Founded in 2002, A Cub Bella is the premier female a cappella vocal group at Missouri State University. A Cub Bella president Jessica Durham and the group’s publicity director Shelby Graham joined us in-studio to talk about their fall concert “Bellas Reloaded,” which takes place Saturday December 2nd at 7:00pm in MSU’s Plaster Student Union Theater.
A Cub Bella was formed in 2002, says Shelby Graham. “We just celebrated our 15-year anniversary last spring.” She says the concert’s title, “Bellas Reloaded,” indicates the ensemble’s attempt to “bring a new perspective to the group this year.” Adds Jessica Durham, “With the world changing all the time, whether it’s in music or in our daily lives, or even broader—literally looking into the world—it’s just good to have a ‘reloaded’ perspective. So that’s what we’re going for: how you can ‘reload’ yourself, reload your mentality and always move forward and find the good... and use that good to change yourself and the world.” (Well, that, and they’ve “reloaded” the group with new singers to replace graduating students!)
A Cub Bella has always been a student-run organization, with no specific departmental affiliation at MSU. “One of our main goals is community outreach,” says ensemble president Jessica Durham. For example, smaller sub-groups from the ensemble were performing at Springfield high schools the day before the big public concert. “We obviously do schools—a lot of high schools. We’ve done elementary schools. We also have done weddings, and we do other gigs such as singing around on campus for national anthems, or if a group needs us to open for them.”
There are currently 14 members of A Cub Bella. They prefer to keep the maximum number of singers limited to 18, so there are still openings available in the group. Recruitment of new members is, says PR director Shelby Graham, “though a lot of publicity. We do a lot of social media that I try to upkeep. We also do events where we hand out audition material.”
In fact, auditions are coming up Monday December 4th at 7:00pm in Ellis Hall room 202. (See below for contact information if you’re interested.)
One element of “reloading” A Cub Bella has engaged in this school year is new, updated repertoire. “Usually we have a song called ‘Gospel’ that we do every year,” says Shelby Graham, “but we’ve decided to something a little bit different this year and branch out from what we normally do.”
At their fall concert, they’ll perform some holiday songs, according to Jessica Durham. “We’re also doing some songs that were popular on the radio over the summer, some that were popular a year ago. A lot of recent stuff, but a lot of ‘oldies but goodies’ too.” They’ll also sing a couple of holiday songs that the professional a cappella group Pentatonix recorded on their first Christmas album—complete with body percussion and beatboxing vocal effects. “That makes it fun to watch,” says Jessica Durham. “Their arrangements aren’t impossible to learn, but their harmonies are extremely tight. They have such a good sound that honestly, it’s hard to try and replicate that. But we do the best we can.”
Admission to the concert will be $7 general admission, or $5 with student ID—and that means any student, not just MSU, they assure me.
Coming up in the spring 2018 semester, A Cub Bella will participate in the Varsity Vocals ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) competition in Plaster Student Union on the MUS campus. It’s an international competition that showcases student a cappella singing, with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals held in a bracket system from January to April each year. “So it is what you see in (the movie) Pitch Perfect, but less dramatic!” jokes Durham. Missouri State is hosting the first round of the 2018 ICCA. “So,” says Graham, “we’ll actually be competing with the Beartones and Hibernotes (MSU all-male and co-ed a cappella groups respectively). We love ‘em—it’s friendly, healthy competition!”