Shy of a Dozen brings a cappella to Music Hall


Shy of a Dozen

Cj Eilers

The choir room isn’t so empty on a Sunday afternoon, when Iowa State’s male a cappella group, Shy of a Dozen, does their weekly rehearsal.

This week, the 11-member group rehearsed their own arrangement of “McDonald’s Girl,” a song originally sung by Barenaked Ladies, as well as Christmas music for their show on December 1.

Shy of a Dozen was founded in 2000 by choral director James Rodde, who serves the group as a contributing faculty, and for booking. Although Rodde manages, the group is student-directed, currently by senior Aaron Lott. As an a cappella group, the men perform a wide variety of different music from pop, renaissance madrigal, barber shop, spiritual, classical, romantic and Christmas music during the holidays.

The main difference between an a cappella group and a choir is the lack of instruments. Instead, members of the group use their voices to duplicate instruments, like drums or other percussion. The group only uses mics for venues that require it, such as outdoors performances. Without instruments though, singing the right pitches can prove difficult, according to Quinn Tipping, a three-semester member of the group and an music education major.

“Tuning is very key in a cappella,” said Tipping. “We don’t have a piano to keep us in tune.”

Instead, the group receives a starting note from a pitch pipe for each song and uses pitch memory the whole concert.

The group consists of students from different majors and different classes. Currently the group includes David Bowles Edwards, David Carlson, Marcus Cross, Derek Johnson, Alex Longnecker, Grant Luther, Rajin Olson, Andrew Powers, Quinn Tipping, Sam Weigel and Anson Woodin. They are the only a cappella ensemble affiliated with the Music Department, and the group rehearses two to three hours a week in Music Hall.

Grant Luther, a first-year member of Shy of A Dozen, also works as the marketing and advertising chair for the group. Luther remembers during his audition that while he was nervous, he felt well prepared. In high school, Luther sang in jazz choir, as well as another a cappella group.

The a cappella audition is very similar to auditioning for Iowa State’s choir ensembles. Auditionees must bring a prepared song, sight-read a piece of music, remember pitches and sing them, and are then asked a few questions. Members must be in one of the ISU choirs to be accepted into Shy of a Dozen. Rodde and Lott handle the auditions and make the choices of who will be in the group. Once you make it into the group, like all ensembles, it requires a time commitment. David Bowles Edwards, who has been in Shy of a Dozen for four semesters, enjoys the time spent with the group.

“We always have fun rehearsals,” said Bowles Edwards. “It’s great to perform and sound great on stage.”

When asked about his favorite performance, Bowles Edwards talked about a concert last April, during dead week.

“The audience was very receptive, and we sang the crap out of our music,” Bowles Edwards said.

Shy of a Dozen performs at a variety of events during the school year. The group has performed concerts with Statesmen, during women’s soccer games and wrestling, and they have their own performances as well. In addition, the group takes gigs outside of ISU events. Clients are provided the option to look at their repertoire of songs available and request that they sing those songs. In addition, the group may also take requests for songs they don’t already have in their repertoire, if given sufficient time to rehearse and can find an arrangement that works for them. In the past, members have also contributed original music.

“People are really surprised and like what we play,” said Olson. “Everyone leaving our concerts has a smile on their face.”

Shy of a Dozen

Where: Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall

When: 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1

Cost: Free