WAC creates its own a cappella group for VoiceJam April 14-15

WAC creates its own a cappella group for VoiceJam April 14-15

“A cappella music is more like a rock band and less of a choir,” says Jim Bob Loyd. “Yes, everyone is singing, but the trick is, we are actively feeding off of each other’s energy, responding to each other in the moment. We’re putting on a show rather than singing in a formal concert.”

Loyd knows about the musical style made wildly popular by TV shows like “Glee” and movies like “Pitch Perfect.” He fell in love with it when Blue Ten from Ole Miss sang at his high school and since then has started a college a cappella group, assisted high schools and colleges that wanted to perform a cappella and written music for the genre.

Now, he’s leading the Walton Arts Center’s first a cappella group, WACappella, which will debut at this year’s VoiceJam A Cappella Festival April 14-15.

“We are so excited to showcase these local singers and vocal percussionist in WACappella,” says Sara Broom Jones, WAC learning programs and festivals specialist. “There is a lot of talent in Northwest Arkansas, and it’s great to be able to give our adult age performers the opportunity to shine.”

Fourteen local singers were selected via audition and will present an original arrangement created by world-renowned a cappella composer Rob Dietz while audiences wait for the results of the VoiceJam competition April 15. The weekend also includes a performance April 14 by headliner Duwende (see the previous page) and a selection of workshops for singers during the day April 15.

Selected for WACappella were Jennifer Bray, Edward Mountz and Allison Earhart from Bentonville; Alex Fry and Elizabeth Rogers from Bella Vista; Dekarius Dawson, De’Von Smith, Diane Higgins, Henry Aggus and Kate Jackson from Fayetteville; Erick Amaya from Fort Smith; Reagan Wray from Rogers; and Kendal Strong and Alex Franco from Springdale.

“I remember hearing about the VoiceJam competition in 2019 after the fact and then getting major (fear of missing out) FOMO,” says Aggus, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas. “When I heard about it again this time, I knew I couldn’t miss my chance.”

Aggus considers himself a singer first, although he has appeared in many regional musicals and plays.

“Singing came extremely easily to me but acting has been an acquired skill,” he says.

Edward Mountz, a student at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, says he’s an actor first, but “I’m a sucker for complex and beautiful harmonies. Singing in an a cappella scene in a production of ‘Something Rotten,’ followed by singing in the quartet in a production of ‘The Music Man’ made me realize that more than anything. A cappella has a ton of complex and beautiful harmonies.

“The appeal to me as a theatrical actor is the fact that you still have to perform,” he adds. “You can’t just get up on stage and sing your part with a blank expression; you have to be in the moment. You are performing, and that is what I love to do. Go out there, and entertain people. Tell them a story. Something that will stick with them.”

At the time of this writing, the singers had met via Zoom and been assigned their “homework,” “to learn our vocal part for the song we will be performing,” Aggus explains. “A cappella requires a lot of work outside of rehearsal, but that is the beauty of it. I love a challenge.”

“I hope that our group is able to have a good time performing together and that the audience can see that,” Loyd says. “I hope that this helps others to see that a cappella is ready to have its place in Northwest Arkansas. The big goal is to keep singing together, build interest, and create more groups.”

“If these singers choose to continue to sing together, I would love to support them on that journey,” agrees Jones. “Music brings people together.”



WHEN — Duwende performs at 8 p.m. April 14; the six-choir competition starts at 7:30 p.m. April 15

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10 for Duwende; $27 for the competition; $29 for a combo ticket

INFO — 443-5600; waltonartscenter.org

BONUS — A full slate of workshops is scheduled for April 15 at a cost of $10.

Categories: Music