Throughout the fall semester, Canvas will follow several of UNC’s student a cappella groups, looking and listening to what makes each unique.
In this fifth installment of the series, staff writer Paige Connelly examined the diverse makeup of the UNC Achordants.
Most students will be hard pressed to get through four years at UNC without hearing the harmonious voices of The Achordants trail across campus.
Founded in the spring of 2001, the all-male a capella group has a simple motto according to senior member Coby Isley.
“Our mission was just to bring a diverse approach to music,” he said. “And to bring different styles of music to people through a capella.”
Those who follow the Achordants know that holds true, as their recent musical endeavors cover everything from the Beach Boy's "God Only Knows" to One Direction’s "Story of My Life". Isley said the eclectic musical taste of the group is part of what makes them unique.
“Some groups are celebrated for their consistency," he said. "But we’re inconsistent in the best way possible.”
Sophomore Grant Grabell, who joined the group just last spring, said their diversity was what compelled him to try out.
“I clicked very well with the guys,” he said, “There were a lot of people with different interests.”
Isley said that while the group is devoted to diversity, they make a point to be – and pride themselves in – never being too serious. He said practice can either be organized or chaotic, as either serves the same purpose for the group.
“We just like to have a laugh," Isley said. "We’ll look like just a group of guys to onlookers.”
Senior member and president of the Achordants, Michael Bien echoed Isley's point saying that group banter is key.
“What makes us unique is our ability to take our music seriously, but not ourselves seriously,” he said.
Bien said the group loves to joke around, going so far as to integrate skits into their performances. He said he feels like it is something the audience has come to expect of the group.
“We pride ourselves in having fun,” Bien said. “We always want to be on our A-game, we don’t want to let our audience down.”
Grabell said their 'have fun with it' mantra manifests itself into their concerts, changing how the group performs them.
“We put a lot of focus not only on music, but on energy level," he said. "It’s super fun and super upbeat with a lot of energy mixed with musical sound. It brings the audience in with us.”
The Achordants adapt all their own music, choosing the songs they want in a democratic fashion. At the beginning of each year, members have the opportunity to pitch song ideas and vote on the ones they want to perform.
Isley serves as one of the group's two music directors and comes up with parts and variations of chosen songs using piano.
“Some songs are harder than others, but knowing the group we have and the way they respond, it drives it in a way,” he said.
Isley also said there’s no set organization in the group and that they work with the voices that fit songs as needed. Isley called it the “achorda-glow,” that certain voices stand out for certain parts.
The Achordants said they have no problem being a little different, and they love every minute of their time together as a group. Apart from singing, the members all take part in community service work and are sponsored by the Campus Y.
The group is currently preparing for their upcoming fall concert, scheduled with performances on November 14th and 15th. Bien said he remembers when he first started with the group and the sense of acceptance he had.
“There were no cliques.” he said “You’re voted in and you’re one of us.”
While their message of diversity cultivates a myriad of different personalities and traits, Bien said they still all come together for one main purpose – to have fun making music.
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