Spring is all about change, and now there’s an a cappella group at Binghamton University that aims to embrace it. Change of Tone is a new a cappella group that focuses on being a safe space for LGBTQ+ and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students. The group was founded by several members of other a cappella groups with the intention of making diversity a focal point.
Asia McGough, music director of Change of Tone and a sophomore majoring in biology, is one of the founding members of Change of Tone. She wrote in an email that the group was conceived after conversations about diversity started in a cappella groups following the summer’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
“Individual groups began to discuss racism, systemic issues in a cappella and ways to overcome our implicit biases,” McGough wrote. “While some good came out of this — increased awareness and community-wide cultural competency/diversity training — some of us still felt as though disregard for marginalized voices, both within our groups and in the music we sing, persisted.”
Ideas for forming Change of Tone mainly came in Zoom calls over winter break with discussions on operations, activities and meetings with the Student Association (SA), BU A Cappella Council and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Board. According to their mission statement on Instagram, Change of Tone will highlight marginalized groups by performing songs by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists and by donating profits to causes that support these communities. McGough wrote that this a cappella group is meant to create a safe space for all participants and continue the efforts for diversity that started over the summer.
“Since we also feared that the momentum gained from the BLM movement wouldn’t last long enough to produce significant changes, the founders of Change of Tone decided to create a group that, by its principle, would act as a constant reminder to the community to keep that momentum going,” McGough said.
Ryan Corsoneti, treasurer of Change of Tone and a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, wrote in an email that they are excited for the group to bring awareness toward issues of diversity and bring people together by exploring a wider range of genres and artists.
“Belonging to a group that has a collective passion for performing and making music is and always has been a positive and uplifting constant in my life,” Corsoneti said. “I also think that the formation of this group serves as a symbol of hope and solace during a time where global injustices are at the forefront of our everyday lives.”
With the creation of Change of Tone, members have a more inclusive and comfortable space within BU a cappella. Zoë Scileppi, assistant music director of Change of Tone and a junior majoring in politics, philosophy and law, wrote that Change of Tone was also a change of pace from previous groups she was a part of.
“I had previously been in a music group that did not have the compassion that I felt a community of people passionate about music should have,” Scileppi wrote. “It felt like there was a lack of understanding between most of the members due to how out of touch the people were with each other. It was lonely and disheartening — I never want another student to feel the way I did, especially when they are putting themselves out there to do something that they love to do.”
Lauren Hoffmann, business manager for Change of Tone and a sophomore majoring in psychology, joined with no prior experience with other a cappella groups because of the atmosphere the group provided.
“I was not involved in any music groups on campus, but I had always felt like a piece of me was missing without it,” Hoffman wrote. “Change of Tone was the best fit for me because of their welcoming attitude and desire to help others.”
While just starting off, Change of Tone will be hosting a variety of shows and fundraisers for different charities as the semester progresses. The “change of tone” they hope to create is a positive one of inclusion and meaningful connections with communities who have historically been overlooked through songs.
“To me, music is a wonderful respite from the chaos of life, something to take solace in, and I wanted to be a part of a group of people who embodied that same feeling for each other,” Scileppi wrote.