By Cheryl Seligman
Have you ever wondered what your fifteen minutes of fame will turn out to be? Or have you doubted that your shining moment will even come? A group of 15 vocally talented UR students in bright yellow blazers will be receiving their moment this Fall.
They are better known as the YellowJackets, one of the University’s all male a cappella groups, and they will be competing on this upcoming season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”
The YellowJackets have maintained their tradition as an a cappella group since 1956, while also bringing innovation to the world of music — innovation that actually brought upon a phone call from a producer of “The Sing-Off,” encouraging them to audition for the third season of the show. The singers thought about auditioning without prompting, but Musical Director Aaron Sperber ’11 revealed that while he and his fellow group members “knew the experience of auditioning would be a blast,” they decided not to follow through because auditions were being held in New York City on the Saturday during finals week of the 2011 Spring semester.
However, Sperber explained that the phone call the YellowJackets received was from a producer who “had heard about us through our newest CD, Bad Bromance, our Taylor Swift spoof video, and our recent service project in Africa.” Each of the YellowJackets had a final exam on the day before auditions, and the group had a gig at the Eastman House on the evening before auditions as well. But they could not resist the opportunity and drove overnight, arriving at the audition site in New York City just in time.
Now Sperber says the singers actually keep pinching themselves, asking, “How is this possible? Our crazy group of friends from Rochester is actually on a primetime TV show?!”
As the YellowJackets’ dream turned into a reality, the pressures associated with the opportunity to compete on “The Sing-Off” have only improved the group’s performances.
There is no time to waste; the practice and preparation schedule is far too jam-packed for any spare time to enjoy California — other than by singing, dancing and arranging.
But along with the pressure and rigorous lifestyle, the YellowJackets have realized the importance of keeping their minds focused on how they got to where they are, the reasons that they sing and who it is that they sing for.
While a love for singing is the cornerstone of the group’s success, the YellowJackets are where they are today because of much more than music alone. Singing, for this group, is not only fun, thrilling and enjoyable, but it is also a means to “tear down social walls,” Sperber noted.
For example, upon arrival in Kenya for the recent service project, an unavoidable anxiety was present on both sides, in part because the YellowJackets were so far from home, and in part because two completely different environments and cultures were coming together. However, music is a universal language, and as soon as the group began to sing, any and every inkling of discomfort that initially existed vanished.
In addition, the group is what it is because of their connection to each other. Each member was told they had just made 14 new best friends when they joined the YellowJackets. Whether or not they believed it at the time, they have all learned the validity of that statement since. A bond of friendship that strong most certainly keeps the singers together both on the stage and off.
Clearly, even as the group rises to new levels of fame, they remain grounded about their success.
“We are so honored to see our name listed, UR’s YellowJackets, out here in lights in L.A. It reminds us of who we are and where we are from,” Sperber said.
“It goes without saying that there is nothing like the feeling of performing on your home stage for the people you know and love,” he continued. “The feeling of running out onto Strong stage to the cheers of support and the signs brings bigger goosebumps than any other experience, no matter how big. We are so excited to come back home and share all that we are learning out here.”
Season three of “The Sing-Off” premieres on Monday, Sep. 19 at 8 p.m. on NBC. This year the show is scheduled to run for 11 episodes, culminating with a live finale in which decisions are left to the viewers as opposed to the judges.
Be sure to tune in and root for your fellow students as they take on new challenges and competitors of the highest caliber. Best of luck to you in this wonderful endeavor, YellowJackets!
Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.