Holderness School

More Than Just Singing Notes

Emily Magnus '88
If you were around this fall, then you heard about the newest club on campus, the Holdernotes. The Holdernotes, Holderness School’s first ever a capella group, debuted at the fall concert, ramping up the energy in Hagerman and bringing the performance to a whole new level. Fortunately for us, they’ve continued to pursue their love of music throughout the winter and just last month performed in the quarter-final round of the International Competition of High School A Capella (ICHSA).
The Holdernotes developed out of Music Director Alec Sisco’s personal passion for a capella. In high school and throughout college Alec was a member of several a capella groups and knows from first-hand experience the value of relying on just one’s vocal chords to make music.
 
“It’s about more than just singing notes,” says Alec. “The high level of collaboration in a capella is equitable to that of successfully executing a play in football, or sending a human into space. Everyone has a specific job they need to do. If one person is just a little bit off, it can compromise the entire performance/play/mission."
 
In the fall, he introduced the club to the community, and 12 students decided to join him for weekly practices. By November, they were invited to the ICHSA and began practicing in earnest. Shelby Geaney '22, Nicole Kanowsky '22, Linh Nguyen '19,  Thao (Natalie) Mai '21, and Kai Parlett '20 formed the core of the group. Soloists included Allegra Driscoll ’19, Chip Peterson ‘21, Nicole Kanowsky ‘22, Addy Robison ’22, and Camden Bachochin ’22. Bass vocals and beat box rhythms were taken on by Chip and Emilija.
 
By the second week of February, the Holdernotes were ready. Bolstered for the first competition with positive vibes and plenty of nervous energy, they traveled to Danvers, MA where they competed against nine other high school a capella groups from around New England.
 
Throughout the competition, their excitement grew as they watched the other teams perform and discovered a whole new community of passionate musicians. “We didn’t know what we were getting into,” admits Linh, a senior from Viet Nam. “We were the eighth group to perform and watching the performers who came before us was really intimidating. Going into the competition we didn’t expect to win but the other groups were so much better than we expected.”
 
Run by Varsity Vocals, the ICHSA is an off-shoot of the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA) in which Alec competed when he was in college at SUNY Potsdam in New York. “I started off singing as part of a group in college and loved it,” he says. “The competition part came a little later and gave us purpose and drive; being a part of the competitions and seeing the huge community of a capella groups advances everyone. After college, I learned that Varsity Vocals had started the high school competitions and I saw them as a way to return as a director.”
 
While the Holdernotes did not win any prizes or accolades, they learned a great deal and came home with enough energy to power them through until next year. Which is important, given the plans Alec has for them. First stop is the spring concert for which he hopes to have a better sound system and new choreography.
 
Alec also hopes to make the club into an actual class. “If this was a public school, and students weren’t so busy, the club would be fine,” says Alec. “But in order to compete at a national or international level, the students need to practice more than once a week, and the only way to do that in the Holderness schedule is to make it part of a class.”
 
The added class time will also help support the community Alec sees building. “These kids spent a whole day with students they don’t usually hang with and they got to know each other,” says Alec. “That’s way more important than any award they could have received.”

As the only Lakes Region school with a competitive a cappella group, the Holderness community is beyond excited to support this group’s journey to become excellent musicians who share their love for singing and dancing with anyone who is willing to listen.
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Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness NH, 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257