A cappella has always been an exhilarating part of campus life at UR, and the Midnight Ramblers are no exception. For the past 10 years, they have dedicated themselves to performance, innovation, hard work and, oh yeah, having fun.
The Ramblers were formed in February 1998 by then sophomore Jon Huang, who was intent on creating a group that could creatively expand upon and add depth to an already strong a cappella hamlet at UR. Even though there was an intense dedication to the music, Huang also stressed academics and school spirit.
The Ramblers, who Huang named after the Rolling Stones’ song “Midnight Rambler,” performed their first show in the spring of 1998 in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library. At the time, hardly anyone knew of them, so attendance was slim with only a few deans and some friends in the audience. Nevertheless, the show signified to those in attendance that the Ramblers were here to stay.
“After our first gig, the Ramblers tried to build traction,” Rambler and junior Asher Perzigian said. “The point is to never stay static as a group.”
The Ramblers performed at Uncommon Night, in one of those “traction-building” performances, and other gig opportunities, such as UR’s Hillel Shabbat celebrations, “Fright Night” and “Mucklahana!” took off from there. They never gave up the chance to give free shows because performance and a love for a cappella always took precedence over money.
The Ramblers also found time to record, and their first album, “Now Playing,” debuted in the spring of 1999 and sold incredibly well for such a young group. To this day, they have recorded seven full-length albums and one DVD.
The group has also been included on five international compilation discs including “Best of College A Cappella” and received a Silver Microphone award, which is arranged by acatunes, the a cappella version of iTunes.
One defining characteristic of the Ramblers is their dedication to performing on tours over spring break, where they always make at least a few stops at various high schools to not only showcase their talents, but also to lead workshops for students interested in music that show them that, according to Perzigian, music is a possibility.
These tours have taken them all over the United States and Europe, including stops in Seattle, Los Angeles, Florida and London. They have also made stops at a few sports arenas where they have sung the national anthem for the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Though the Ramblers have experienced their share of hardships, including Huang’s eventual departure from the group for medical school, watching other talented singers graduate or hitting a deer during their spring 2003 tour, they have certainly accomplished an immense amount of success for a group only 10 years old.
One such example was the Spring 2005 International Competition of Collegiate a Cappella, where the Ramblers made it to the final four. With six buses full of fans from back home, they trekked seven hours down to New York City to place third out of hundreds of groups.
Their love for a cappella has stretched to the point where the Ramblers still sing tunes they have been playing since their very first performance, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” by Van Morrison, “Some Kind of Wonderful,” by Grand Funk Railroad, and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” by Stevie Wonder. These are songs that are considered Rambler classics because they have been performed since day one and are even used as warm-up tunes in rehearsals.
Even with rehearsals three times a week and gigs and recording sessions already on their plate, the Ramblers still found time to create a new Midnight Ramblers scholarship. At their upcoming concert, an anthology CD will be for sale, and proceeds will directly fund the scholarship. One student every year will be selected for the prestigious accolade, and both girls and guys are eligible.
The Ramblers will perform their 10th Anniversary Show on April 12 in Strong Auditorium at 8 p.m., which is sure to be an exciting mix of never-heard material, senior songs, Rambler classics and other surprises sung by alumni members.
The alumni will be one of the defining aspects of the concert and are expected to sing a few favorites such as “Walk the Dinosaur” and “Stuck in the Middle with you.”
“The reason we’re motivated to rehearse is just to have fun,” Rambler and freshman Paul Alperin said. “We never forget to have fun.”
“By having fun,” Perzigian added, “everything we do will be better.”
Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.