By Grace Clarke (Psychology, University of Maryland, United States)
This blog post is about one of my favourite experiences whilst studying abroad, and definitely a very unique one!
A good friend of mine, Mitul, is part of an acapella group at the University of Maryland. They are called Faux Paz, and I was fortunate enough to follow their journey throughout the year.
I first watched them perform at the student union in a large theatre, which is impressive in itself. This performance was rather casual, more of a practice for them, but I was totally taken with the group’s raw talent.
Their journey progressed when they competed in the quarter finals of the International Competition for Collegiate Acapella (ICCAs). A group of friends and I went to support the Faux Paz in the first stage of the competition. This was held at another impressive theatre in the performing arts centre on campus. I was blown away, even more so, by this performance. It was more put together and they had to stay within a 12 minute time slot, so their performance was extremely polished. In addition to this, the group was also in the process of being filmed for a Netflix series, produced by John Legend, called “Sing It On”. It was all very surreal. We had to practice different kinds of clapping for the TV cameras! The hosts of the competition were Acapella Alumni, if you will, and they were extremely enthusiastic about the whole thing, as you can imagine. Faux Paz won the quarter finals, they were off to the semi finals in Philadelphia!
The semi finals gave my friends and I another excuse to get on the road and check out another city. We spent the day in the Philly, went for dinner and drinks and then headed to the theatre. The competitors were required to perform the same set throughout the competition. However, I could see a massive improvement in Faux Paz, not that I am a music expert! We felt like proud parents when Mitul and the rest of the group, many of whom I had also been lucky enough to become friends with, won the semi finals! After the show, we went backstage, and much like on the X Factor, we all ran screaming towards Mitul and surrounded him, hugging and congratulating him for his amazing achievement. To our surprise, we turned around and realised that the cameras had been filming all of this. We were then asked to fill in release forms to be on the series – crazy! I’m still yet to watch the series to see if our celebrations have been put into the show.
Thanks to having such talented friends, a few of my fellow ‘groupies’ and I headed to Broadway in New York City for the finals of the competition!!! We had an awesome weekend in the city, and we were overwhelmed with pride when our friends in the Faux Paz placed third in the competition!! Watching them brought tears to my eyes. In particular, Mitul’s, and another member, Linique’s, solo performances were breathtaking. They captivated the whole audience – you could have heard a pin drop. After the show, we all celebrated their success appropriately in the city that never sleeps.
Overall, this experience was a wonderful bonus in my year abroad. Mitul was very thankful that we had been there to support him throughout, and I told him how grateful I was to have been a part of it. We were so invested, I felt like we went through all the emotions with them. I could never have imagined that I would have been a part of something so surreal and far removed from my life. I watched “Glee” as a teenager, and it always seemed a world away, a completely different way of life, but I actually got to experience something I had admired for so many years.
Congratulations Faux Paz, you’re all stars!