Singing & camaraderie: An interview with Momentum

Are Queen’s on-campus a cappella vocal groups like Glee and Pitch Perfect with bright lights, choreography and intergroup feuds? I spoke with president and vice president of Momentum, a co-ed a cappella group, Nicolle Domnik, ArtSci ’10 and PhD ’15, and Jessica Wayner, ArtSci ’15, to discuss their experience singing a cappella.

With students accepted from a range of singing experiences and faculties, Momentum provides a welcoming atmosphere for its new members. Despite long hours of rehearsal and training, a cappella singing, and the camaraderie that comes with it, can prompt a therapeutic feeling from the stresses of academic, said Domnik.

“Something about [a cappella] relaxes you and when you get home, you’re so productive because you’ve had that time just to let go.”

How did you get into a cappella singing?

Wayner: For me it was frosh week and I [had to] get involved … someone told me about Momentum and… so I tried out and I got in.

Domnik: For me in high school I was very involved with music … and then I got [to Queen’s] and I was [studying] LifeSci… Suddenly I didn’t have all this music stuff, and I saw a poster [advertising audtions].

What differentiates your vocal group from others?

Domnik: When Momentum was founded … there wasn’t a co-ed group on campus… there were no a cappella groups on campus that was more focused on contemporary music.

Are there other a cappella groups on campus, and if so, what is the relationship like between groups (ie. supportive, competitive, etc.)?

Wayner: There are a few other a cappella groups… We have a pretty good relationship; we do coffeehouses together all the time.

Domnik: We [hosted a coffeehouse] last year together at Cogro and we’re looking to host another.

Wayner: We enjoy … hearing them sing because they have … different types of styles than we do.

How often do you practice and perform and where?

Domnik: We practice every Thursday and the last Tuesday of every month … We always have one major performance per semester and then we also like to get out to the community.

Wayner: We did TEDxQueen’s a couple of years ago too and that was really fun.

What type of level of singing or familiarity with a cappella do most new members have when they join the group?

Domnik : It’s a pretty mixed bag. We have people who studied vocal music in university [like] our musical director… and then we also have people who have never sung in any form of organized group before just really like singing … [our group] pretty much covers the whole range of experience.

How’s the audition process?

Wayner: We just get them to do a range test to see how high and how low they can go. We ask them to do a piece, a verse and a chorus… we do either a sing back or a sight read.

What type of plan do you have for encouraging your group members’ vocal development and performance?

Domnik: The one thing we looked into doing this year is getting someone from outside of our group… who’s involved in choral instruction … to [host] a workshop. For the most part our group is there to have fun … some of our members do also see is as an experience to develop their vocal technique, not necessarily as individuals ... but as a group.

What are the challenges of singing a cappella compared to choral group?

Domnik: I think the two main things would be timing and tuning … [W]hen you’re in an a cappella group … you can find that even though as a group you stay in tune with each other, overall the key drifts throughout the course of the song … It’s usually pretty subtle, but maintaining that fine-tuning is pretty key.

In recent years, how do you think TV shows like i and movies like i have informed people’s view of a cappella singing?

Domnik: I think they’ve distorted them a little bit; the competitive aspect for example … when it comes down to it, all of us want to make music and that’s what we’re there for.

For more information about Momentum, please visit:

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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