It’s never easy to be the new kid on campus, but the new a cappella group, Jewkebox, which began August 2012, isn’t doing so bad.
After struggling with scheduling issues and attendance during the fall semester, Jewkebox has come back stronger this spring, becoming an official student organization and holding auditions with the rest of the a cappella groups.
“Our first-ever performance was at the big a cappella concert in February,” said Hilary Klapholz, one of the founding members of Jewkebox and the group’s music director. “It was really exciting to see a lot of things that have been in talks finally come to life.”
Jewkebox, or at least the idea of a Jewish a cappella group, has been in the works for some time.
Klapholz, a junior music education major, knew of several attempts that never got started, but the stars aligned at the beginning of this year when Carly Adelmann became the Jewish Life Director at Temple Hillel.
“[Adelmann] was like, ‘Let’s get this thing started, get the ball rolling,’ and I guess I just needed that extra push from her,” Klapholz said.
While she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Adelmann had started a Jewish a cappella group, so she was all for the idea when Klapholz mentioned it to her. She began to meet with students interested, including Aimee Goldstein, a junior theater major and Jewkebox’s business manager.
Adelmann may have gotten the ball rolling, but she’s quick to make it clear the students have done most of the work in getting Jewkebox together.
“They really started it, it’s really their project and their baby and I’m just their biggest fan,” Adelmann said. “I’ve just been giving them support when they need it.”
Although Jewkebox is a small group with 10 singers – the average a cappella group has around 15 singers – members said they have a tight sound and a passion for performing. And thanks to that, they’ve been able to advance as a group very quickly. With only a handful of performances under its belt, most having been at Temple, Jewkebox was invited to sing at the pre-game show for the Philadelphia 76ers on Jewish Heritage Night.
“[Klapholz] and I did a happy dance the first time we were even able to hold auditions and say we’re an official group, so the fact that we’re even able to perform at the Sixers [game] is really awesome,” Goldstein said.
They’ve also performed at several “Serenades at the Circle,” at which the five Temple a cappella groups come together at the Founder’s Circle to perform once a month. In the past week, Jewkebox had the opportunity to sing at Hillel during Friday Night Lights, a dinner for donors and at the Bell Tower for Alumni Weekend.
Although it’s a Jewish a cappella group, the ‘Jew’ in Jewkebox comes not from its membership, which is open to all students, but rather their repertoire, which consists of Hebrew songs such as “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” and “Kol Ha’olam Kulo” and contemporary songs written by artists of Jewish heritage such as Amy Winehouse and P!nk.
But Jewkebox is by no means trying to limit itself with song choices, having also performed Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
“We want to do songs that are fun and we try not to think of that whole Jewish background for everything,” said Dante Lammendola, a junior music education major who arranges Jewkebox’s music along with Klapholtz.
In the future, Jewkebox hopes to include songs from Simon and Garfunkel and Billy Joel, along with an original song by Lammendola, Klapholz said.
“He’s played it on multiple instruments but he composed and arranged it specifically for our group, so that’s really exciting,” Klapholz said. “It’s a really awesome song, kind of a whole Mumford and Sons feel.”
The song should be ready by the next Serenade at the circle, but Lammendola said he was more excited about another arrangement he’s putting together.
“I’m working on [arranging] ‘Stacy’s Mom,’” Lammendola said. “Editing the lyrics to fit in with the Jewkebox theme. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s something to look out for and I think if you listen to it, you’ll be in for a good laugh.”
Jewkebox’s tenure has only just begun and its members have a lot of plans for the future, including more performances in the community, increasing its membership and putting together their own EP someday. But for right now, the members of Jewkebox said they are just glad they’re a part of the scene.
“There was this drunk guy at a party and he was like, ‘Are you part of that Jewish box?’ And I’m like ‘Yes, yes I am,’” Goldstein said.
Lammendola added: “I figured it would be a good way to work on arranging music for an ensemble setting, but I really started to like being in this group. I love a cappella singing now, it’s [a] great experience, I would recommend it to everyone now.”
Nicole Soll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.