One of the most distinctive aspects of college is a capella. It only takes a few weeks for the never-ending string of showcases and concerts to begin. Posters are plastered all over campus, and Ho Plaza is dominated by quarter cards. From the spontaneous arch sings to the nonstop Facebook invites, a capella groups are persistent to no end. What drives this persistence, though, is the immense loyalty and commitment that a capella fosters among its members.
When I joined Cornell Tarana my sophomore year, I felt beyond excited to finally sing in college and get back to one of my biggest passions. Cornell Tarana is the only South Asian a capella group on campus, specializing in Hindi/English mash-ups. What I gained from a capella apart from the musical aspect was a group of friends I value immensely. In spite of our different academic interests, we’re able to connect over music and our shared cultural identities. We rehearse 6 hours a week and usually have a few casual gigs interspersed throughout the semester. Our biggest performance of the year is our annual spring showcase.
This year I have the privilege of being musical director, giving me the responsibility of leading rehearsals and making musical decisions. While being in charge has really allowed me to come into my own as a leader, I’ve felt the pressures of classes and other commitments during rehearsals. As much as I tried to push deadlines and assignments out of my mind when we rehearsed, I found my stress climbing. I started to question whether my priorities were in the right place. Should I really be spending two hours singing when I have a problem set due at midnight? How could I possibly spend my whole weekend at mixers and post-performance parties when I had piles of work? And most unsettling of all: was I being a bad leader by projecting my stress?
The challenges associated with being musical director have taught me the importance of approaching everything at Cornell with full conviction. I chose to join a capella because singing is my passion. When I look back at college years from now, many of my fondest memories are going to be from Tarana. There really aren’t words to describe how fulfilling it is to perform our own arrangements and to be surrounded by such creative energy at every rehearsal. We put our all into our music, and we advertise obnoxiously because we want to share it with people. After all, music is what connects people.
Once I stopped letting anxiety dominate my thinking, I found myself much more motivated in general. I didn’t view assignments and exams with dread; I wanted to succeed and to prove that I could excel in academics while giving my all to my extracurriculars. It’s not easy by any means, and the balance tips easily. However, at Cornell we’re extremely lucky to be surrounded by people who have diverse interests and are unafraid to pursue those interests. People rarely have a linear path at this university and take the time to explore every passion. Joining a capella brought me closer to my love for singing while also pushing me to maintain my work ethic. I can’t imagine Cornell without it.