The high school’s a cappella groups, A Cappella Anonymous, Renegade A Cappella, Ladies First A Cappella, and Inchordination A Cappella, serve as an extended family for singers.
In his nineteenth year at the high school, Choir Director Dr. Kevin McDonald, continues to build lifelong connections with his students and show them the power of a community with shared passions. A cappella, which was first offered as an academic course option at the high school, and met during the school day with twenty students, motivates students to work together and explore their love of music.
Now an extracurricular activity, a cappella fosters this same dedication though it’s now fueled solely by students at the high school.
McDonald intentionally avoids competing at high school level competitions. Instead, students focus their attention on team building and improving their individual skills through practice and creative freedom. McDonald’s students leave the high school with vocal skills to sing amongst the best at colleges, regardless of their lack of competition experience.
“I have a very strong philosophy here. I want kids to sing because they love singing, and because they love singing with each other. Not because they have to beat another high school,” said McDonald.
This doctrine proves effective for the majority of alumni from the high school, as demonstrated by their ability to walk into elite a cappella groups at colleges such as Northeastern and Harvard. Auditioning for these singing troupes is a daunting task when transitioning from a school of 1,000 students to nearly 30-40,000. For most, this challenge might deter them from the audition process. However, the bond students build with their music and each other enables them to withstand the competition, and attempt to sing wherever they are able. Current a cappella members have established connections with their troupes so much that community is their favorite aspect of a cappella.
“My favorite thing about being in Ladies First is definitely the community that we uphold and foster,” said Gwendolyn Brown ’23, one of the business leaders of Ladies First A Cappella. “A cappella has been such a welcoming part of the high school community, and I could not feel more at home anywhere else.”
The 2022 “Acatober” a cappella concert was a great success and fulfilled the goals of collaboration and community that the music department envisioned several years ago.
Acatober is a long standing tradition where the high school’s a cappella groups feature their current arrangements, and established college groups come to perform. When choosing the guests, McDonald seeks out colleges that can set a good example for current students while being sure their talent and achievements are attainable. This year, on October 21 and 22, the high schools’ alumnae Eleni Livingston ’22, and Chloe Cohen ’21 returned to the high school as members of college level a cappella troupes. Inviting alumni to sing at Acatober reinforces community ties and welcomes new members.
“There’s a desire from the Wellesley community to see one of their own on stage,” said McDonald. “I’m always looking for groups that will speak to the greater community.”
McDonald constantly looks for ways to create a culture and community at the high school. He tries to reach the entire school, positively represent the Wellesley public schools, and impact as well as uplift others through musical celebration.
“I think that the whole purpose is when we bring in guest groups, we are welcoming them into our culture. We’re welcoming them to become part of our musical family. And then we try to grow from there,” said McDonald.
Balancing college and extracurricular passions can be a difficult task, but when achieved effectively, the results are life altering and valuable. The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones, established in 1985, is an all gender, student run, award winning a cappella group that functions as a democracy. The company hopes to inspire new or seasoned singers to audition and join their caring, rewarding, and stress-relieving community.
“We’re a diverse and dynamic family, brought together by our love of music,” said the Veritones.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones perform contemporary arrangements all over the country, as well as one concert each semester in Harvard’s historic Sanders Theater. Photo courtesy of Jacob Brown, Harvard University.
The group prides itself on their guiding principles, such as a democratic song selection, unique and personal arrangements, and rehearsing as well as performing as a unit. To counteract the chaos of college, the group tailors their rehearsal schedule around everyone’s busy classes and extracurricular schedules. Members commit on a semester-by-semester basis, as to create a balanced schedule for participants.
When speaking about the community dynamic and atmosphere, Jacob Brown ’23, the Business Manager, described valuing the lifelong position one holds once a part of the Veritones community. The members treat each other as a family, filled with appreciation for one another.
“Our time in this group brings people together from all over the place into one little loving household,” said Brown.
Just as McDonald stresses the importance of singing as a means to interpersonal connection and a pathway to fulfillment for the individual, Brown encourages current high school students to give new opportunities a chance.
“Never stop singing. Always practice your craft, and never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something,” said Brown. “Always give things a try, even if it seems scary. You never know what could happen.”
Modes of contact The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones:
Facebook: The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones
Youtube: Veritones (Veritones A Cappella)
Spotify: The Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones
Similarly to the female run Ladies First a cappella group at the high school, Pitch, Please!, a women-centered treble a cappella group from Northeastern University, aims to establish a positive singing environment and inspire while representing a wide demographic of women.
“We are always trying to push the boundaries of traditional a cappella and defy expectations of what a women centered group can accomplish,” said President Jessica Garcia.
Pitch, Please! attributes their progress and success to the support and dedication that exists amongst the group members. Photo courtesy of Julia Chase, Northeastern University.
Founded in the fall of 2012, Pitch, Please! immediately entered into competition, competing in their first International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). By 2016, the troupe released their first album, labeled Aurum, which was nominated for four Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. They’ve received “Most Powerful Message” placards in the Boston Sings’ Scholastic Competition (BOSS).
As one of six a cappella groups at Northeastern, the ambition and connection across members of Pitch, Please! sets them apart. Whether in the depths of COVID-19 or in a normal school setting, the group constantly works on recording projects and music videos, rehearsing for competitions and live performances and creating social media campaigns.
“The standard for support and care we have really affects the group dynamic and is what allows us to find success and work so hard. We all so genuinely love each other, and that makes Pitch, Please! a really special place to be,” said Garcia.
This year, the Pitch, Please!’s performance at the high school empowered the audience, and was representative of our collective student bodies.
“We love performing at high schools with our whole hearts! Getting to bring our music to high schoolers, like the students of Wellesley High, means the world to us because we get to share our passion in a way that (hopefully) inspires young musicians to keep crafting their art,” said Chase.
Modes of contact for The Northeastern Pitch, Please:
Facebook: Pitch, Please
Youtube: Pitch, Please! A Cappella
Spotify: Pitch, Please!
This past summer, the Natural Resource Commission (NRC) voted 3-2 in favor of adding locker rooms, a new sound system, and new lights up over Darcey Field. This decision was a crucial stepping stone for the plan to renovate Darcey Field, yet the fight for lights is far from over. The town did not permit the construction of lights until enough funds were raised. That is when the Wellesley Field Fund launched its campaign to raise 1.5 million dollars to cover the cost of all the renovations.
The plan will include a new lighting system, which will allow athletes to play night games, as well as a new sound system, locker rooms, bathrooms, and a concession stand. Leading the charge is Mr. Jerry Nigro, a Wellesley community member and youth sports coach. Nigro participated in the effort to renovate Darcey in 2015 and is back again to try and make a positive change in the community.
“We have waited a couple of years for the opportunity to put lights up. We have seen the positive impact that the field has had on not just the high school, put the whole community, and the lights will further allow us to come together,” said Nigro
Talk of lights began back in 2015 when talks of renovating Darcey were just beginning, yet the Wellesley Natural Resource Commission voted against the lights. Mr. Jay McHale, Chair of the NRC cited several reasons.
“When talk of renovation began, there was a big question on whether to add lights or not. Newton North had just gone over budget on renovations of their school and field and ultimately scared some community members from agreeing to the lights,” said McHale.
The town renovated the turf and track and agreed to revisit the topic of lights at a later date, and six years later, the NRC approved the construction of the lights. This decision has been a long time coming, especially for student-athletes like Darren Jimenez, ’24, who plays football for the high school.
“I think the lights are important because sports are a part of many kids’ lives in WHS, and being able to play night games would be electric,” said Jimenez.
Concerns for the lights have been prevalent since the idea began to service in 2015. Locals expressed concerns for the environment and local wildlife and the impact that putting these lights up would have on the wildlife surrounding them. The NRC ensured that environmental issues, as well as traffic, noise, visual impact, and pedestrian safety, were considered when curating the plan. Feedback from neighbors was crucial in the processes, and the NRC worked diligently to accommodate their needs.
On September 13, a final update was released by the school committee regarding Darcey Field. The lights on the field will be for the high school only, and there will be a limit of fifteen-night games, which will not be inclusive of playoff games or six night practices. The lights will go on as-needed basis to complete shoulder season day games and practices and will also be used for the high school’s graduation. Any additional field use will be subject to the NRC’s discretion.
The plan will not only light up Darcey Field but also replace the lights over the Hunnewell Field in exchange for the more energy-efficient Musco lights, the same lights would be placed over Darcey.
Nigro emphasized that community backing will be key in getting the lights up,
“We will be able to install the lights in six to eight weeks, so the sooner we receive funding the sooner we can put them up. If all ends of the community chip in we will be able to tackle this.”
The goal is to have funding raised by Thanksgiving to have the lights up by the spring. Nigro urges all members of the community to do what they can to support so we can create a stronger bond as a community.
See Ben Galligan ’23’s article on the lights in November 2021 here.