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Close Harmony, Close Friends: Lander’s New Barbershop Quartet Brings Students Together

Lander BarberCats singingWhile they can’t offer an actual shave and a haircut, the BarberCats at Lander University are here to entertain the Lander campus community with their unique sound of four-part barbershop-style harmony.

“I think we sound good together,” said Demarcus Williams, a recent Lander graduate from Hopkins who sings baritone for the new quartet. “I did men’s choir all throughout high school, so when Silas brought up the opportunity for us to do barbershop, it kind of hit home.”

Though the students involved are all members of Old Main Singers (the Department of Music’s chamber choir), the BarberCats are completely student-run. The group was founded by Silas Schiera, a senior music major from Greenwood who sings bass. Schiera recruited the group’s three other members from the Old Main Singers, and the quartet began practicing together on a weekly basis throughout the 2023-24 academic year. “We are doing BarberCats completely independently of any class,” Schiera said. “We’re self-directed, we pick our own music, and it’s really fun to do.”

Yet while the group is student-driven, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t found support from the University. In fact, the BarberCats have been encouraged by their faculty to practice together, and to learn from one another. They even gave their debut performance at a Music Department concert last semester - the first of many more to come in the 2024-25 academic year.

“The Music Department has always supported our endeavors with this barbershop quartet,” said Schiera, “by encouraging us to sing in the community, sing for the school, and providing support to us with music, listening, with suggesting improvements, things like that.”

Forming a new student group on campus - whether a new music ensemble or an interest organization - is one of the benefits of choosing to study at Lander University. While there are several ways students can choose to get involved on campus, students can easily find support in starting their own club if there isn’t one that currently fulfills their academic and co-curricular interests.

“Professors do get excited when we come with ideas,” said Davison Rizzo, a junior music education major from Summerville who sings tenor. “I think the fact that we can do this and start this [new ensemble] out of the blue says a lot about how much you can start even at Lander.”

If you listen closely, you may notice that the BarberCats’ harmony has a distinctive “crunch” to it. Barbershop style is defined by its “crunchiness,” according to Rizzo, and this is when the different tones are so close together in pitch that it creates a vibration.

“Our sound is really cool,” said Ben Bagwell, a junior music major from Greenwood who sings the lead. “Each of us have our own distinct, unique voices, and what’s really cool about it is that, when we come together in these songs that we do, it just sounds like almost one voice... that’s how you know the sound is really good. That’s when the group really has a good chemistry together in barbershop.”

“It’s four male voices in very, very close, tight-knit harmonies,” added Schiera, “and you’re not going to find those harmonies anywhere else except for barbershop singing.”

And those close harmonies have made four close friends on Lander’s campus, who have not only grown as musicians through their regular rehearsals, but have also grown has individuals. “When we started, we didn’t know each other as well,” said Rizzo. “I didn’t know Ben, I didn’t know Demarcus as well, I knew Silas because I had known him from a year before, but I didn’t know them personally at all before we started.”

Though the group will need to find a replacement for Williams, who graduated in May, they already have their eyes set on more performances upon returning to campus this fall - like singing the National Anthem at a home basketball game, or other special events in Uptown Greenwood.

Potential concerts aside, however, simply being part of the BarberCats gave them an opportunity to collaborate, take charge over their learning environment, offer criticisms to one another and perfect their craft. “Being in this quartet is some of the most fun that I’ve had,” said Bagwell.

Lander University’s Department of Music provides students with the individualized instruction needed to become professional musicians, gifted educators and effective leaders in their workplaces and communities. Learn more and apply now at www.lander.edu/music.

 

 

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