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"Pitch Perfect" but better: the Acafellas

September 12, 2022
Photo courtesy of MSU Acafellas
Photo courtesy of MSU Acafellas —

With agile notes and perfectly synchronized harmonies, the MSU Acafellas are a force to be reckoned with. The Tenor-Tenor-Bass a capella group, formed in 1996, showcases nine male singers that compete in international competitions, perform for hire at public functions and have a lot of fun doing it.

“We sing anything," Acafellas vice president Josh Morrisey said. "A lot of our arrangements we do are written by current members, former members, we have a huge alumni base to help us out. For example, we’ve done 'Happier' by Marshmello because one of our alumni loved EDM. We did 'Colder Weather' because I’m a big country music fan.”

Morrisey said their sound has personality.

“A lot of the other groups are amazing, but they’re a lot more technical than we are," Morrisey said. "What’s fun about the fellas is that we dance along with our music. We have like interactions with each other while on stage while still singing well.”

The award-winning organization meets for two-hour rehearsals three times a week to hone their vocal abilities. By not limiting themselves to specific genres of music, they incorporate stylistic opinions of all their members and alternate work from both well-known and underground artists.

At the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella, or ICCA, the Acafellas received awards for Best Soloist and Best Arrangement. They also placed as semi-finalists in ICCA three times during their tenure. This year they hope to make it four.

The Acafellas plan to perform at three concerts and various invitationals that arise during the season. Among their goals is improving their relationships with artists on campus, including other a capella groups.

Those with questions, arrangements or gig opportunities can contact the Acafellas on Instagram or send an email through their website.

“We do a lot of things, like we opened for Impulse Dance Group’s concert," Acafellas president Kendall Knechtel said. "We do a lot of things like (Sparticipation). This year we’re trying to plan a hay ride. And we were thinking about an album this year as well.”

Knechtel said he was intrigued by the Acafellas as an outlet to develop his vocal talents. He said anyone can join their team, even those lacking extensive musical training. Students do not need to possess a certain major or skill level; the Acafellas will work to develop those abilities during practice. 

“Someone who knows how to read music, for the most part," Knechtel said. "That’s our biggest thing. By reading music, what I mean is just like understanding where you are in the song… and how it translates from the sheet.”

But the group is not just about singing.

Every practice begins by sharing each other’s “yucks” and “yums,” or the high and low points of their day. Exercises like these help the fellas to connect with each other on a deeper level.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Morrisey said. “There’s not a lot that any of us wouldn’t do for each other, and because of our strong alumni base, we have a huge group chat. And we’ll go, ‘hey, we need a song for this gig,’ ‘hey, we need 20 dollars to be able to drive to this gig,' and within seconds, they’ll give it to us. We have a good network, and brotherhood is the best word for that.”

Acafellas webmaster Mitchell Schuldinger said being in the Acafellas taught him valuable lessons applicable to everyday life like teamwork, professionalism and time management.

“It’s really helped me work with others,” Schuldinger said. “Pre-fellas, I’ve always been very individual, I’ve done all the work myself. But now coming into the group, especially being part of the E-board, I can now work with the team comfortably. And outside of that professional side, I’m then able just to really explore my range of music, what I like singing.” 

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