Anyone who has spent enough time falling down internet rabbit holes has inevitably stumbled upon at least one video of a beatboxer in the middle of an exceptional performance. While the sounds these performers make with just their mouths may seem impossible to understand, student club Beatbox Bing is built off of the idea that anyone can learn to beatbox with enough time and dedication.
The club, which previously disbanded several years ago, officially reformed in spring 2019. Ron Gunczler, an organizer of Beatbox Bing and a senior double-majoring in computer science and philosophy, said there is plenty of reason for optimism about the club’s long-term success, highlighting how campus a cappella groups have supported the club’s rebirth.
“We petitioned the a cappella community to let us perform during [the] Dollar Show, since we have a lot of members in it,” Gunczler said. “We built a lot more interest. I believe that we have worked with people from all the a cappella groups so far.”
The Dollar Show, a once-a-semester event that gives every campus a cappella group a chance to perform and recruit new members, is an important opportunity for the performers of Beatbox Bing to show off their talents. This semester, Gunczler said the club is tried to achieve multiple aims with its time slot, which featured a combination of 30-second solos and group performances.
“We generally get a five-minute set, and it’s meant to do three things,” Gunczler said. “There’s what all of the a cappella groups are there for, which is ‘This is what we’ve accomplished, this is what we can do.’ There’s ‘This is what you can do if you can practice,’ and then there’s ‘No matter what your skill level is, you can contribute, and you can make something really cool.’”
While the art of beatboxing can be difficult to pick up without instruction, Beatbox Bing hopes to provide a productive space for students to practice sounds and hone their skills. The club is split between sound workshops, in which more experienced members help novice beatboxers learn and develop their sounds, and jam sessions, which offer members a chance to get hands-on experience with performing live. While most of the club’s members had some sort of experience with beatboxing before joining, the club is committed to ensuring it is open and welcome to any skill level.
“There’s people who have heard us perform, we practice constantly, we walk down the street and beatbox, people say ‘Hey, that sounds really cool,’” Gunczler said. “We say, ‘Hey, show up,’ and some of them do. We now have two board members who previously had zero experience, because they’re just that interested and committed to growing.”
Because of beatboxing’s tremendous success in spreading through the internet, the beatbox community is international, with voice clips and performances going far beyond their home countries. Gunczler said the club is in contact with beatboxers throughout Europe and Asia, a common situation for such a global phenomenon. Members of Beatbox Bing have traveled throughout the world for competitions, and the group helps coordinate travel and housing for its members.
“We do house people when we can, just anything to reduce the cost and make things more accessible,” Gunczler said. “And [we] also notify people that [events] are happening, or if anything changes.”
While the club does everything in its power to help those interested in making it to competitions, there are still difficulties. Events are often held in the middle of the fall semester, and transportation can involve returning in the middle of the night on Sunday, just in time to get a few hours of sleep before Monday’s classes. Still, Gunczler said it is crucial to ensure everyone has the opportunity to attend.
“It’s not for everybody,” Gunczler said. “But should people show interest, we make sure people can go.”
This same ethos of equal opportunity underlies one of the most basic tenets of Beatbox Bing — the idea that anyone can do what they do. To anyone who might be interested in getting started, Gunczler has a simple message: Show up.
“Once you make that first contact and take that first step, we have so many resources — we have an unbelievable number of resources,” Gunczler said. “We have everything you need to be fantastic; you just need to go for it, and have interest and care. That’s it.”