R.A.M.ifications alleviates cram week funk

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

Melissa Anderson
Contributing Writer

At the Commons Theater last Sunday night, student a cappella ensemble R.A.M.ifications set out  with their first annual “c(RAM) jam”  to provide what they felt was a much-needed service.

“We’re a week out from finals,” Britt Smith, junior in advertising and R.A.M.ifications director, said. “And … oh God.”

The official R.A.M.ifications Facebook page explains further: “So you know that week before exams when you want to rip your hair out and punch the person closest to you if they drink the last cup of coffee? We know what you’re going through. That’s why we’re here: to help you, and those around you, to tolerate the exams a little better.”

The 19-member ensemble, including two female tenors,  performed for a nearly packed Student Commons Theater, sporting a black and green color scheme and eager smiles. Why green? According to Smith, green compliments every imaginable skin tone – and gold feels “cliche.”

Selections included a cappella renditions of  Pokerface by Lady Gaga, Used to Love You by John Legend, and Paramore’s Misery Buisness.

The ecstatic audience at “c(RAM) jam” had the privilege of enjoying R.A.M.ifications’ very first solo concert. Past performances have either been collaborations with other a cappella groups – such as representatives of William & Mary’s 11 working ensembles or JMU’s seven – or their sporadic and much welcomed appearances in the Compass. (Smith originally coined the name “Compass Singers” when he founded the group last spring.)

“It was scary,” R.A.M.ifications president and junior elementary education major Amy Girardi said. “We had no idea who was gonna actually show up, so we were blown away when the majority of the theatre was full – it was awesome.”

Sunday night’s smart yet electrifying music choices – even an Ingrid Michaelson medley made an appearance – were made entirely democratically: R.A.M.ifications selects their repertoire in a voting process.

“(The music) definitely reflects (all of) our tastes, because we choose it,” Girardi said.

“This is what makes members want to kill each other,” Smith said, noting a recent heated discussion on the inclusion or non-inclusion of Lady Gaga’s “Teeth” (“take a bite of my bad girl meat / take a bit of me, boy / I’m a tough bitch”).

“Long story short, we’re doing it.”

The majority of R.A.M.ifications decision-making, in fact – including selection of soloists or even new members – is done democratically, taking each member’s ideas and opinions into account.

“It really is like we’re a family,” Brenna Boynton, senior English major and R.A.M.ifications alto, said.  “It’s more than you could ask for with a small group of people who sing together three (or) four times a week.”

“It would be kind of hard if you hated each other.”

“That’s definitely the reason I say we’re a family, because we love each other,” Smith said.  “We care very much about each other and that’s what keeps us going more than anything else.”

Smith founded R.A.M.ifications in spring of 2010, following an “itch to direct” after a brief stint with the Notochords, VCU’s other well-loved a cappella ensemble.

“I realize that every group has their own chemistry, (but) I think that … our chemistry is really what sets us apart.  Even though other groups have feelings of fraternity and of being in a family, I think that R.A.M.ifications sort of takes it to the next level.”

Contrary to what their stunning vocal prowess would have you believe, only a single R.A.M.ifications member – soprano Anneliese Grant – studies music as a major. Other members are drawn from all different fields of study, including advertising, film, theatre, mass communications, social justice and journalism, and others.

“I came here as an elementary ed. major (but) I couldn’t live without music – I couldn’t not sing,” said Girardi.  “So I first joined one of the traditional choirs here, but then I was like – I want something more fun. So I saw posters everywhere for the Compass Singers … and the rest is history.”

“We get a lot of that,” Smith said.  “We get a lot of people who are really into music and just have to find an outlet for it. This becomes their outlet.”

In addition to the performance on Sunday, a silent auction followed to raise funds for the R.A.M.ifications semester budget, which goes towards funding performances and getting the group’s name out in the public. Each semester’s activities, according to Smith, amounts to about five thousand dollars in expenses.

Funds are being raised in particular for R.A.M.ification’s upcoming debut CD – which music lovers can expect to see in the near future, said R.A.M.ifications members, pending the collection of four to six thousand dollars in recording costs.

Visit R.A.M.ification’s Facebook page (under “R.A.M.ifications of VCU”) for more information on upcoming performances, as well as links to videos and mp3s.

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