For Vocal Minority, size doesn’t matter

Matilda Swartz

Despite Villanova’s athletic-heavy reputation, the University boasts a significant population of artistically inclined citizens.

Perhaps the field of music is one of the few places where business majors, engineers and journalism specializations can (momentarily) get along.

Enter the world of a cappella — a community within ‘Nova where clusters of men, clusters of women and a couple coed groups come together to sing, beat box and, if you’re so fortunate, dance.

This semester there are seven fully functional a cappella groups rehearsing weekly to maintain the perfect pitches required for concert night.

Absent from the early fall festivities where most of the seven clans put their best efforts on display (Parents’ Weekend, A Cappella SpO-Looza) was Vocal Minority.

In a swarm of pop songs and old standards, Vocal Minority, one of the two all-male groups in the Villanova a cappella scene, is the dark horse intent on trotting to its own beat.

Vocal Minority, affectionately dubbed “VM,” has been around for the better part of a decade.

The group was founded on the unadorned concept of guys getting together and merely singing. Laid-back and low (but never off) key are primary components in each member.

Unlike the Spires, a group which only auditions and accepts crooners who are members of the Villanova Singers (the all-male choir), VM has open tryouts.

Still, “It’s an uphill battle for us,” says senior Austin Gallas, music director. Membership plummeted to as low as seven during last spring semester, so VM’s goal was to recruit a few good men during this September’s auditions.

Now, with four new members, freshmen Eric Treffeisen and Shawn Welch, sophomore Joey Jestus and junior Brooks Hopkins, the count is up to 10.

As for the enigmatic factors that set Vocal Minority apart, member and Villanova law student Drew Seid says, “We do things outside of the box; we have hip-hop and rap components. Whereas the Spires are mainstream, we’re more alternative.”

With an eclectic set-list including Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad,” pre-“Use Somebody” Kings of Leon tune “Soft,” “Free Bird” and a crowd-electrifying rendition of Flight of the Conchord’s “Business Time,” VM is anything but typical. The list of deeds the group will never be caught doing is limited to two: “choreographed dancing, cross dressing.”

Refrain from letting the “Minority” in VM instigate judgment about quality or technique. They may be smaller in number, but number means little when sitting on the receiving end of their sound.

“With 10 people we have a wider range of voices,” Seid says. “We can incorporate a lot more variety than we have in the past.”

Regardless of barely reaching double-digit membership, the men of VM seem to be unwavering followers of the “less is more” creed.

“The less people the better,” Gallas says. “Less of a bureaucracy, less hurt feelings.”

The new guys seem to agree: the group would lack its scrappy appeal if it were a fraternity-sized pack of countless butting heads and tenors.

For them, a cappella is not about the synchronized snapping or the hoarse-race for a concert solo.

“We do it for the fun of it,” Jestus says.

Vocal Minority can be found rehearsing in various spots at St. Mary’s Hall on Monday and Thursday evenings. The time and place of their upcoming winter concert remains to be announced.