During winter break Ithacappella traveled nearly 3,000 miles from home to introduce itself to the West Coast and introduce Ithaca College to prospective students.
For 12 days, the group of nearly 20 men toured San Francisco, performing in key tourist locations like Union Square, at two major sporting events and at five area high schools.
Ithacappella president senior Tim Nowak said many top-notch a cappella groups are nationally known and said he’d like Ithacappella to be among them.
“We had basically constrained ourselves to the East Coast and New England, the furthest south we had really been was [Washington,] D.C.,” Nowak said. “Then we kind of threw ourselves into Central Time in New Orleans down south, and this was sort of casting another part of the net across the country.”
They chose the bay area because Ithacappella’s vice president, sophomore AJ Mizes, lives in the area. While they were in San Francisco, Ithacappella sang the national anthem before a San José Sharks game and a Golden State Warriors game. They also performed at popular places like Pier 39.
“Pier 39 actually has a lot of regular musicians … and they kind of don’t really get a crowd. But we had a crowd of least 50 or 60 people for all of our three sets there,” Mizes said.
Ithacappella decided to make the trip a recruitment tool for the college. They performed for choir classes at five high schools and held workshops on techniques, such as blending and vocal percussion. Afterward, the members of Ithacappella answered questions and handed out inquiry cards and college materials to interested students.
Nowak said the high schools were chosen with the help of college admissions records. The group contacted schools in the San Francisco area that had students inquire about or apply to the college in the past three years.
Gerard Turbide, director of admissions, said Ithacappella approaching the admissions office about incorporating recruiting into their West Coast tour was the first time the college had considered the idea.
“It just seemed like a very worthwhile partnership to have,” Turbide said. “It’s good visibility for the college, [and] it’s an excellent experience for the students who were involved. So it seems like it’s winners all around.”
The admissions office helped fund the trip, as did the Student Government Association. Ithacappella also used its private fund to help pay for the trip.
Nowak said he could not tell if the recruiting portion of the trip was a success because he has not yet seen admissions numbers, but he said the response the group got from the high school students makes him think the trip worked.
“[Ithacappella is] going to look to see if there was a jump in California applicants after we came,” Mizes said. “So if there was a big impact I think it’s definitely something admissions could look into.”
One of the schools the group performed at was San Ramon Valley High School, Mizes’ alma mater. Ken Abrams, the choir teacher at San Ramon Valley, said he was excited when Mizes contacted him.
“The students were interested in hearing all [Ithacappella] had to sing and all they had to say about the college and about college life,” Abrams said.
Abrams said though he does not know if any of his current students will apply to the college in the future, he thinks Ithacappella helped put the idea in the students’ heads.
“As far as being a good PR for [the] campus, they were awesome,” Abrams said.
If admission-related tours do become routine for Ithacappella, Nowak and Mizes said they would likely focus on areas of the country where the college is under-represented.
“This is the first time we’ve ever tried this, but I can tell you, we’re probably going to do it again,” Nowak said.