Mix a cappella group

Named “Most Original Group” and runner up at last year’s national SoJam competition, University of Colorado Denver’s elite a cappella group, Mix, has been invited back for the second year in a row.

This has been a busy year for the group formerly known as UCD 6. Now with eight members, they won this year’s Mile High Vocal Jam held at the King Center and snagged first place at the prestigious Boston Sings (BOSS) competition in April.

As for this year’s SoJam competition, only six groups are chosen to compete in the nation-wide competition, and CU Denver is excited for round two.

Under the direction of Erin Hackel, DMA, Department of Music and Entertainment Industry Studies, this group has become even more motivated this year to show how truly innovative they are.

“They are all thinking of ways to push the boundaries and not just be an excellent a cappella group, but to be fresh and exciting and truly different,” said Hackel.

Practice makes perfect

Their national recognition doesn’t come easy.  In preparation for the Nov. 8 competition in North Carolina, Mix has been hard at work. Practicing three times a week for three or more hours at a clip, there is a lot of creativity that goes into their rehearsals. They start in the dance studio working on choreography and designing set pieces. The next part is vocal work and sound tests to get the arrangements just right.

Mix member Michelle Ghun explains the set piece being prepared for this year’s SoJam competition, “This particular set is one of our most ambitious in years, we have been building a visual concept that we are hoping will bring a theatrical mood to some electric arrangements.”

Hackel acknowledges there is extra effort put into such an important competition. “We have already started adding in extra rehearsals to make sure everything is to the standard we are aiming for. Putting a polished, innovative and excellent performance onstage takes a huge amount of time and commitment.”

A creative touch

Aiming for a win this year, Mix is taking the time to show their creativity wherever they can. They have been constructing a portable set they can break down and take with them to North Carolina which serves a different purpose for each of their competition pieces.  Costuming has also been in the mix, with changes for each level of the competition. But, perhaps, the most important of all, has been their approach to the songs they sing.

“Mix is known for never singing a single song from start to finish as originally conceived,” Hackel said. “Part of what we do best is reimagine current hits and make them distinctly our own.”

“We make sure to create a contrastive idea between the original record and our rendition of the song,” Ghun added.

Playing around in different genres helps the group stay unique. They prefer to focus on songs that suit their individual singing talents. Sometimes that might be a current pop hit that they rework, but oftentimes it is a bit more obscure and comes from a different genre all together. Mix has even been known to update tunes from the 1940s with a rap spin off.

Ghun explains the effect finding the perfect song can have on the performance. “Trying to find material for a group of eight members, plus a director, all of whom have eclectic taste is difficult, but when it happens you start to realize all the potential that empathy brings.”

Catch their performance

“Performing for the school always feels… metamorphic. We have received such an incredible outreach of support from the faculty, staff, and students,” Guhn said.

Before their national competition, Mix is performing on the Auraria Campus today at 7 p.m. in the King Center Recital Hall. This show is FREE; no tickets needed, and there will be free parking in the 7th street garage.

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