Vince Giannone, a pre-junior electrical and computer engineering major, is currently the president of 8 to the Bar, Drexel’s only all-male a cappella group.
The Triangle: What’s your story? What brought you to Drexel?
Vince Giannone: I’m from Williamstown, N.J., South Jersey, and I was in an engineering academy kind of deal there in high school. One of my teachers sort of led me toward Drexel because he was one of the alumni; he came [here] also for engineering. So I followed his advice and came here because of the great co-op program, and it wasn’t terribly far away from home. Close enough that I could get back if I needed to.
TT: How did you become involved with 8 to the Bar?
VG: I’ve been involved with singing, choir and theater since the beginning of middle school, so I really got into a cappella my freshman year of high school. We didn’t have any groups, any programs that offered it. I really, really loved a group called Straight No Chaser, I was a huge fan of them. I would listen to them all the time and just the idea of a cappella really struck home with me. When I was coming to Drexel one of the first things I looked up was do they have an a cappella group, and luckily they did. There were two: 8 to the Bar, an all-male a cappella group; and Treble Makers, which is the all-female a cappella group. So I knew that of all the things I was going to do here, I needed to at least audition for this group because it was something I was kind of dreaming of, besides the whole engineering career focus; something that was really fun and a cappella was exactly what I wanted to do. So I auditioned and it worked out, I got in my freshman year.
TT: How did you progress to earning the title of president of 8 to the Bar?
VG: We really try to show freshmen what the group’s really all about. The more leadership you want to take on, the more that will be given to you. I noticed my freshman year the things that I would [like] to change in the coming years. The older guys, who are now alumni, realized that I did care about the group a lot, even after just joining, so that was very important. I started taking on smaller leadership positions: organizing things for us and responding to emails — menial tasks. After my freshman year, I was elected vice president, [in order] to learn all of the responsibilities of the president. [As vice president] I felt like I was really helpful and organized a lot of things. With elections this year, I was elected president and it’s been going great since.
TT: What types of genres do you cover?
VG: We pride ourselves on trying to sing all kinds of genres. We’ve sung everything from pop, rock, popular music like that, and we’ve also sung the oldies and classics. We’ve sung a little bit of country. We’ve gone into some crazy stuff … we just did a dub step breakdown in one of our songs. We really try to have a well-rounded repertoire to showcase that we can do any kind of genre.
TT: Because a cappella is solely vocals, can you explain how the different sounds are created?
VG: This is the basic breakdown of each a cappella group: in each song there’s generally a solo; potentially another solo or harmony and another person who’s singing at the same time that’s slightly different. Then you have your vocal percussion, which we call “perc,” they are in charge of making most of the drum sounds: the symbol crash or high hats or keeping the tempo constant. Then the rest of the group is generally divided into the rest of the parts. We’re all guys, so you have everything from tenor down to bass, so depending on the complexity of the song you’ll have maybe two tenor parts, two baritone parts right in the middle and two bass parts. And that will make up the rest of the song, even if that’s mimicking the sound of a particular instrument — occasionally you try to do that to give your voice a kind of clang, like if there’s a guitar or saxophone solo, we’ll try to do that. But over all it does become very choral in the fact that it’s layered parts creating a chord or harmony, and you’ll be singing on different syllables in order to get the basic sounds that you want for part of the song. Hopefully you end up with a good arrangement and a good sound that is kind of reminiscent of the original song.
TT: Does 8 to the Bar perform on campus at all?
VG: Yes we do! We try to perform on and off campus. Generally we have a fall and spring concert, which [are big events] where we’ll invite different groups from surrounding colleges and any other group on campus to come sing with us. Occasionally there will be a benefit concert or fundraiser to raise money for a certain goal, whether that’s us donating to someone, or [recording] a CD that is now available for purchase. We would raise money in order to get [things like] that off the ground. We also try to sing at sporting events. We’ve been doing a few basketball games, singing the national anthem, and in years past we’ve also sung [the national anthem] at Drexel’s night at the Phillies.
TT: Did “Pitch Perfect” have any effect on the popularity of the group?
VG: It really changed a cappella in that more people knew about it; it got so much more exposure. Personally in the group, I just know when you introduce yourself as a group, or if you tell people you’re a part of an a cappella group, all of a sudden now instead of saying, “What’s that?” or, “Can you explain?” it’s, “Oh, like ‘Pitch Perfect’?” Which is kind of like a double-edged sword because you’re kind of like, “Yeah! Did you like ‘Pitch Perfect’? Yes? Then it’s exactly like that.” Or, “You didn’t like it? Don’t worry, we’re nothing like that.” But yes, it just kind of changed people’s perception and awareness of a cappella.
TT: Are you involved with anything outside of the group?
VG: Yes, I’m part of the theater program here at Drexel, I’m on theater scholarship so I perform in several of the shows here throughout the year and we do some classes with that. I’m part of the Theme Park Engineering Designing Group, we call it TPED. We try to meet weekly and discuss things that are happening in the industry, both in engineering and design; theme parks and entertainment. Those things pretty much take up my time.
TT: If you could switch lives with anyone in the world for one day, who would it be and why?
VG: If I could switch places with anyone for a day, it would be Neil Armstrong. For one, I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to go into space. More importantly, I look up to him as a leader. He was groundbreaking not only in his professional field, but he forever impacted the course of human history. I can only hope to one day experience such an incredible milestone as being the first man to walk on the moon.
Triangle Talks is a weekly column that highlights members of the Drexel community.