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GCU Club Acapella hosts Arizona Acapella Festival for first time

April 18, 2019

All-day event Saturday culminated with rousing concert at Canyon Activity Center

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

They’ve become masters at presenting entertaining campus showcases for three years now.  So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when they wowed them with one on a state level.

In an all-day event that showcased two of the brightest, brand-new buildings on campus, as well as Lopes Way and the club itself, Grand Canyon University Club Acapella hosted the Arizona Acapella Festival (AZAF) for the first time ever Saturday on the GCU campus.  The event saw nearly 150 acapella students from both high school and college converge on the campus for several hours for seminars and breakout sessions, and culminated with a collective concert early Saturday evening.  All four major state universities – GCU, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona – sent multiple acapella groups, and they were joined by acapella squads from two southern Arizona-based high schools:  Ironwood Ridge from Oro Valley, and Walden Grove from Sahuarita.

For the incoming groups, the event was a chance to improve their knowledge of the craft, as well as get a huge opportunity to harmonize with other groups at the end of the day.  For the Lopes, who agreed to take on the role of hosts back in October, and had been planning the event intensely for weeks, it was a chance to show how far they’ve come since their inception in 2016.

“Our group gathered early (Saturday), and had a phenomenal time getting things set up,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Philip Carr.  “We then had some bagels, and then… we waited for some people to show up.”

Once the other schools started arriving, the Lopes began the festival with an opening session for everyone at the brand-new Canyon Activity Center, then sent a trail of singers from the CAC to the also-brand-new Colangelo College of Business building for some breakout sessions.

“Each student that comes to AZAF has an agenda of their own,” said Carr.  “Some want to learn how to arrange music, or compete well at festivals, or there’s an interest in harmonizing, ‘beat box’ or vocal percussion.  The breakout sessions were designed to inform and inspire the attendees to help augment their own individual acapella ensembles.”

That was where the Lopes’ Acapella group’s planning was put to the test, since they were charged with finding the right fit for each instructor.

“We had put out a request for people with specialization that thought they could bring value to the festival,” Carr said.  “We had people from other schools with different levels of expertise that were seminar leaders, and each leader – either by themselves or with another person – lead the sessions.”

There were a few tough decisions the Lopes had to make.  First, they had numerous people that wanted to lead the ‘beat box’ seminar, but they had to just choose one.  More importantly, once the breakout sessions were over, it was time to send everyone back to the CAC to add another line on the growing list of uses for the facility:  concert hall.  It had never hosted a group of singers in its three-month infancy, but the singers found out just how well it lent itself to it.

“It’s an open room that worked beautifully for our application,” Carr said.  “The school’s tech team did a masterful job of mixing, and working with every one of the ensembles during sound check to facilitate their performances.  Compared to facilities that we’ve used on other campuses, this was far and away the nicest accommodation of anything we’ve ever seen in AZAF.”

Even though GCU Club Acapella might be considered (in Carr’s own words) the “Johnny Come Lately ensembles” among the long, storied histories of the other acapella groups around the Grand Canyon State, Carr was ecstatic with his team’s performance in planning the event and performing their songs next to the other teams.

“We have some wonderful student leaders within our club, and most of my assignments were delegating things out to them.  It was a total team effort to plan, and (club president) Sedona Tracey did a wonderful job,” remarked Carr.  “And of all of our performing all year long, every one of our ensembles hit a home run at this festival.”

The response to how the event went was immediate from the AZAF, since the Lopes have already been asked to host next year’s event… and possibly beyond. “We don’t want to dominate the location for future years, but if they want to come here, we’d be thrilled to host them,” beamed Carr.  “It’s really quite an honor to be well-received like this from the other university ensembles.”