Passers-by hear distant sounds and peer toward the suspected source.
Continuing to seek out the music, they change path and move toward the vocal symphony. Alas, the evidence of a musical arrangement is found and the former passers-by become the audience.
The crowd looks in amazement as the melodies of Coldplay’s “Paradise” echo within the outdoor walls of Sierra Tower and permeate the ears of intrigued on-looking students. The most enchanting fact of it all? The song’s melodies are not performed with instruments, but only with raw human voices.
Established six years ago, CSUN’s a cappella group, Acasola, continues to perform around campus and spread the message of music to the university community.
Acasola, the first coed a cappella group based out of CSUN, is a completely student-run organization. The group aims to teach its members leadership, planning and following skills, according to group member Hannah Pham, 20, a junior studying communicative disorders.
Pham has been with Acasola for two years and found the group during her research for potential colleges.
“I wanted to be part of a collegiate a cappella group, and I found that CSUN had Acasola,” Pham said. “My freshman year, I made it my objective to find them and audition for them, and here I am (starting my third year).”
Joining Acasola can give a student the social experience similar to that of Greek life with music as the focus, according to Pham.
Miranda Mendoza, a sophomore majoring in communication studies, also had her eye on Acasola when she applied to CSUN.
“As soon as I got into CSUN, I knew Acasola would be part of my college experience,” said Mendoza, who is now in her second year with the group.
Acasola makes the bonding experience a priority for its members by holding retreats and offering an entire house for the group to use. Founders Chase DeLuca and Tille Spencer bought “The Acasola House” in 2006 to give its members (and non-members) a place to rehearse, relax and even live.
The walls of the Acasola house are draped with group memorabilia and framed awards the group has won. Portraits of former members hang in the main room, much like a fraternity or sorority displays photos of their brothers and sisters. A piano sits in the corner, and hanging from the dark wood vaulted ceiling just above are individual letters spelling out “Acasola,” with a disco ball in the place of the “O.”
Only one group member currently lives at the Acasola house, while the other tenants are not part of the group. The house is used for group rehearsals, sleepovers and unifying experiences, like Acasola’s “call-back party,” where potential new group members are encouraged to come mix and mingle with existing members in hopes of making a connection.
Aside from performing weekly on campus, Acasola also performs with high school show choirs for recruiting purposes and is available to hire for private concerts, according to the group’s musical director, Mike Elton.
Elton, 22, a senior marketing major, conducts rehearsals and prepares arrangements for Acasola. He also said the group has done flash mobs, gone on tour, competed in the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella and has recently been asked to sing backup for a band.
Perhaps life on the road was the strongest glue of all bonding experiences, since the members slept cozily near each other and lived out of a van while touring, Elton recalled.
“We like to have fun and make music, but we are really all about being good leaders in the community and being a good example,” said Elton, who is starting his second year in Acasola. “I hope I can inspire somebody to take a music lesson or pick up an instrument based on my performance.”
He said he was blown away by his first Earth, Wind and Fire concert and wants to give back that inspiration to others.
The group holds auditions at the beginning of each semester and is always looking to add to their musical family.
When Michael Arceneaux, 19, described the feeling Acasola gives him, the wind was calm. Only the sound of the air vent on the roof of a distant building was heard. He appeared to keep from tearing, his emotional state evident. He lowered his gaze toward the cement, closed his eyes and slowly lifted his head, taking a deep, convicted breath.
“When you’re up there…you feel untouchable,” he said. “I compare it to maybe being superman.”
Arceneaux, a junior theater major, kept tabs on the group through his first semester at CSUN and auditioned for Acasola his second semester. He is now the president of the group and wants to maintain the high caliber at which the group is held.
“I really want to keep the Acasola name going,” Arceneaux said. “I want it to keep the title and legacy, because it’s a legend we are going to have to keep among this campus.”
Samantha Johnson, a sophomore screenwriting major, found Acasola on Facebook and is now in her second year with the group. Johnson, Acasola’s business manager, credits the group with taking her out of her comfort zone of theater into the up-close-and-personal world of a cappella.
“In theater, you’re on a stage, the lights are really bright and you can’t see anybody,” Johnson said. “But the weird and awesome thing about a cappella is that everyone is right in your face, and you get to watch them experience it with you.”
Students can be part of the Acasola experience by auditioning for the group or attending their “noonies,” or noontime performances, every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. under Sierra Tower.