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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A cappella groups consider diversity controversy

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Seven women sing and dance with energy. Despite the lack of music in the background, these performers sing so well in-tune with one another that it’s as if they created their own melody. With similar vocal cord ranges, the synchronization comes easily. But could the same happen if there was
a little more diversity within the group?

“To be a minority student here and enter a room where everyone else is white, it is often times not only intimidating but also personally preferential to not want be a part of such an organization,” Ethan Dayton ’17, a member of the Singing Knights a Capella group who identifies as a person of color.

Containing five unique groups on campus, a capella is an asset to the Carleton culture. They portray all the fun and flair that comes with attending college here.

However, the question of if such groups are truly representative of the study body faced debate last year when Jessica Lartigue ’18 released a satirical ad for the The Clap, acknowledging the nearly nonexistent presence of minorities in the Accidentals, among other campus singing groups.

Lartigue explained how the article was prompted by something that happened to a close friend of hers. Her friend, who identifies as a student of color, applied that year for the Accidentals and didn’t make the cut. She found out through a mutual friend that the Accidentals believed that her voice range didn’t really fit theirs and she should, thus, apply for a more “diverse” group.

“They probably meant they wanted a [more uniform] vocal blend,” she said. “But if you think about it, if you are a person of color or just a person from a different background, your singing style will be different. Then I looked around and realized how little diversity there was in the campus a capella groups.” With that observation, she was motivated to write about this for The Clap.

According to Lartigue, her article resulted in a sharp divide of reactions, ranging from support to anger. Regardless, the situation initiated discussion of what a Capella groups can do to improve their diversity.

Dayton explained how the controversy prompted discussion among his singing group in figuring out how to make themselves more inclusive and welcoming to those from all different backgrounds.

“We’re more aware,” he said. “We are trying to break down any forms of microagression that may get in the way.”

Lartigue explained that the Accidentals, following the release of the ad, spoke with her friend and apologized for the misunderstanding.

Walker Johnston ’18, a member of the Accidentals, is grateful for the chance last year to discuss this concern of diversity.

“While I’m glad we were able to resolve that particular misunderstanding, we realize that there is a serious lack of diversity in a capella groups,” she said.

“[In the wake of the controversy] we have talked a lot about it, which I appreciate, as it is an important dialogue to have.” Johnston went on to explain that her group is trying to figure out the best ways to encourage students from all different backgrounds to join the Accidentals.

In reflection of all that has happened, Lartigue still supports her original decision.

“I don’t at all regret writing the article,” she said. “It got people talking.”

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