HFA Student A Capella Group 'The Hexachords' Rises Fast
By Mary Margaret Hogan | Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Mary Margaret Hogan
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Four years ago, Vocal Performance major Craig Simonetti held auditions to form an unnamed a capella group at UMass Amherst. The group would consist of six members and would ideally perform at gigs and venues throughout campus; they would be soon be named The Hexachords. The powerhouse group took over the a cappella scene quickly with their small ensemble and impressive arrangements.The current group today includes Craig Simonetti, Katy Geraghty (theater major with a double minor in psychology and education), Xander Teplansky (Vocal Performance major), Matt Chastain (Vocal Performance), Brandon Hetherington (Vocal Performance and Music Education Major), and Linnea Henningson (Music Education major). As students of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the six members were thoroughly educated and well-prepared to transform their group into something special.
As founder of the Hexachords, Craig, now a senior, arranges all pieces for the group. “The theory, aural skills, and music history classes helped me learn about vocal arranging. Not to mention, my experience singing in UMass Chamber Choir is invaluable. I have learned more about singing, running an ensemble, and performing from that choir than almost any other musical experience I’ve had. I incorporate everything I've learned in that choir to the Hexachords,” he reflected. Senior Katy Geraghty is the soprano of the group, but her contributions to the group do not end there. “I belt, I choreograph, and I yell at people about what they are supposed to be wearing,” she laughed. “I think that theater has helped me in a cappella in the sense that I know how to put on a show and be entertaining. And from the Hexachords, I have learned so much about music, my own voice, and how to incorporate all of sides of yourself in a performance,” Katy acknowledged. Their impressive arrangements and choreography stood out to the judges when they started to compete at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) in 2013 and advanced to semis every year since.
Four years after their creation, The Hexachords have come a long way. The Hexachords are one of two a cappella groups on campus (the all-female group S#arp Attitude placed third at the quarter finals) to be featured on the television show “Sing It On!” airing next fall. The PopTV series is a documentary that follows collegiate a capella groups and their journey to the ICCAs. Filming this past semester, the group has been offered incredible opportunities, including making an appearance in California, a professional photoshoot, and an abundance of performances. Back in February, the group opened for Bernie Sanders’ rally in the Mullins Center. “The Bernie rally was definitely our most impressive gig,” sophomore, Linnea recalls. “It was when I finally felt we had ‘arrived.’’
As of last week, the Hexachords performed at the ICCA Northeast Semi-Finals and placed third, ending their competitive run for the season and their filming for PopTV. “Even though this is only my first year as a part of the Hexachords, I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge and experience. I have discovered how to individualize my performance so that it ultimately contributes to the greater whole,” Linnea said, describing the bittersweet close to their year.
Although a number of the current members are graduating from UMass, this is not an end for the Hexachords. “We cannot waste our endless work, effort, and experience gained from this group. We are planning on going professional after our graduation, hopefully to start performing and gigging in the Boston area,” Katy announced with excitement. The Hexachords have been a beautiful example of the incredible knowledge provided by HFA program paving a road to success. All six members could not be more thankful for their experience and knowledge gained from their education at UMass.