learned “that we [Hexachords] need to not take ourselves too seriously … we put so much pressure on ourselves to win.”

As different as the two may be, both a cappella groups agreed on the fact that the network and “Sing It On” both wanted to build up the personal experiences of both teams’ members to make them seem more dramatic and representative of reality TV.

Moving forward from the show, S#arp Attitude is busy rehearsing with five new group members in preparation for “Haunted Harmonies,” their first competition this fall in Salem, Massachusetts on Oct. 8.

The Hexachords are learning what it means to be a professional a cappella group outside of their affiliation with UMass and anxiously await their new album “Move,” named after their first recorded original, and their new music video.

Teplansky added the Hexachords dream for the future is to be “making a living off of singing together.”

Gina Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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