Mark Lee and Max Fisch taped quilts over the walls of their closet and began to record.
It was the spring of 2012, and the two UC Berkeley seniors were gathered with other members of the campus a cappella group DeCadence in the Unit 2 residence hall to record songs for their album.
Ten songs, including “Valerie,” originally performed by Amy Winehouse, were sent to Varsity Vocals, an organization that offers a cappella groups the opportunity to perform and compete in national competitions.
The group was hoping to have its music included in Varsity Vocals’ mix-tape album, Best of College A Cappella, a selection of music performed by a cappella groups whose songs stood out among the hundreds of submissions from colleges across the nation.
Junior Hannah Glass was with Lee when DeCadence received the news last December that its song “Valerie” had been chosen to be included in the mix tape.
“We got a call from a very influential alumnus telling us congratulations. It was extremely unexpected,” Glass said in a Facebook message. “Obviously I was thrilled!”
Though still a member of DeCadence, Glass is currently studying abroad in Argentina.
Deke Sharon, the founder of the Varsity Vocals’ Best of College A Cappella album, said that a cappella groups must be exceptional to be included.
“I loved the song’s feel, its groove, its playfulness,” Sharon said. “DeCadence sings with passion and spirit, and that really shines through on the song.”
Sharon added that songs are selected based on “a careful mix of powerful soloist, great arrangement, excellent production, emotional impact (and) good song choice.”
Glass, the soloist in the song chosen for the album, said she was ecstatic their hard work paid off.
“I’ve been performing the solo with DeCadence for at least a year before we recorded it, so I just went in with confidence and attempted to seduce the listener with my audible smiles,” Glass said in a Facebook message.
This song is also featured on DeCadence’s own album, Just in Capes, which was released last year. Many members said that the time the group spent recording brought them closer together, not just as group members but also as friends.
“It’s a smaller group in comparison to a choir, so it is more like a family and every single person is essential,” said Kalyani Magee, a UC Berkeley sophomore and a soprano in the group. “When someone is missing, it shows, and you don’t get that feeling of loss with a bigger choir.”
Music plays a major role in the lives of the DeCadence members.
“My parents like singing for fun, so I got an influence from them,” Magee said, “and it’s always been a fun extracurricular activity for me.”
Lee echoed Magee’s sentiments, saying that his mother used to sing to him when he was a child and that singing became a way for him to express his talents.
“I have been delighted and honored to have participated in a group as awesome as DeCadence,” Lee said over Facebook. Lee graduated last year with a degree in business administration.
Lee was also nominated by the Contemporary A Cappella Society for best co-ed arrangement for his arrangement of “Sparkling Diamonds” from “Moulin Rouge.” Fisch was nominated for his arrangement of “Robots,” a song from Flight of the Conchords.
“I really don’t even care about winning and am not even sure I stand a chance — I am just delighted to be mentioned alongside such other big names!” Lee said.
The Best of College A Cappella album is now being sold at 19 campuses, including UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia.
Contact Seif Abdelghaffar at [email protected].