Here at Northeastern there are hundreds of great student organizations to get involved in! We want to highlight some organizations that you may not know, so we’re interviewing members of student organizations to learn a little bit about them and what their club is about. Tune in every week for a new post from The Club Chronicle! 

The Club Chronicle Interview #25: The Downbeats

This interview was conducted in November of 2019 

Can you tell me about yourself and the Downbeats? 

My name is Ryo. I’m a third year bioengineering major. I joined the Downbeats my first semester freshman year, actually my first weekend of college. So it’s been awhile that I’ve been with the Downbeats if you think about it. Our group has been around since 2000, so it’s our 20th anniversary next year. Right now we are 15 members and we are co-ed. Since my second semester in the group I’ve been on eboard. I’ve held the position of PR manager, where I dealt with social media stuff. Currently I’m the treasurer, so I’m getting through figuring out all the stuff about Engage and the new budgeting for all the clubs, I’m sure a lot of clubs are having fun with the new system. I was  also president for the whole year last year. All 6 a cappella groups have their own personality. Ours is being laid back and really enjoying each others company and the music we make while maintaining this low key chill atmosphere. We have a lot of different majors, I’m bio engineering, we have PPE, computer science, journalism. I think it’s great that there’s a lot of different perspectives that go into what makes us who we are. We’re not Berklee we’re not really a music school but we have such a great a cappella community. Northeastern is probably the best a cappella school in the northeast aside from Berklee which I’m very proud of.  Picture of the Downbeats from a Fall 2019 photoshoot. Photo by Victoria Romulo.

How can students get involved in the Downbeats? 

I guess the number one way to get involved is from a spectator perspective. We have lots of shows going on. Every month every group has their own fall and spring showcase. All groups compete in the spring either in ICCAs or something like boss which is a competition based in Boston. Other than that all the groups have their own auditions in the beginning of fall and spring semesters. It is pretty competitive. We probably get around 120 auditionees and we take anywhere between 0 and 3. Lots of people come in and audition. I think from the outside, a cappella is something that’s very unique to American college life. I don’t know how auditioning goes for other musical groups on campus but ours are always the first or second weekend of school. Freshmen that come and barely know anything can get involved really quickly. Northeastern has so much turnover in club membership because people go to co-op or study abroad in other places so lots of younger students can take on more responsibilities and hold office positions very quickly. I think that’s great how freshman and second years can develop their own type of leadership. 

You talked about the fall and spring showcases, how do those work?

Fall shows usually happen around the end of November. There will be a few consecutive weekends where all of the groups have their own shows, ours is November 23rd. There’s a lot of consideration that goes into planning the fall shows, like what venues. You could do it in the basement of West Village F you could rent Blackman, the Curry Ballroom, or Fenway. The showcases have all different themes too, so you might see groups dress up according to that theme. We also hire sound engineers for the show as opposed to having a show where there might be 3 mics, 2 for the group and 1 for the soloist. At all of our showcases every individual has a mic. So it gets pretty pricey and it’s quite a production but in the end it makes for us sounding really good. I think it’s imperative that we got a good chunk of money from SAF this year, we’re very fortunate with that. A lot of other organizations on campus didn’t get any funding so we’re very lucky to be recognized by the school as organizations that could get funded. If we had no money we couldn’t do what we do. 

Picture of the Downbeats from a Fall 2019 photoshoot. Photo by Victoria Romulo.

When is the upcoming showcase?

7:30 in the Curry Ballroom on Saturday November 23rd. We actually also have a show in Behrakis coming up. Fall showcase is a lot of planning and money going into it, but this casual show in Behrakis is like 3 groups doing 3 or 4 songs each no mics all acoustic and people kinda just sit on the ground and watch. We like to have those casual shows as well. We’re also competing in the Faneuil Hall a cappella competition, another Boston based a cappella show. All the groups from all the colleges around the Boston area compete for monetary prizes. Those are the different shows our group might be involved in, one is casual, one’s competing for money, one is a showcase of all we’ve done. So each type of show has very different vibes. Last year we actually came off of a good competing semester. So in the spring the Downbeats won our northeast quarter final out of 10 groups. We won a lot of awards as well like best vocal percussion, best solo, quarter final first place. At the semi finals in Symphony Hall we didn’t place but we won outstanding arrangement, so that was a pretty successful semester. We’re  taking that momentum and trying our best to translate it into what we’re doing this year. 

What is your favorite show you’ve done?

The ICCA semi finals last spring. It was really awesome being able to show the world something we’re really proud of. We spent months and countless hours working towards that performance. To be able to do it in Symphony was awesome since it was so close. We got to invite all of our friends. Venue wise, sound wise, and that it was the last competing ICCAs for our graduating senior members made it a very special performance for us. 

Picture of the Downbeats from a Fall 2019 photoshoot. Photo by Victoria Romulo.

Where can students keep up with you on social media?

On Instagram we’re nudownbeats and we’re on Facebook as The Downbeats and on Twitter we’re nudownbeats as well. We also recently released a full length album earlier in 2019 called Venus. That’s available on spotify and apple music. That’s also a pretty big thing for a cappella groups is to be able to record all of our music and distribute it. But it also takes a lot of money, so it’s a very college a cappella thing to do as opposed to high school. 

What’s one thing you wished people knew about the Downbeats?

I would say this pertains to all a cappella groups, I think all groups would say you don’t need a whole lot of music experience to be into a cappella. We encourage anyone who really likes to sing to audition.  You don’t even have to read music because we have some members who don’t read music. I strongly encourage anyone who has a passion for music to audition. 

What is your favorite part about the Downbeats?

I think it’s awesome to be able to produce something you can be proud of with a group of your best friends.