Walking down Broadway Street in New York, the line of musicals seems endless, from established shows like “Wicked” to relatively new successes like “Hadestown.” Ithaca College’s Fall 2019 organization fair was no different. There were the music groups everyone expected to see, like Ithacapella or Premium Blend, but, this year, there was an unexpected upstart nestled between Macabre Theatre and Voicestream — Broadway Bound, an a cappella group focused on bringing musical theater songs to the college and larger Ithaca community.
The club began in Spring 2019 when current copresidents sophomores Hallie ArbitalJacoby and Samantha Kahn, both of whom were theater performers in high school, bonded over their mutual love of Broadway. The college has many a cappella groups that mainly perform pop music as well as separate organizations that put on theater productions like Second Stage and Theatrics Theatrists. However, ArbitalJacoby and Kahn said they realized no organization on campus combined both a cappella and musical theater. After their realization, they decided to make their own a cappella group to address what they saw.
For ArbitalJacoby and Kahn, both of whom are students in the Roy H. Park School of Communications, they said it was important that the club be all-inclusive. Broadway Bound’s auditions are open to everyone and are not restricted to theater or performance majors.
“Everyone here is very multitalented,” ArbitalJacoby said. “Student organizations are a great way of interacting with your other interests. Don’t limit yourself to just your major.”
Secretary Sophia Egner, a sophomore theatre studies major, said the club lets her combine her love of theater and singing, which are two passions that are usually separate because she is not a performance major. She said Broadway Bound allows people to have an outlet outside official Dillingham productions in which they can pursue their musical aspirations in a less committed, more communal space.
Along with its commitments to inclusivity and performing show tunes, Broadway Bound also distinguishes itself by its dedication to volunteering in the larger Ithaca community. It has not begun volunteering yet because the group is still learning the music, but ArbitalJacoby and Kahn said they are committed to volunteering in the future. ArbitalJacoby and Kahn said they want to work with nursing homes and hospitals in hopes of brightening people’s days.
“Usually musical theater can be very upbeat, so it’s very uplifting for the patients and the elderly to hear it,” Kahn said. “It just makes their day happier and better.”
Sophomore member Jessica Ketterer said she also likes the potential volunteering that Broadway Bound will offer. She said that, for her, Broadway music has a special ability to draw people together because it pulls from a larger narrative. She said that, through volunteering, she wants to bring that story-based experience to people who cannot always leave their homes to have that experience in the theater.
Before Broadway Bound officially reaches out to organizations and begins volunteering, Kahn said she wants to make sure the group knows the music inside and out. A cappella brings its own distinct challenges, she said, because it relies on blending every members’ voices together to create one product.
It can also be more difficult to create this cohesive sound without an official conductor, Ketterer said. She also said that without having a band as backup, it is imperative for singers to internalize the pitch because there are no other instruments to match. Although a cappella is difficult to master, Ketterer said the difficulties are worth it for the enjoyment she gets out of singing.
ArbitalJacoby said the demand for groups like Broadway Bound is high. This year, approximately 70 people signed up for auditions.
“Showing that interest, it was really validating that we belong on campus as a club,” she said.
The copresidents have accepted approximately 10 people who auditioned, and they said they hope to increase those numbers. In the future, they plan to evolve by reaching out to other organizations that may need entertainment for events. Kahn said she wants to have an exhibition showcase on campus by the end of Spring 2020 and hopes that it will become a well-established group by the time she graduates.
Until then, the group will focus on building up a repertoire, starting with “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” and focusing on learning the music.
“The music, that’s what brings us to this club,” Ketterer said. “We all have the same passion. I really hope that passion will bring us together on stage and help us create beautiful music.”