VCU vocal ensembles on the prowl for fresh talent

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum editor

VCU singers should be advised to get their chops ready – this weekend, two of the university’s vocal ensembles are auditioning for new members.

Student-run a capella ensemble Notochords, whose repertoire this year includes Lady Gaga and The Clash, will hear hopeful newcomers the same day as VCU Department of Music’s Festival Singers, who are set to travel to Vienna this June to perform Mozart’s Coronation Mass with a full symphony orchestra.

If your glorious voice defies conventional genre barriers, don’t fret – you’ll have time to try out for both.


NOTOCHORDS | Friday, Sept. 10th : 5-10pm, Hibbs 326

Saturday, Sept. 11th : 1-6pm, Hibbs 303


VCU FESTIVAL SINGERS | Friday, Sept. 10th : 2-4pm, Black Music Center, Recital Hall




VCU’s premier a capella group was “founded in 1993 by a bunch of med students with not enough studying to do,” according to the the Notochords website,  (Little-known fact: a “notochord” is actually an embryonic structure that later becomes the skull and spinal column.)

These days, the Notochords family claims representatives from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Allied Health, Engineering, Business, Music and College of Humanities and Sciences – both grad and undergrad.

Readers may remember a number of crowd-favorite Notochord appearances just this past year, including the Intercultural Festival, Relay For Life and VCU School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony, as well as a number of a cappella conferences and competitions.

As for this year, the Notochords will begin opening for VCU basketball games at the Seigel Center. Cassandra Woodcock, Notochords director and MS Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, said the group will also place focus on producing recordings and attending competitions.

Notochord repertoire is consistently updated throughout the year with the freshest “crowdpleasers,” Alexis Merriman, Notochord treasurer and biology pre-med student, said. “Things people sing in the shower.”

“We like to show a new side of the song that is … strictly vocal,” Kendall Humphries, associate director and Mechanical Engineering major, said.  New repertoire this season will include Telephone from Lady Gaga, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie.

At auditions this Friday and Saturday, the Notochords are looking for both vocalists and beatboxers. Vocalists should prepare a verse and chorus of a song that “showcases your talents and range.” Beatboxers will accompany current Notochords members, singing the auditionee’s choice of song, with a 1-2 minute break  that should showcase various skills and sounds.

Check out for more on the Notochords and audition info, or watch performances at their YouTube channel,





VCU Department of Music faculty have invited VCU students of all majors to audition for VCU Festival Singers, who will travel and perform this June in Vienna, Prague and Salzburg.


Dr. John Guthmiller, who heads VCU Music’s Commonwealth Singers, will also head the VCU Festival Singers on the tour, whose climax will be a performance in Vienna of Mozart’s Coronation Mass. The Mass will feature a full orchestra, and faculty members Kenneth Wood and Jim Smith-Parham in solo roles.  Pamela Armstrong, VCU Music alumna and artist with the Metropolitan Opera, will also join the ensemble as a soloist.

“These kinds of experiences can really be life-changing for students,” Guthmiller said, who encourages singers from all majors to audition.  Guthmiller was invited to lead the festival in Vienna after conducting a pre-Olympic choral festival in Beijing and Shanghai in 2008.

In addition to Vienna, VCU students will travel and perform in Salzburg – Mozart’s birthplace – and Prague. Study abroad options are available, including a class on Mozart and his prodigal career.

Singers from across VCU are invited to audition this Friday, and must prepare brief excerpts from the Coronation Mass, which are available on the VCU Festival Singers information page at

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