The Ivy Coach Daily

June 2, 2024

Ivy League A Cappella Groups

Previously Published on August 24, 2011:

Collegiate a cappella groups have been a popular type of student organization on college campuses since before the Pitch Perfect franchise was a glimmer in Hollywood’s eye. A cappella is a form of performance in which a group sings without the accompaniment of any musical instruments. All of the rhythm, harmony, percussion, and melody must come from the members’ own voices. The art form has its roots in Gregorian chants sung in churches across Europe, but evolved by way of elite students in Northeastern colleges into a mainstay of the extracurricular scene on campuses across the nation. A cappella groups in the Ivy League are among the oldest in the nation. These organizations are rich with traditions, rituals, and funky outfits that they show off while competing against each other in the name of a cappella renown.

A Capella Groups Around the Ivy League

Brown University: 14 Groups

According to a 2023 profile of the Brown a cappella scene published in The Brown Daily Herald, Brown is home to 14 a cappella groups, which they claim to be the most groups per capita in the nation. Ten of these groups are governed by an overseeing body called “the Intergalactic Community of A Cappella.” The oldest group on campus still in operation is the Jabberwocks, an all-male troupe founded in 1950 known for formal white tie performance wear.

Columbia University: 10 Groups

Boasting 10 a cappella groups that span many genres, Columbia’s a capella scene stretches back to 1909, with the founding of the Notes and Keys, a now co-ed group that some consider to be the premier group on campus. Sur, another co-ed group, perform’s South Asian fusion music, while Jubilation! Performs Christian gospel music. Many groups are hired to perform across New York City, and some even release studio albums!

Cornell University: 15 Groups

With fifteen a cappella groups registered on campus, Cornell certainly does not want for a cappella variety! While the oldest a cappella group on campus, the Cayuga Waiters, was disbanded in 2017, a long history of a cappella lives on at Cornell through such groups as the all-gender Chordials, the all-female Nothing but Treble, and The Class Notes. Are you sensing the punny a cappella naming conventions yet?

Dartmouth College: 8 Groups

Dartmouth’s a cappella is famously intense, but according to a 2022 article on Dartmouth’s a cappella scene in The Dartmouth, the groups also bring students “new friendships, camaraderie and a sense of community on campus.” Six hours per week rehearsal schedules and an intense audition process may scare some prospective members away, but those who power through are rewarded with a selection of eight potential groups, including The Dartmouth Aires, who participated in the 2011 NBC Musical Competition The Sing-Off

Harvard University: 9 Groups

Harvard’s nine a cappella groups, much like the rest of Harvard, are famed for their traditions and history. The Harvard Krokodiloes, an all-male group founded in 1946, are the oldest group on campus. A spirit of healthy competition pervades each group, especially among co-ed groups such as the LowKeys, the Opportunes, and the Harvard Callbacks. The groups coordinate audition schedules (to give everyone a fair shot!) over the course of one week early on in each semester.

Princeton University: 14 Groups

The Princetoniana Museum maintains an online database detailing the history of each of the school’s 14 a cappella groups. According to this database, the first a cappella group at Princeton was formed in 1941 as the Nasoons, an all-male troupe that provided an “alternative to the University Glee Club.” With four groups whose names play on Princeton’s tiger mascot (Tigertones, Tigerlillies, Tigressions, and Wildcats), Princeton keeps the punny naming conventions of a cappella alive and well!

University of Pennsylvania: 17 Groups

A whopping 17 a cappella groups call Penn home. This considerable spread of groups means students of many identities can find a welcoming a cappella community: Atma is Penn’s all-female South Asian fusion group, Full Measure performs Christian music, PennSori serves “as a cultural bridge between Korean and American cultures,” and Pennsylvania Six-5000 is for comedian-singers, just to name a few!

Yale University: 19 Groups

Not one to be outdone by its Ivy League counterparts, Yale lays claim to 19 renowned a cappella groupsThe Whiffenpoofs are thought to be the oldest continuously-operating a capella group in the nation, having been founded in 1909 to compete with the Yale Glee Club for membership. The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus is the second oldest a cappella group in the nation, a label that they wear proudly on their website! Unlike many of the other oldest a cappella groups in the Ivy League, these groups are both co-ed.

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