A Listen into RIT's Music Culture
by Morgan LaMere | published Sep. 2nd, 2019
From orientation until graduation, you’re bound to experience the musical presence of RIT’s various ensembles. These music organizations — from small groups of vocalists to bands with nearly a hundred members — give students a creative outlet that allows them to be heard all over campus and in the Rochester community. For official on-campus events, what’s more iconic than the school band?
The pep band never fails to impress at our largest regular sporting events: the Division 1 hockey games. Pep Band's president, third year Diagnostic Medical Sonography student Sarah Messner, is proud of the effect that pep band has had on RIT.
“Pep band is out there to support RIT’s teams and the Rochester community,” Messner said. “We try to bring a fun energetic environment.”
The band's biggest performance is at hockey games, at which there is a cap of 75 performers. However, there's always room for new members elsewhere. According to Messner, you don’t even have to know how to play an instrument to join the band.
“We’re always trying to expand; we made a new connection this year and we got to play with the [Flower City Pride Band],” Messner said.
Aside from hockey games, the band also performs at Imagine RIT, accepted student open houses and the Rochester roller derby. They additionally perform at the annual breast cancer awareness event Pink the Rink and a hockey tournament hosted by the Rochester Ice Cats for children with special needs.
While not as large as the pep band, Encore plays a significant role in the RIT community. Founded in 1996 as a music company, Encore is the university's original all-female a capella group. One of their primary goals is female empowerment. Rachel Mickel, a third year Electrical Engineering Technology student, is a member of the music group.
“Encore is one of seven a capella groups on campus,” Mickel said. “[We’re] in the process of getting back to a professional, competitive group.”
As a part of this process, Encore recently attended the International Championship of College A Capella and made it to the quarterfinals. They are also recording their third album after having released a single on Spotify — an adaptation of Britney Spears's "Toxic."
Encore has a large number of performances under their belt and are heavily involved on and off campus.
Their on-campus performances include the Lighting the Way ceremony, a gathering for freshmen focusing on female empowerment; the fundraiser gala; A Capella Showcase and the Kaleidoscope concert, a gathering of performing arts groups during homecoming weekend.
Off campus, Encore is a guest group for other a capella groups. They also Christmas carol for the Rochester community's kids.
“It’s really hard to not be excited with what you’re singing,” Mickel said.
To join an a capella group, you can audition during fall semester. Encore, in particular, is capped at 14 members.
“Vocal Accent is an all-female a capella group,” President Serena Nappa, a second year Photographic and Imaging Arts student, said. “[We’re about] empowering groups, singing old songs and new.”
The a capella group recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and, according to Nappa, is excited to head in new directions with the same goal: making sure every girl is comfortable and growing as a singer.
“I’ve grown as a person because of these ladies,” Nappa said.
Like Encore, Vocal Accent regularly hosts events for their community and members. They frequently perform off campus at Fringe Festival, roller derby games and the President’s Ball. In the spring, they host Accenttastic, a yearly concert where alumni and other groups perform.
“[We have] some guest groups from other colleges and have other a capella groups from campus show up to cheer you on,” Nappa explained.
The number of members required for these performances vary, but anyone who might be interested is encouraged to try out.
“[It’s been a] big year for us, we had a lot of graduating members, so this year we’re really looking for more people,” Nappa said. “Vocal Accent and a capella, in general, is an incredible community to join at RIT. I’ve created such incredible friends from it.”
“Vocal Accent and a capella, in general, is an incredible community to join at RIT. I’ve created such incredible friends from it.”
For something more relaxed and freeform, Stephanie Liu, a second year New Media and Design student, recommends Jam Club.
“[Other clubs] were really intense, we wanted a place where people could pick up an instrument and learn in a non-serious environment,” Liu, the club's head of public relations, said.
For those who are serious, they have smaller and more polished groups.
Jam Club prides itself on being open to new members. While there are mostly guitars, drums and vocals, Jam Club accepts all kinds of instruments, both acoustic and electric. The club even boasts an electric violinist among their number.
Jam Club's meetings have different group activities and include a large jam which helps widely different instruments play cohesively for bigger events. These events include two open mics each semester, a large yearly performance, Relay for Life and Imagine RIT.
“We’re going to be involved in presenting at [RIT 365] classes. But we also have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, [and] we are at club fair,” Liu said. “Come talk to us — we aren’t scary!”
Directed by President Alyssa Keller, a fourth year Media Arts and Technology student, is the casual-yet-eccentric Ukulele Club.
“We are a group of people who enjoy the ukulele and want to spread the joy of the ukulele,” Keller said.
As a casual club, they have no cutoffs. They also have an inventory of instruments during meetings, should someone not have their own.
The club performs at Fringe Festival, Relay for Life and Imagine RIT with their wandering "Ukulele Minstrels."
“[We] meet at dorm side and wander around with ukuleles and serenade people,” Keller explained.
Like many student organizations, Ukulele Club works with other groups to enhance their performances.
“Clubs we regularly do collaborations with are Jam Club — we host open mics together — and Improv Club [for improv, comedy and music shows]. And we do this one or two times a year!” said Keller.
While featuring different music styles and performances, each of these welcoming organizations has greatly impacted its members and audiences alike. If you have musical ability — or even if you don’t — our musical community is sure to be an enriching and memorable experience. So, don’t be afraid to say hello!