[by Jessica Noss ’14]
While MITSO, MITWE, and Chamber Chorus all have a very high level of musicality and are full of virtuosic musicians, my favorite group is Techiya. As an a capella group, Techiya does not have any professor as a director or musical advisor. Techiya is made up of a mix of undergrads, grad students, and other people, some of whom go to other colleges or are friends of MIT members. Most of them are Jewish, but a few (such as me) aren’t. Many of our songs are in Hebrew, so it is definitely helpful to speak Hebrew, but it’s not at all necessary. In the past, most of the non-Jewish members had at least some connection to Judaism; they auditioned for Techiya because they wanted to be in Techiya, not because they wanted to be in the Chorallaries. But not me. I didn’t have a clue what Jewish music was. I didn’t know that most Jewish music was in Hebrew or Yiddish, and I didn’t know whether Israeli was a language, a religion, or a culture (it’s the third). All I knew was I wanted to be in an a capella group, and since Techiya was the only one I got into, it would have to do.
Techiya’s Fall 2010 Concert, “Once Upon a Techiya”
It turned out to be a great fit. I’m not really a fan of pop music, but many a capella groups sing pop music because that’s what attracts an audience. Techiya, on the other hand, sings a variety of music, from slow liturgies to jazz to a song about a drunken rabbi involving violins, a clarinet, drums, and other instruments. Violins and drums in an a capella group, you ask?!? Yep. A-capella violins (sing “hunv” through your teeth). Vocal percussion. Before hearing the Chorallaries, I had never heard vocal perc before. Yes, there were always beat-boxers in talent shows, but to me it was just a guy making a bunch of noise while the girls in the audience screamed. But vocal perc in a capella music really transforms a song. It’s what makes a capella pop music possible.
Techiya performing in Attleboro, Spring 2011
Techiya is also a very social group; currently there are fifteen members, and we’re all fairly close. The rehearsals are much more informal than those run by a professor, and there’s always time to talk and just have fun. We choose our songs democratically and arrange most of them ourselves. This allows us to add in whatever special effects we want (such as a-capella violins) and write the song so it works with the current members.
Just to be complete in describing my freshman year music experiences, I should mention music classes. Last semester I took 21M.011 (Introduction to Western Music) to satisfy part of the communication requirement. The class is essentially a music history class, tracing classical music back to its roots in Gregorian chant, then going through all the major composers up to the twentieth century. It’s really fun, and very educational. This semester, I’m taking 21M.302 (Harmony and Counterpoint II). If you took AP Music Theory in high school and still remember most of the material, you can probably skip 21M.301 (Harmony and Counterpoint I) by asking the 302 professor. Both 301 and 302 include weekly sight-singing and piano labs. In 302, we analyzed lots of pieces, we reviewed figured bass, part-writing, and voice-leading, we learned about some fancy chords (such as augmented sixths), and we learned about theme and variations. The final project is to compose a theme and variations which will be performed by a string quartet on the last day of class. This class is also very fun, and I would highly recommend it.
I love music. That said, however, taking a music class and being in three music groups is not a good idea. It can be very grueling having 8.5 hours of rehearsal and music class in one day. But if you’re a freshman on pass/no record, I say go for it. It’s good to know your limit and to try out different groups. If I had chosen to only be in one or two groups each semester, as many people recommended, I would keep wishing I could join more groups and wondering what the other groups were like.
If you want to be in something, you just have keep trying. Sometimes, you have to accept a different group and hope it turns out well. Othertimes, you just have to wait until the time is right and they need more members. Or who knows, maybe if you weren’t good enough to get in the first time, you’ll improve by participating in other groups. If your dream is to be a Chorallary someday, just keep auditioning. I don’t expect to ever get into the Chorallaries, but I know I won’t get in if I don’t keep trying. But maybe next year I’ll take it easier and not do 5+ auditions on one day.