By: Lauren Brown ’24
Central College has more than 100 organizations and ways to get involved on campus. I wanted to share first-hand perspectives on one of the most well-known groups: the A Cappella Choir, directed by Mark Babcock ’91, professor of music.
I enlisted the help of Amber Reysack ’25, Bryson McGowan ’24 and Ryan Stallman ’22 to illustrate all parts of the ensemble and what it means to be a member. When asked what their favorite thing about being in the A Cappella Choir was, they answered with how kind and welcoming everyone is, how it feels like one big family, the community feel and the opportunity to gain experience professionally.
There’s so much more to know about Central’s A Cappella Choir — the audition process, rehearsal expectations, what performances are like and what these three students love most about the choir. Read on and fall in love with A CapPELLA!
Why did you audition for the A Cappella Choir? What made you want to try out?
Reysack loved that the choir had so many different people in it … not just music majors. McGowan stated that being able to sing in the choir was a big reason he came to Central. Like Reysack, the diverse membership of the choir also appealed to Stallman as he thought it would be a terrific way to meet new people. The opportunity of a music scholarship appealed to him as well.
How did you prepare for the audition? How many songs did you have to sing?
Reysack prepared a couple of pieces and sang one during her audition, as did McGowan. McGowan also practiced sight-reading. For all three students, the rest of the audition was sight-reading, vocal warmups and pitch memory.
How did the audition go?
They felt nervous but also went into the audition excited and confident. They were all given feedback right away, too, which was great both for knowing how they did and calming their nerves a bit. As you may have guessed, Reysack, McGowan and Stallman all got into the choir!
What is the time commitment like?
The choir rehearses two to three times per week from 4-5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday, Stallman shared.
Can you describe a typical rehearsal?
Rehearsals are always the best part of Reysack’s day. She says the A Cappella Choir is truly a family. In the span of an hour and a half, they will have warmed up and covered anywhere from five to 10 songs. Her folder is constantly packed with music, so she never gets bored.
The choir also has Choir Fridays where the ensemble eats together in Central Market after rehearsal, followed by an activity planned by the choir officers. Past Choir Fridays have included dodgeball (Professor Babcock’s fave), sand volleyball and bowling.
What are performances like?
Each performance is different, but they all have one thing in common: the choir gets to share their love of music with others. In the fall semester, the ensemble has a mini-tour with three to five performances in churches, cathedrals, performing arts centers and other locations. They also visit a high school or two and host workshops with the school’s choir.
In the winter they have the Christmas Candlelight Concerts, a beloved holiday tradition. They also host a couple of SingFest honor choirs for middle school and high school students in the colder months.
Each academic year ends in a choir tour, typically a designated region of the United States. Every four years, the A Cappella Choir tours internationally. In summer 2022, the A Cappella Choir traveled to Argentina! International and domestic tours help students learn about and experience another area of the world while creating and sharing beauty through music.
Where is your favorite location you’ve performed?
Reysack shared that her favorite place to perform is the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Des Moines, Iowa. The choir performed there on fall mini-tour.
For McGowan, his favorite place to perform is Douwstra Auditorium, especially for the Christmas Candlelight concerts.
Stallman’s favorite place to perform was in a cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri, his first year.
Dress and Appearance
What do you wear for performances? Is there a required hairstyle?
For performances, the choir dresses in black choir robes and wears all black underneath. There is no required hairstyle or specific footwear.
What is your favorite piece that you’ve sung with the choir?
Iowa composer Elaine Hagenberg was the favorite artist among the three students. Her piece “The Music of Stillness” being Reysack’s and McGowan’s favorite. Stallman also enjoyed singing a piece by Hagenberg entitled “Oh Love.”
What is your favorite thing about being in the A Cappella choir?
Ask any choir member and they’ll tell you the thing that most appealed to them was the close-knit, family feel of the choir. A common word used to describe many aspects of Central is community because it makes students feel like they’re all a part of one big family. This sense of community is what attracts students not only to the choir but to the college.
What are some challenges of being in the choir?
Preparing for and performing immediately before finals week in the fall semester is a bit stressful for some of the students, but they all have ways of balancing their workload to get ready for both the performances and their exams.
What is your favorite thing about your instructor?
These students appreciate that Professor Babcock is easygoing and understanding but also has a high level of expectations during rehearsals and performances.
So Worth the Time!
With there being so many people in the choir — not just music majors — Reysack, McGowan and Stallman have had the opportunity to connect with and meet lots of new people. They enjoy collaborating with other students who share the same love of music and work toward the same goals of creating beautiful art.
Being part of the A Cappella Choir has given these students many opportunities like performing, traveling and meeting new people.
Stallman shared, too, that the choir has taught him the skill of delayed gratification because it takes a while to see the result of working on something. It forces him to stay motivated and to find new things to improve upon.
If you’re interested in Central and joining the A Cappella Choir, I hope Reysack, McGowan and Stallman helped you make that decision! The choir is so much fun with all the different students and personalities, a variety of songs to sing and lots of performing. Central also has that community attitude that will make you feel right at home both inside and outside of the rehearsal center. The choir and the college would love to welcome you!
About the Author
Hi, everyone! My name is Lauren Brown ’24, and I am from Underwood, Iowa. I am a communication studies major and Spanish minor here at Central. I’ve been a part the track team since sophomore year. I also am a member of, and the female representative for, Central’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and TMK Hall Council President. Finally, I work as a writing tutor on Sundays and an editorial assistant for the Communications Office during the week.
Although my extracurriculars keep me busy, I still have time to hang out with my friends and go to different events on campus. I also enjoy running; watching movies or Netflix shows; and reading books in my free time. I hope you find exactly what you are looking for at Central and join the family! Go Dutch!