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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

In fine tune

Anna Damico ’20 and Liv Heisterkamp ’19 sing during a Hawkappella rehearsal.

St. Joe’s a cappella groups continue to flourish.

Max Armenti ’22 came into his first year at St. Joe’s knowing he wanted to get the most out of his voice.

“I sang in high school all four years with my men’s chorus and I was also in the theatre group there,” Armenti said. “I wanted to be able to do as much singing as possible, but I didn’t want to have too much strain.”

At the Activities Fair, Armenti found out about auditions for the university’s three student-run vocal groups. He attended auditions for two of them.

“They asked me to sing the chorus and the verse of a song and to do some pitch-matching,” Armenti said. “And then, I was in. I guess I did pretty well.”

The current lineup of a cappella groups on campus includes the all-female group, the City Belles, the all-male group, 54th & City and the co-ed group, Hawkappella. They have each existed for over 10 years.

All three groups have just accepted their newest singers after a week of auditions, with Armenti being one of them.

City Belles member, Eliza Rocco ’20, first heard of the group when her sister studied at St. Joe’s and found that she could continue the unique talent she developed in high school.

“I used to beatbox a lot in high school, but under my breath,” Rocco said. “When I came to college, I actually found a place to do it.”

Rocco auditioned and made it onto the Belles in her freshman year. Since then, she has stayed on as their resident beatboxer. This role has come with its share of ups, downs and shortness of breath.

“One year we did ‘Mr. Brightside’ and that was so cool, but I didn’t breathe for about four minutes,” Rocco said.

Hawkappella members rehearse “Water Under the Bridge” by Adele.

Fellow beatboxer, Nathan King ’20, of Hawkappella, holds the same role as Rocco, but he didn’t know which group he wanted to join until talking to fellow member Liv Heisterkamp ’19, the week before his freshman year started.

“Honestly, I didn’t know a whole lot about the group before I joined, but my PSIP [Philadelphia Service Immersion Program] leader talked about how much fun it was,” King said. “That was enough to get me interested.”

One of the more intricate parts of a cappella is the musical arrangements, which consist of different notes for the four voice types: bass, tenor, alto and soprano. Since a cappella performances do not include instrumental accompaniment and rely on the singers to provide sound-alike vocals, the role of the music director is crucial to each group’s success.

King, who serves as Hawkappella’s music director, said he finds the role “satisfying.”

“My job is to arrange all of our music and oversee the learning process,” King said. “I also conduct the group while we perform, lead the group during the selection of our songs and create agendas for rehearsal so we can stay organized.”

Every group votes on which songs to continue performing and which new ones to introduce over the semesters. A Hawkappella favorite is “Hallelujah” by Panic! At the Disco, but King says there is a common  trend in their selections.

“Our favorite songs to do tend to lean on the modern side, with a lot of our choices borrowing from pop music in the last decade,” King said. “We also try to incorporate one or two classic throwbacks every semester so we can reach a wider audience with our setlist.”

The City Belles warm up at the start of their rehearsal (Photos by Rose Weldon ’19).

King’s 54th & City counterpart is Keith Banquer ’19, who says that his group finds a wide range of songs to use. At their most recent practice, the nine-man team held auditions for the solo in a cover of Toto’s “Africa.”

“The most obscure song we’ve used is probably ‘Gone,’ by Ben Folds,” Banquer said. “But we try to do a little of everything.”

In addition to musical variety as a common link between the groups, leaders say that camaraderie is one of the more important elements.

City Belles standing president, Maddie Michowski ’19, says that is part of why she loves being a part of her group.

“I’d describe the City Belles as a group of girls who get together and have the privilege of doing what they love on their college campus,” Michowski said. “This group gave me a confidence that I had never had prior and also introduced me to some of my very best friends.”

Similarly, 54th & City president Evan Palmieri ’19 said he looks forward to the group bonding aspect this semester.

“[54th & City] were a little busy with our album last year,” Palmieri said. “I’m looking forward to a little more laid-back fundraising to cover our cause.”

The “cause” is the first album in the history of a cappella at St. Joe’s, which 54th & City recorded last semester.

They are currently looking for funds to complete post-production and hope to have a Christmas release.

In addition to intragroup support, the three groups all seek to support each other.

“The relationship between the three groups is great,” King said. “We often open for each other at our concerts and have social events together so all the members can bond. We like to call it aca-unity.”

Max Armenti ’22 (left) auditions for a 54th & City solo before Andre Fick ’19, Keith Banquer ’19 and Evan Palmieri ’19.

As for Armenti, he made it into 54th & City and Hawkappella, singing as a bass in both and is excited for what the future holds.

“I just wanted a group to sing with,” Armenti said. “Now I feel a part of something bigger.”

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