Indie Women Make No Appearance This Year
Though last year they dazzled the crowd singing Lady Gaga and the year before belted a Sara Bareilles medley in their bright blue gowns, this year the Independent Women will be absent from the 87th annual Choral Contest.
Though the Independent Women’s choral group has even won out against the Greek groups they compete against in past years, the group will not be appearing in the contest due to the fact that nobody stepped up to form the group this year before the deadline. This differs from their competitors, for whom the event is institutionalized.
“With the Greek groups they have people who are theoretically organizing it, but with independent groups it falls into whoever’s hands, and nobody spearheaded it this year,” said Zoe Ingerson, the independent senior who is organizing Schwa’s performance at the event this Friday, April 26. “The people who spearheaded it last year graduated.”
Forming an independent group takes some effort and much vision. Senior Hari Raghavan was a founding member of Choral Contest competitor the Gospel Choir and reflected on its beginnings.
“The choir was the brainchild of [alumnae] Daria Reaven and Jo French, two friends of mine who graduated in 2012,” he said.
The dynamic duo saw a niche that needed to be filled in campus music, and with their combined musical ability invited anyone who wanted to join.
“Daria was the singer between the two, and Jo played the piano, and they conceived of it in order to offer others like them who loved music and who hadn’t an outlet for it the chance to be involved,” said Raghavan.
The aim of the group wasn’t initially to take on the choral contest, but as the opportunity arose, the group took it. This might have changed the tone of the group, but its central focus still remained.
“In some ways, it became a bit more serious, but we also knew we didn’t have much of a chance compared to other groups who entered,” said Raghavan. “Its aim had always been to encourage people to sing, especially people who didn’t much think of themselves as musicians.”
The group remains a staple even though founding members like Raghavan no longer are part of the group or run the show. Keeping the Gospel Choir alive, though, is made easier due to the tangible promise of soulful music. This is something difficult for a group such as Independent Women.
“Gospel Choir really has a unifying theme that people can congregate around. We just don’t have any outlet for gospel music,” said Ingerson. “Indie Women, because they only have that one performance, there is less cohesion because they are only gearing toward one event.”
The senior women of Whitman’s Chorale group usually spearhead the event, but Ingerson points out that most of these women happen to be Greek this year. With no clear direction from above, as one could find in a Greek group, the group simply didn’t happen.
“There’s the expectation—if Phi [Delta Theta] didn’t perform, people would be like, ‘Guys, where were you, why didn’t you perform at Choral Contest?’” said Ingerson. “But with Indie Women, that structure doesn’t exist. You can’t really go up to anybody and ask them what happened because there’s nobody responsible.”
While she herself is an independent woman who would otherwise be capable to lead the group this year, Ingerson’s commitment lies with Schwa.
“I realized after the fact when someone talked to me and asked why I hadn’t organized for Independent Women, but I have my own group to organize for.”
For those who participated with the group in years past, the lack of this musical outlet comes as a surprise and a disappointment. In 2011 and despite her perceived musical inability, senior Hannah Siano decided to join the group under the leadership of alumna McKenna Milici ’11.
“It was great that the group was led by a super empowering girl-power awesome singer like McKenna,” Siano said.
Siano fondly remembers the fun of getting to know other independent women filled with traditions and such, never having done similar bonding activities in a women’s fraternity.
“They handed out bracelets, and had all these traditions we did, and it was a really great set-up,” she said. “It was great meeting random, independent people whom I wouldn’t have encountered before, and they were really open to anyone of any training level—and we sounded incredible.”
And, ultimately, she had been looking forward to this year’s performance.
“Singing with [the Independent Women] was going to be a highlight of my semester,” she said. “But then my friend told me that it wasn’t happening this year, and that made me sad.”
Senior Taylor White, who was part of the 2012 Independent Women, joined in on the group after being inspired to try the year before and seeing emails advertising the group.
“They just sent an email out to multiple listservs. I had watched them sing the Sara Bareilles ‘King of Anything’ medley and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that would be so much fun,’ so then I did it the next year.”
She waited for those emails to come back, but when they did not show up she looked into different options.
“I wanted to do it again, and I was waiting for the emails,” she said. “But then I saw that the Frisbee team was going to sing, and decided to do that instead.”
Without the Independent Women performing this year, Siano fears that the traditions and fun she had will not be revived in years to come.
“I’m afraid that [the senior class] would be the only one that would remember it being awesome,” she said.
Ingerson, on the other hand, remains confident that the Independent Women will again take the Chorale Contest stage at the very next opportunity.
“It’s not a group that’s died out by any means,” said Ingerson. “It’s definitely going to come back next year.”