February 7, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 43°F


A cappella groups unite for LGBT acceptance

Lady Gaga has a new group of little monsters at Ithaca College, and they’re ready to say they were born this way.

A cappella groups Ithacappella, Premium Blend and IC Voicestream are working to produce a new arrangement of Gaga’s single “Born This Way” for her new charity, the Born This Way Foundation, an organization devoted to making people feel more comfortable as individuals.

Senior Adam Polaski, president of Voicestream, said this song hits close to home.
“I feel really privileged to have grown up as a gay guy with significant positive reinforcement from my friends and parents,” he said. “I get really upset hearing stories about kids who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning who have not had it so easy.”

Junior Peter Blanford conducts a song as Ithacapella, Ithaca College’s all-male a capella group, practices Monday night in the Whalen Center for Music. Ithacapella and other a capella groups are promoting LGBT rights. Rachel Orlow/The Ithacan

Ithacappella and Premium Blend recorded a version of Katy Perry’s “Firework” for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that produces videos to encourage youth LGBT to avoid self-harm in response to bullying, last year. Though adding Voicestream to the mix was a new experience for the groups, it proved to be beneficial, senior Kirsten Quinn, president of Premium Blend, said.

“They have such unbelievable talent, and we love hearing the mix of both guys and girls together in one group,” Quinn said. “They are the perfect blend between us and Ithacappella, so all together, we sound pretty amazing.”

Senior Jimmy Knowles, president of Ithacapella, said he’s enjoyed working with the groups.

“Both ‘Firework’ and ‘Born This Way’ have kind of been my brain children from the beginning,” he said. “It has been so rewarding for me to see them executed from beginning to end.”

The groups had an “a ca-picnic” at the beginning of the year to help the singers get to know one another and then create an Inter-a Cappella Council. Polaski said the bond not only keeps them close as performers, but as a community as well.

“You kind of have to get close if you’re going to learn, perform and record a song together,” he said. “We’re all a cappella kids and music nerds, and that takes a certain ability to embrace your inner weirdo — discovering that special part of your life, your talents and the things that make you happy.”

In addition to the track, junior Daisy Krikun, a member of Premium Blend, is currently filming a documentary on the groups learning, producing and performing the single. Krikun said it also will focus on Lady Gaga’s mission to “inspire teens and young adults who have been bullied.”

Everyone has the quirks that make them odd or weird or unusual. Instead of hating that part of ourselves, we should embrace it, and that’s what the ‘Born This Way’ message is all about.
– Adam Polaski

“I got inspired to start this project because I’ve always wanted to start or participate in a project that meant something and that could make a difference,” Krikun said. “The ‘Born This Way’ recording was the perfect opportunity to combine my strong
interests of television and music in order to inspire teens and young adults across the country who may be victims of bullying.”
Krikun’s film will include group members who have been bullied.

“We hope the documentary can contribute to and improve this serious national issue in an uplifting approach in order to make teens proud of their individuality,” Krikun said. “Being a member of Premium Blend, I heard about the Born This Way Project and knew it was the perfect opportunity to direct a documentary that could make a difference.”

The risk of self-harm and suicide is highest among people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual between ages 16 and 20, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Knowles said he is excited to be a part of an effort to prevent something so prevalent in the United States.

“Though people might not see that right now, it is really awesome to know that we are making such a huge impact in someone’s life,” Knowles said.

Polaski said it’s important to understand that self-empowerment is essential for all individuals.

“Everyone has the quirks that make them odd or weird or unusual,” he said. “Instead of hating that part of ourselves, we should embrace it, and that’s what the ‘Born This Way’ message is all about.”

Ithacappella will perform at the State Theatre in Ithaca on April 20 to promote the single.