Friday, October 19

UCLA’s Awaken Acapella travels from Pauley to Washington, D.C.


UCLA’s Awaken Acapella travels from Pauley to Washington,
D.C.

By Jeanene Harlick

Considering their humble beginnings, the Awaken Acapella singers
have come a long way. Started only two years ago by four UCLA
students with a passion for music, over spring break the 15-member
group sang its way to Washington, D.C., to perform at the White
House.

The group began a nine-day tour on March 25, taking them down
the East Coast from Boston to Washington D.C., gracing Boston
Plaza, Yale University, Columbia University, the United Nations and
the Lincoln Memorial with formidable singing talent. The tour was
sponsored by Princeton Review.

Awaken Acapella was founded at the beginning of the 1992-93
school year by Joyce Lo, Keith Ogden, Shannon Payette and Olimpio
Wen (who is no longer involved). The four students, realizing the
importance that music played in their lives, desired to create a
more upbeat alternative to the UCLA choirs already in existence.
Although they feared no one would show up for tryouts, they were
surprised by the 80 UCLA students who turned out to audition.

The group has come a long way since then. Although Awaken has
travelled to Northern California over the last two years to perform
at Stanford, the group decided to aim for bigger and better things
during their 1995 season.

Payette, who will graduate this year, knew the opportunity to
perform at the White House would expand the horizons of the young
ensemble. "We sang at Stanford last year, and that’s fun and all,
but it’s kind of exciting just to try to challenge yourself," she
says. "We tried to think of the biggest thing we could do within
the United States, and this is basically what we came up with."

Payette also sees the tour as a way to increase the exposure of
Awaken, in order to ensure its continuance in the future. "After I
graduate, hopefully it will be a big enough group that it will keep
going," she says. "There are a lot of groups on the East Coast that
have been around for 50 or 60 years, but southern California is
pretty deficient, as far as acapella groups go. We want to try to
start a tradition here."

To create this new tradition, the group tries to include as much
variety as possible in their singing repertoire. Their songs range
from the Beatles to Take Six to African music. They even write some
of their own songs. "We try not to exclude any kind of style,"
Payette says.

The ensemble’s popularity has been steadily increasing since its
start. It has performed at various UCLA functions, such as Mardi
Gras, Spring Sing, International Student Union festivals and most
recently, the Arizona State basketball game. They have even
developed their own corps of Awaken fans.

One fan, third-year biochemistry student Debi Pan, loves
Awaken’s harmonizing talent. "A lot of times when they have slow
songs, I’m just amazed at how beautiful it is. Like when they sang
‘The Star Spangled Banner’ (at the Arizona State basketball game),
it was just beautiful. I try to go to as many performances as I
can."

As for the future, the members of Awaken want to increase their
campus following and become more involved in community service.
They hope to promote social awareness by singing at benefits and
fundraisers.

Whether the group sings at the White House or in Pauley
Pavilion, as Payette says, "(their) main goal is just to have fun
singing and to create enjoyment for other people. That’s why it
doesn’t really matter where (they) sing."

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