Singing through a pandemic: The successes and challenges of Potomac’s a cappella groups



Notables singing at the drive-through action this past spring.

Emily Raman, Staff Writer

Friends singing together on a fine spring evening, staring off into the sunset. Sounds like a scene from 2019, doesn’t it? Despite the pandemic, Potomac’s a cappella groups have been recruiting new members, learning new music, and creating some of the magic that is only possible when high school students are belting Miley Cyrus mashups.

At the start of the school year, the first step the a cappella groups took was holding auditions and inviting new members to join their ensembles. Senior Isabel Tierney, leader of the a cappella group Quintessence, said, “Included with all the other a cappella groups, we were really able to work with Mr. Westermann to get tryouts, and I think that was the first thing that gave us hope for an a cappella season.” 

As time went on, the a cappella groups faced many challenges that come with attempting to run a musical group in a virtual format. “For a while, we had trouble meeting because Zoom is so difficult to manage,” Isabel said. 

Some groups had to make sacrifices. Junior Genevieve Evans, member of the a capella group Notables, explained, “We like to do our own arrangements. We had to bend that a little bit because we didn’t have as much time to practice, and we weren’t really able to get together as a group because of Covid for a while.”

Like so many activities conducted over Zoom, it was hard to create a sense of community and spirit, especially since the a cappella groups were deprived of the chance to perform at the Fall or Winter Lights assemblies. “When we were first starting out, we just didn’t have any practices at all. We had virtual things but it wasn’t the same; it definitely sapped away a little of that dynamic,” Genevieve said. 

However, the a cappella groups found moments of progress and joy amid the challenges. Mixed Company senior Mina Kassim told us that, “We were able to make music on Zoom by having everybody mute, and we played back their parts and had them sing.” 

As the year has transitioned from red to orange to yellow to back to red, then orange then chartreuse mode, the groups have gotten on their feet. “Once the weather started getting better, we were able to have a few meetings in person,” Isabel said. 

Genevieve agreed: “It was a little awkward, but I think we’re starting to get over that by the end of the school year.” 

The groups have enjoyed the chance to grow and bond as a team without the pressure of performances. “I think we’re just kind of enjoying the music at this point,” said Mina.

The question that is on Potomac a cappella fans’ minds: What is there to look forward to for a cappella groups the rest of the school year? “The main thing that we are looking to see if it will happen is the a cappella concert that we have every spring, and I honestly think that that will be able to happen,” Isabel said.

Much is still up in the air, but the Upper School student body should stay tuned to eventually enjoy the music that Quintessence, Notables, Mixed Company, and Mag7 have worked valiantly to create this year.