Interview: The Wash U Stereotypes, Best A Cappella Group in the Midwest
Thanks to Glee, singing groups are getting a lot more attention these days. However, a lot of St. Louisans might not realize the singing talent right under our noses -- Washington University alone is home to more than a dozen a cappella groups, one of which recently won a Midwest semifinal competition and is now headed to the finals in New York City on April 16.
Jae Choe Stereotypes singing an arrangement of "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler.
The group calls themselves the Stereotypes, and it typically performs highly energetic, highly creative singing and dancing routines while clad in brightly colored ties that, when put together, form a rainbow. Michael Schwartz and Michael Shabot, two of the Stereotypes, took some time to talk to A to Z about the competition, helping their friend propose to his girlfriend in song and their favorite part of collegiate life -- the Stereotypes.
*The Stereotypes performing "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars
Chrissy Wilmes: First and foremost, how many a cappella groups are there at Wash. U.?
Michael Shabot: There are thirteen.
Wow! I had no idea there were that many. What differentiates the groups?
Michael Schwartz: Each group has their own focus. You have your coed groups, your all-male groups, your all-female groups, and you have some groups that specialize in certain areas. Like, we have a group that focuses only on Jewish music, Christian group, a Disney group, a classical group, an all-Asian group...
Shabot: ...an all-Indian group.
Which of these does the Stereotypes fit?
Shabot: The Stereotypes is an all-male group, and we really just try to push ourselves as performers and [to] really interact with ourselves and also with the audience, and putting on a meaningful show.
Schwartz: One of the reasons that we're called the Stereotypes is because we try to not fit the stereotype of an a cappella group. We sing from all genres, from musical theater to R&B to classical to rap.
How long has the Stereotypes group been around?
Shabot: We're celebrating our ten-year anniversary on April 30 in Graham Chapel at Wash. U. So it's been ten years, since 2001.
How long have you been singing with a cappella groups?
Shabot: There are members of all sorts in the group. There are some people that joined the group and this is the first time that they've ever sung, there are people that have been singing since they were five years old. We definitely have a mix within the group. A lot of the older members had never done anything close to what collegiate a cappella is.
Schwartz: And we have people in our group who have literally never sang in an organized music group until college.
As far as competing goes, I know you guys are going on to the finals, and congratulations! That's awesome.
Schwartz and Shabot: Thank you!
For those of us who are maybe not as as familiar with a cappella as we are with other collegiate competitions, can you tell us a little bit about the competition?
Shabot: There are five regions in the U.S.: the South, the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic, the West and the Midwest. Within the Midwest, I know there's an application process to get even into the quarterfinals, which is the first performance round. And they weed through different groups and decide on the best. There were 38 groups in ours; typically it ranges from 38-48 groups.
Schwartz: There's one semifinal per region, and it's the top two groups from the quarterfinal form that region. And then the top one, the first place from each regional semifinal, moves on to the final in New York City. So, we took first place at that Midwest semifinal.
Are the finals always in New York City?
Shabot: They've been in New York City the past few years, ever since the renovations were completed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Is the competition televised, or is there anywhere that we can watch online?
Schwartz: I don't think so, no.
Shabot: A lot of the videos will probably be posted afterwards on YouTube.
Where can we catch you performing in St. Louis?
Schwartz: Our spring concert is April 30 at Graham Chapel at Wash. U. It's actually our ten-year anniversary concert, so we're bringing back a lot of alumni, including the founding members of the group who are coming back to sing with us.