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Amplified A Cappella voices creativity through performance, new EP


Amplified before performing their set “This Blue Dot” at the 2020 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Quarterfinals. Courtesy Amplified

A cappella gathered University of Arizona students to create music, rehearse and compete around the country. Amplified A Cappella’s bond, EP and award-winning performances were the result.

Amplified is one of the University of Arizona’s co-ed a cappella groups that offers a space for students to get involved in campus life by making music while meeting new people who share similar interests. 

Jordan Murillo, a recent UA graduate, has been in Amplified for four years. He said that being part of Amplified has been one of the best musical experiences on campus because they’re so welcoming.

“What Amplified has always been is just a place where people can go to make friends, make music and do fun stuff,” Murillo said.

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Emily Drum, a UA senior, is a music director for Amplified. She grew up in a musical family, but it wasn’t until middle school when she started singing and performing in musicals.

Every year, college a cappella groups have competitions or performances where they have the opportunity to show their musical and dancing skills on stage. One of the most important competitions for college a cappella is the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella tournament.

Working ahead, Drum started the process of finding the songs and themes last summer. She mentioned that there was a lot of pressure and high expectations because Amplified did well at the ICCA tournament last year — placing second in the quarterfinal and third in the semifinal.

“I was like, ‘Okay, I have to make this just as good if not better,’ so I wanted to start thinking about it early,” Drum said.

On Feb. 2, 2020, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Amplified participated in the 2020 ICCA Southwest Quarterfinal, where they placed first. They also received awards for “Outstanding Arrangement” and “Outstanding Vocal Percussion.” 

Murillo was the assistant musical director this past year. He and Drum combined their skills to create the new set that competed in the 2020 ICCA tournament.

“We just worked really well after each other and ended up just putting [together] my kind of creative mindset and her really strong musical concepts of her strong theory background,” Murillo said.

After the ICCA’s quarterfinal, Amplified decided to record the set. Drum explained that for the recording process all Amplified members went to her house to record one at a time. Then, for the mixing process, they paid someone to put everything together and help make the EP ready for release. 

“It was a long process for sure,” Drum said.

Amplified has been distinguished from other a cappella groups at the UA because of its message that goes beyond the meaning of the songs they sing. 

“We tend to have this really serious repertoire that explores, like, darker topics,” Drum said. “I think we like to go really deep with what we do and art that we make.”

On July 11, Amplified released an EP called “This Blue Dot” that had a significant meaning for all Amplified members. 

The cover of This Blue Dot by Amplified a cappella released July 11, 2020. The EP features Amplified's ICCA Southwest Quarterfinal winning set. Courtesy of Amplified a cappella. 
The cover of This Blue Dot by Amplified a cappella released July 11, 2020. The EP features Amplified’s ICCA Southwest Quarterfinal winning set. Courtesy of Amplified a cappella. 

“This Blue Dot” is focused on Earth, humanity and the relation between both. Drum explained that the concept for the set came up when she heard “The Seed” by Aurora. 

“It is a really strong message, and I was blown away when I heard it, because it was just — you don’t hear songs about that,” Drum said. “It was talking about something so relevant and real and important,” 

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One of the chorus lyrics from “The Seed” especially inspired Drum.

“When the last tree has fallen, and the rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money,” Aurora said in “The Seed.”

Because Amplified placed first at this year’s quarterfinal, they were eligible to compete in the ICCA Southwest Semifinals on March 28 — the next round of the competition — but the event was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Since there won’t be in-person rehearsals, performances and competitions for a while, Drum realized the importance of recording Amplified’s music. She hoped members could go to her home one by one to record in the future.

“My goal for the next year is to record an album,” said Drum. 

She explained that now was a good time to record because the group doesn’t have to worry about rehearsals or learning choreography for ICCA.

According to Drum, the act of making music and singing together is something very personal. 

“We try as much as we can to have like a balance of fun times and like hard work,” Drum said 

Part of college life is about making friends and having fun. For that reason, many students look forward to having a strong community where they can feel welcome and supported.

Ryan Pittner is one of the Amplified newest members. He said that Amplified is a welcoming community that he loves to be a part of.

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“Just being able to share our talents and our personalities and our love of creating music is such an amazing experience,” Pittner said.

Rocky Baier is a recent UA graduate and member of Amplified. She described Amplified as a family where all of the members support each other. 

“I definitely would say that everyone is like a family member to me just because when you are working towards a common goal, you just grow closer to each other,” Baier said.

“This Blue Dot” by Amplified is available on all streaming platforms or through this link:

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