Singing from the Heart: The Drastic Measures harmonize philanthropy and talent

Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee

If you have never heard of the Drastic Measures, you're missing out.

And if you have heard them, you know exactly why.

One of the most talented groups on campus, a cappella group Drastic Measures (founded in 2003), is slowly achieving stardom and national recognition following a successful run in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

Dean of Campus Life David Karpf is among the Drastics' many fans: "Drastic Measures is a great example of what we hope to see in our students--using their passion and talent while contributing to the common good and maintaining a sense of purpose in their co-curricular life."

"We were never the popular group," sophomore and Drastics musical director, Jack Mallory admits. Mallory, an Atlanta native who attends Skidmore on a Filene scholarship, boasts an impressive pedigree: he has six years of classical vocal training.

Similar to an NCAA athletic tournament, entry into the ICCA's entails competing against some of the finest varsity vocal talents across the nations and the world-including the Harvard Callbacks, the Clarkson Ultravioletones and The Rusty Pipes of Resselaer-to name a few.

In February, Drastics surpassed local Hartford vocal outfit Trinity College, doing well enough to advance to the Northeast Quarterfinal. In the quarterfinal they fell to one of the regions preeminent vocal programs, Northeastern University.

However, paper statistics and ICCA brackets belie the Drastics' work ethic and integrity. "The goal [at ICCA's] wasn't to win-well no, it was to win." Mallory admits. He describes winning at ICCA's as one of his best moments with the Drastics. Mallory gesticulates rapidly with his hands, trying to reproduce an image of the Drastics huddled together. His hands wave up and down in front of his face, as if suppressing the air in front of him as he remarks, "total elation."

Every member of the Drastics has had to audition and commit to practicing for five to six hours a week (nine to ten in preparation for ICCA's). What's more, their hard work is matched by compassion: the Drastics are the only charity a cappella group on campus.

"Every year we choose a charity," Mallory explains. "This year we chose Wait House." All proceeds from concerts (the preferred nomenclature is "jams") go to Wait House, a non-profit, which provides housing for homeless adolescents in Warren and Washington Counties.

Last semester, Drastics also partnered with a Ugandan children's group, raising $1,000 for the traveling choir.

What is even more impressive is the group's autonomy-their accolades and organization are student-driven, with no faculty or voice coach. Many of the schools they compete against are large universities with immense budgets and faculty, but Drastics has relied on trust and chemistry. "The situation couldn't be any better than it is" Mallory says.

Camaraderie ebbs through the group, as a starry-eyed Mallory enthusiastically explains how his group mate, Sam Kastner, contributes to musical direction despite a lack of time. "The kid never has free time. He's a double major in physics and music and a head tour guide." Kastner, a sophomore, is described as "directing from within", choosing songs and melodies that he thinks suit vocalists, not the other way around.

Moreover, Mallory and Drastics President, Gabe Glissen-Brown, have a vision for the program's future. Where most groups sing pop songs, Drastics has been devoted to more classic tunes. The goal for Drastics is to modernize while, "retaining musical quality" and "applying musicianship to this new showbiz-y type of a cappella" says Glissen-Brown, a junior.

In addition to enhancing the showmanship of an already talented group, Mallory envisages a time when Drastics receive a larger audience. "You want to elevate it from people seeing their friends to people seeing a show," Mallory concedes. "National perception [of a cappella competition] is not high. I hope we can change that perception-at least at Skidmore-because we put a lot of time into it." Mallory adds, "There's definitely more to come."

Current Members include: Dan Plumer, '16, Duncan Gregory, '16, Katie Martucci, '16, Eli McCormick, '16, Jack Mallory, '15, Sam Kasnter, '15, Tory Waldron, '15, Lindsey Kellstrom, '15, Harrison Lipton, '15, Gabe Glissen-Brown,'14 Allie Chipkin, '14, and Christine Pardos, '14. Abroad Juniors: Will Zhang, '14, Emily Streim, '14

The Drastic Measures' recently hosted "All Pull Together," a charity concert featuring nearly every A capella group (and other musical groups) on campus. Their final performance of the year is on April 25, at 10.30 p.m., in The Wilson Chapel. 

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