A cappella group prepares for first EP to take flight

OwlCappella | LUIS FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ / TTN

Time has flown for the co-ed a cappella choir of Temple Owls, who will celebrate their newly released EP, titled “Owl or Nothing,” with a concert March 30 at Rock Hall.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” said Kevin Chemidlin, a junior computer science major and president of OwlCappella. “Now we’ve reached the top of the roller coaster, and we can let our hands go and enjoy the ride.”

After being founded in Fall 2010, members of OwlCappella have seen the group progress from its early days opening for already established a cappella groups at Temple like the all-male Broad Street Line, to now recording their audiences’ favorite songs for their new EP, available online on March 26.

OwlCappella is no stranger to performing under pressure, after singing for Mayor Michael Nutter and at a Phillies game, along with performing at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Recording “Owl or Nothing” with Silvertone Studios in Ardmore, Pa., however, presented challenges of its own that ultimately united the group, members said.

Each group member was recorded individually at the studio, singing his or her section’s part of every song. The group’s music director, Tyler Poletis, a senior music education major, conducted each singer during their personal recordings. Individual recordings allowed OwlCappella to edit its songs more effectively, though it was a time-consuming and ultimately more expensive process.

Luckily for OwlCappella, it surpassed its fundraising goals with the help of the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, where donors can contribute a desired amount to the a cappella group’s cause. In order to provide an interactive experience for donors, OwlCappella set up a reward system for donors based on the contributed sum.

“We [wanted donors] to get involved as well,” said Gray Tennis, junior sociology major and OwlCappella’s vice president, who led fundraising efforts, said. “So it’s not just donating to a faceless cause.”

Five dollars earned donors a personal thank-you email, with  $25 earning them an automatic copy of the EP upon its release. Donations of $500 garnered a private performance.

“You can do more with the sound,” Chemidlin said, explaining the benefits of OwlCapella’s costly recording tactics. “You have more control. You can edit sounds. In a song, if you want the sopranos to be louder, you can just bring them up, whereas if it was all together, there’s no way to do that.”

Some pressure resulted from the individual recordings, but Chemidlin said every member was well-prepared and ready to perform.

“I’m going to remember [the experience] really fondly for the rest of my life,” Tennis said.

OwlCappella members always manages to have fun together, Tennis added, even when they are hard at work and dedicating large amounts of their time to group efforts.

Chemidlin agreed and said that OwlCappella has “never been closer as a group.”

“It was kind of like a retreat,” Chemidlin said. “It was a cool setting because [the recording studio] was a house. It was one of the most fun weeks I’ve ever had, so much more than I thought it was going to be.”

The recording studio itself is located in the home of Alfred Goodrich, the producer and engineer at Silvertone Studios.

Kevin Chemidlin, president of OwlCappella performs at the second annual a cappella showcase on Feb. 19 at the Temple Performing Arts Center. | LUIS FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ / TTN
Kevin Chemidlin, president of OwlCappella performs at the second annual a cappella showcase on Feb. 19 at the Temple Performing Arts Center. | LUIS FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ / TTN

“He was such a nice guy,” said Jennifer DiBartolomeo, a junior psychology major.

She added that recording and editing the five songs on the EP was “one of [OwlCappella’s] biggest time commitments,” though significant time is always dedicated to preparing for their concerts.

As one of the original members of the group, DiBartolomeo was drawn to OwlCappella’s co-ed group make-up. Its founder, Bexx Rosenbloom, was a former member of Singchronize, Temple’s only all-female a cappella group, who wanted an a cappella group available to both men and women. An advantage to a co-ed choir is that there is a wider selection of songs to choose from when all vocal parts are included, DiBartolomeo said.

This allowed for a unique selection of songs on their EP, varying from hip-hop/rap songs, to upbeat pop, indie and punk. Chemidlin said that the diversity in song choice on the EP is something he’s immensely proud of. The songs on the EP have been performed by OwlCappella largely last semester, and are considered both group and audience favorites.

Tennis said he hopes the release of the EP will allow OwlCappella to reach more members of the community, particularly since it’s going to be available online starting March 26 through iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Pandora. Chemidlin called the release to the Internet a “huge tool for exposure,” as audiences who enjoy performances will be able to download OwlCappella’s music after the EP’s release.

“I definitely see the performance offers continuing,” Poletis said, referencing the group’s experience singing at past community events. “From here it’ll only go up.”

As the first recorded work by OwlCappella, which obtained all rights to its songs, “Owl or Nothing” will provide a sense of professionalism, as Chemidlin and Tennis both said.

The concert, at 7:30 p.m. on March 30, will debut new songs OwlCappella has been working on, and will be a celebration, Chemidlin said, of the EP’s release. Physical copies of the EP will be sold for the first time for $5 at the concert, which itself is free of charge. Plans to record again are currently in the works, as many group members are excited by the possibility of working on another EP or even full-length album.

“Whatever the group wants to do,” Chemidlin said. “Whatever opportunities come our way, we’ll take advantage of. I know we’ll record again, because that week was just too much fun.”

Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at erin.edinger-turoff@temple.edu.

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