This year, the oldest active a cappella group on campus is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The 19-member, all-male Acafellaz started as a registered student organization in 1999. Six men with a passion for singing and making music came together and began an Illinois State music legacy that continues to this day.
In celebration of this milestone, the ’fellaz are producing their third album.
“It’s really cool getting to work with a real music producer and recording in a studio. You feel like a pop star in that recording booth,” said Acafellaz member Jake Hackl, a junior music education major.
Over the course of the past five months, the Acafellaz have been traveling to Indiana to record songs for their untitled album, which is set to be released later this year on Spotify.
“On this album, we are covering artists like Paramore, Ariana Grande, Panic! at the Disco,” said Acafellaz member Noah Sierer, a senior actuarial science major. “All of the songs we are recording are from our performances this year.”
The Acafellaz love to perform live. They use an upbeat and comedic approach to connect with their audience.
“I like looking out at the audience and seeing the joy that we bring to people. I like to see people dancing in their seats and engaging with them,” Hackl said.
This fall will be Hackl’s third year as a member, and he will serve as the Acafellaz’s music director.
“I’ve always loved music. Creating music with other people is one of the most fulfilling things that I can do. I wanted to jump at the opportunity to create something with my peers. You get out what you put in,” Hackl said.
The Acafellaz are much more than “peers.”
“We have a strong bond. I’ve told these guys things that I’ve never told anyone before,” said Acafellaz member Devin Jackson, a junior music education major.
For first-year Acafella Noah Sierer, that strong bond is exactly what he needed. “As a transfer student, I was worried about finding a good group of friends. As soon as I joined the Acafellaz, I felt so welcome.”
Little did Sierer know that walking the Quad at Festival ISU would impact his transfer experience. As he passed by each booth, he was approached by Acafella Joey Dwyer.
“Joey Dwyer came up to me and said, ‘Hey, man. Do you sing?’ I was like, ‘Yeah. I sing a little bit.’ Later that night I auditioned for the Acafellaz,” Sierer said.
Before Sierer joined the Acafellaz, he auditioned for The Clef Hangers. Jackson, on the other hand, was set on becoming an Acafella.
“I’ve known about the Acafellaz since high school. A really good friend of mine had been in it before I came to ISU, and a previous music instructor in my high school was also in the Acafellaz. That alone drew my interest,” Jackson said.
While music is a passion of the Acafellaz, so is making a difference for their fellow music students on campus. Two years ago, they created a $500 scholarship to benefit a voice student in the School of Music. Since then, two students have received the award.
As this ensemble plans to help more voice students with their scholarship, they also plan to increase their popularity outside of campus. While the ’fellaz are spending their summer making their third album, they will be serenading audiences in the fall at the Normal Theater and in the spring they will competing at and hosting the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).
No matter where they perform, the Acafellaz want their audiences to remember their legacy.
“The Acafellaz should be remembered as a group who always put on a fantastic show and stayed true to themselves. We are a hardworking group that still has a lot of fun. We are dedicated to what we do,” Jackson said.