Treble in Paradise, Hat Trick “Sing” Off Seniors In A Cappella Concert

At the close of the school year, graduating seniors were met with the sounds of cheers and tears. However, for a cappella groups, Treble in Paradise (pictured in large photo on front page of Stetson Today) and Hat Trick, graduating seniors were uniquely sent off in song.

Held in Lee Chapel, the A Cappella for Autism Benefit Concert featured both the female and male a cappella groups in their final performance together before the graduation of Stetson’s class of 2016.

Hat Trick 2016
Hat Trick 2016

This would be the last concert where all group members would sing together under the leadership of their musical directors Elizabeth Kent and Christopher Hickey, both music education majors who graduated in May.

In addition to pleasing the crowd with comedic skits and interactions with the audience, Hat Trick showcased the serious strength of the year’s repertoire with arrangements of “Shut Up and Dance,” “All of Me” and most notably, “Stacey’s Mom,” where lyrics were altered as “Story’s Mom” named after the son of Tammy Miller, the former concert choir pianist in attendance.

Treble in Paradise upheld their namesake by stirring up quiet Lee Chapel with soulful vocal deliveries of “Hanging Tree,” “The Cup Song/Flashlight” and “When You Believe,” and spellbinding audience members with nostalgic, powerful solos from Prince of Egypt.

The concert came to a bittersweet close as the seniors from each group were individually and collectively recognized by the new leadership. Kristina Manning, sophomore music education major, and Ryan Kirk, sophomore voice performance major, were elected as the new music directors.

Graduating directors Kent and Hickey.
Graduating directors Kent and Hickey.

Old Hat, New Tricks:

Directing Hat Trick since 2013, Hickey facilitated Hat Trick’s growth by maintaining its legacy for captivating large audiences and promoting Hatter Pride. The group performed at Stetson’s historic first football game in 57 years, singing in front of more than 6,000 people in August 2013.

However, when founded by Stetson alum James Pecar back in 2008, Hat Trick began with a much simpler agenda. “The ensemble was originally just a place for a group of guys to get together and have some fun,” said Hickey. “If they performed for people, it was just an added bonus.” In 2009, the group serenaded Stetson’s new president Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., at the first reception welcoming her to the university. Hickey urged that, with Kirk’s guidance, the group will remember those roots.

“Always remember to have fun in the rehearsals,” said Hickey. “Keep making it a wonderful place for students to unwind and relax during a week that is often too taxing.”

“Though Hat Trick isn’t a fraternity, it is a close-knit family,” said Kirk. “It’s my job to keep that spirit alive through the music we sing, through the gigs we do and through the people we see.”

Causing Treble:

For Treble in Paradise, Kent’s graduation brought more than the loss of the group’s director; it also brought a teary goodbye to the group’s original founder.

“I have been through a variety of emotions. Starting this group was a big factor in my decision to change my major from voice performance to music education,” said Kent. “The group is my baby.”

Graduating members of both a cappella groups.
Graduating members of both a cappella groups.

During her first year at Stetson in 2012, Kent took the initiative to hold auditions, drawing the interest of both music and non-music majors to create an inclusive female a cappella group on campus.

“Having a mix (of students) gives us the opportunity to bond with people outside the music school,” said Kent. “We have had members from every Panhellenic sorority on campus, as well as various club sports teams and other organizations.”

Despite her only being in Treble for a year, Kent is confident in Manning’s ability to drive and facilitate the group’s growth. “She has great ideas for the group as far as expanding to more performance venues, increasing repertoire quantity and eventually competing,” said Kent. “I’m also excited to see how it progresses and grows after I have left.”

“It’ll be a year of transition,” said Manning. “But I would love to focus on just getting out more, doing gigs and letting people know that Treble is here.”

Treble in Paradise 2016
Treble in Paradise 2016

Making Music:

Both Manning and Kirk are hoping to build on the foundation Kent and Hickey left. Understanding the importance of the groups in their own lives, they hope to increase its impact on and for the Stetson community.

“Hat Trick is an opportunity for voice major students preparing to sing opera to get to sing a completely different style of music,” said Hickey.

Ranging from modern pop and alternative rock to barbershop ballads and choral pieces, engaging repertoire is central to the dynamic of both groups.

“For Treble, we’re such a diverse group that it’s really important to pick music that reflects that diversity,” said Manning. “For music majors, it’s a good outlet for girls who want to get together and sing without worrying about a grade. For non-majors, it’s a good way to keep music in their lives without having to pursue it within the school.”

“We like to pull songs we’ve done before to give members of the audience who have seen Hat Trick before something to remember,” said Kirk. “In concerts we invite Hat Trick alumni to come up on stage to sing with us.”

Next concert, those alumni will also include, not only Hickey, but James Erath, Connor Harting, Ian Morin, Brian Rodriguez, and Manuel Rodriguez.

Future directors Manning and Kirk
New directors Manning and Kirk

For Treble in Paradise, alongside Kent, this year’s graduates are Dalles Black, Ilana Brodzki, Jessica Dowen and Ellie Macchionne.

Though the class of 2016 has left large shoes (and vocal parts) to fill, Manning and Kirk are excited to hold auditions in the upcoming fall semester.

“People tend to think that we’re just looking at the way you sound, but so much of an ensemble is about personality,” said Manning. “If we don’t blend together as people, we won’t blend together as an ensemble.”

“The Hat Trick audition has been the same for years. You come in and sing whatever you like,” said Kirk. “We’re not looking for the best singers in the world. We’re looking for good guys who can be a part of something.”

Interested vocalists are encouraged to be as authentic as possible, displaying one’s own personal style.

“It’s important to choose a song that shows who you are. Don’t choose songs based on what you think we’re looking for,” said Manning. “Choose something that will set you apart as a person.”

“But if you are worried about what to sing,” said Kirk. “You can just walk in and we’ll tell you: sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or sing ‘Amazing Grace.’”

When auditioning, the point is to remember the reason for the creation of these groups—to have a good time.

“Hat Trick has always been another venue to sing with people I like,” said Kirk. “That’s what a cappella is really about.”

When asked about joint concerts in the future, both Manning and Kirk recognized the value in their musical partnership.

“Collaboration is some of the most fun you can have as a musician,” said Kirk. “Working with people who aren’t the same as you is one of the best learning experiences you can have.”

“I think it’s important to remember that we’re separate groups and we both have our own strengths,” said Manning. “There’s that cute little rivalry we’ve got going on.”

For more information on next semester’s audition process, please contact Kristina Manning at [email protected] and Ryan Kirk at [email protected].

“Audition,” said Manning. “And if you are a female beat boxer, Treble needs you.”

by Veronica Faison

Video by Stetson Broadcasting