Students form male, female a capella music groups

Photo courtesy of Michael Martin

Photo courtesy of Michael Martin

The Suspensions

A suspension in music is defined as a non-chordal tone that resolves downward by step to a chordal tone, but Murray’s definition of the word has been transformed by a group of students whose harmonies have been heard throughout the community at various events since 2010.

The Suspensions are a male a capella group that sing a variety of genres including doo wop, pop, R&B and classical. They also perform songs by Boys II Men, Michael Jackson and The Gaither Vocal Band, among others.

Michael Martin, senior from Florissant, Mo., is a current member and is the music director of The Suspensions. He has been in the group since its start in 2010 and remembers how the group began.

“The group started from vocal majors that were in Phi Mu Alpha, and we decided that we wanted to sing together for the FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Star Spangled Banner Competition,” Martin said. “We won that and then we won it the next year as well, so we decided we liked singing together and we’ve been going ever since.”

As music director, Martin leads rehearsals and schedules performances for the group. The group rehearses every Sunday and Thursday for an hour or longer, depending on the upcoming performances they have.

“I organize the meeting times and say what we are going to rehearse,” Martin said. “We have two rehearsals a week. Also, I am the publicity representative and so I work on getting gigs together and getting the music ready for the gigs.”

The group has sung at Playhouse in the Park’s Murray Dance Stars fundraiser, Ms. MSU, All-Campus Sing, Paducah Symphony’s Sing-Off in Metropolis, Ill., Veteran’s Day events, a few basketball games and anything to get their name out there and have a good time singing, Martin said.

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, has heard the group perform and thinks the group is a great asset to Murray State’s campus.

“They have great harmony and provide for a fun experience,” Robertson said. “My first impression was very positive. This group was providing something that had been missing on campus and they were very good at it. I knew immediately that they would be successful and a great addition to our musical offerings on campus.”

Daniel Milam, senior from Memphis, Tenn., thinks being in the group has helped develop his music training and has given him a way to perform outside of the required music classes for his music major.

“My favorite part about being in the group is being able to do something different than what they require as a music major, such as performing a capella tunes that we don’t normally get to perform,” Milam said. “It’s helped me hone in on my aural skills. You really have to have a good ear to be in an a capella group.”

The group is about to go through some changes because some of its original members will be graduating this year. They will be auditioning new members and intend to keep the group on campus after the original members have left Murray State.

Martin said the most rewarding part about being in this group is sharing a new experience with friends.

“I don’t think any of us except for a couple people have done an a capella group before, so it was really cool to come together and do something like this that we haven’t done before,” Martin said. “We all have interesting personalities that really help to make the group (awesome).”

Story by Dominique Duarte, Staff writer

The Muses

Photo courtesy of Olivia Erb

The movie, “Pitch Perfect,” hit theaters in October and inspired singers everywhere and even a handful of non-singers to try their luck at a capella.

Olivia Erb, senior from Fort Thomas, Ky., was motivated to start her own a capella group before “Pitch Perfect” had even reached the a capella repertoire.

“When I was a freshman here, I approached a couple of professors about maybe starting an a capella group,” Erb said. “I was in a couple of a capella groups in high school and I thought it was just a lot of fun and we did really cool music. So, I kind of wanted to start something like that on campus because we don’t have anything like that.”

Erb’s a capella dream came to Murray State in November 2011 when she teamed up with Sigma Alpha Iota to start The Muses.

Originally a way to raise money for SAI’s philanthropy, The Muses evolved into an a capella group focused on gaining experiences after a few paid gigs.

“I thought, well, I could do it; I could start (an a capella group),” Erb said. “So, I approached the sisters of Sigma Alpha Iota about it, and started it through them. So, we pulled members from SAI to be in the organization for the first year, and we’re actually starting to open it up to people outside of our organization starting next semester.”

As an official a capella group, one of the first things the women did was decide on the name “The Muses.” Erb said the name, a reference to Disney’s Hercules, represents Murray’s all female a capella group because of their muse-like spunk.

The Muses, a group of 14 females led by Erb and four section leaders, practice every Thursday in the music department’s choir room.

The Muses learn new songs to perform including modern songs like Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song,” classic barbershop songs, Disney songs and Christmas songs. “As a music major, I’m always interested in learning new music,” said Jocelyn Dora, senior from Newburgh, Ind. “The song ‘Love Song’ is always a fun one for us (to sing), and we also have fun with ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ since we’re such big Disney fans.”

The group usually does three big performances a semester and also sings the National Anthem for different sporting events occasionally.

“I talk with (Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs) a lot and he gets us different gigs,” Erb said. “We did the Murray Women’s Society tea and we did the administrative professionals luncheon. A lot of what we’ve done so far has been through Murray State. We did sing at a wedding over the summer, and that was a really cool experience. We did all of the wedding music, even the bridal march, a capella. It was really neat.”

Erb said The Muses have grown together as a group over the past year and have made it further than most musical groups could have in such a short time.

“We’ve gotten to the point where instead of just being 14 individual singers we’re singing as a group now,” Erb said. “For a lot of groups it takes a lot longer to get that down, and we’ve gotten it really rapidly.”

Now that the a capella group has grown into skillful muses, Erb said she would like to see them grow in other areas.

“I’d like to work on singing in service to the community more,” Erb said. “The community has the potential to be really rich in the arts, but it’s not going to just do that on its own.”

Story by Maddie Mucci, Staff writer