As seniors graduate this evening, we wanted to highlight Salem High School's a cappella group, a close-knit family of students that has hit it big in recent years.
Congratulations to the graduating Witch Pitch? seniors and the rest of the Class of 2012.
Who needs instruments to make music? Witch Pitch? a cappella group is one of the country’s preeminent high school a cappella troupes, offering students a unique performing experience since its inception three years ago.
Witch Pitch? won first place for the Northeast region in the International Championship of High School A Cappella in both 2011 and 2012. Each year they went on to compete in the national competition at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.
To fund the trip, Witch Pitch? held fundraisers, sold t-shirts and performed their own concert at the high school. But group president and graduating senior Nathan Bertone said they couldn’t have done it alone.
“I’m grateful to the people who helped us: the directors, parents and everyone who supports us from the community as a whole,” Bertone said.
Witch Pitch? has 16 members, five of which are graduating this year. The group has given the students a chance to showcase their vocal talents and form lasting friendships.
“Being in the group has been a very moving experience,” Bertone said. “The group is where my core group of friends are since we spend so much time together and travel a lot together.”
Sara Hammond, a junior in her second year with the group, said Witch Pitch? “has become such a family atmosphere. It has made me more confident in my voice and taught me so much about my friends and music and myself.”
Bertone has performed in choral ensembles since elementary school and has been with Witch Pitch? since the group formed. Hammond has also been in musicals since the third grade, and auditioned for Witch Pitch? at the urging of her brother, Drew, who was also in the group.
“He had such a good time in it and they sounded so good at their concerts that I was convinced and auditioned,” Hammond said.
A cappella, Italian for “in the manner of the church” or “in the manner of the chapel,” originated hundreds of years ago and is performed in Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious services. In the United States, a strong a cappella tradition began in the early 1900s and has evolved to include the styles of Barbershop, doo wop and beatboxing. Witch Pitch? performs pop music and classic a cappella.
Bertone said a cappella is now his favorite form of music. “Anything that has become a cappella is what I listen to,” he said. “It’s interesting that people’s voices are making these sounds. Sometimes you can’t tell it’s people’s voices. It’s a whole different look at music.”
Bertone, who this fall will enter Carnegie Mellon University to study scenic design and production, has worked on the design of 15 productions in the Salem and North Shore area. He used his artistic skills in his work with Witch Pitch?, creating publicity posters and designing the cover for the group’s just-released CD, entitled “Here.”
Bertone plans to start an a cappella group when he gets to college. “I believe that Witch Pitch? has set me up to start a group because its taught me what it takes to run one,” he said. As for balancing everything with studies, he said “it all kind of seems to work together. I’ve been able to know what my limits are and when I’m busy when.”
Hammond has not yet settled on college plans, but she said being in Witch Pitch? has been “such a crazy, exciting adventure” that “an a cappella group has become a necessity for whatever school I end up at.”
With a third of Witch Pitch? graduating, Bertone and Hammond will audition underclassmen to join the group before they leave.
“I’m sure they’ll be well off next year,” Bertone said. “There’s a lot of talent at the high school.”