When the a capella group The Dartmouth Aires decided to try out for NBC’s new show “The Sing Off” in Boston this spring, they were up against hundreds of other groups.
Once reserved for the preppy elite, today, a capella is as much a part of college life as beer.
Only 16 groups were selected to appear on the show, which begins Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., and compete in front of three celebrity judges: Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Sara Bareilles.
“To be selected as one of them was mind-blowing,” says Will Hart, 21, a Dartmouth senior who hails from Kenilworth. At his school, there are more than 10 a capella groups on a campus of 4,000 students.
Hart started singing in the choir at Kenilworth Union Church when he was in elementary school. As a student at New Trier Township High School, he performed in several choirs, and he was accepted into the Dartmouth Aires the day before he started his freshman year.
As luck would have it, Hart isn’t the only New Trier grad who will be appearing on “The Sing Off.” Danny Rubenstein, 22, of Glencoe, will be competing against his former Swing Choir member with his group, The Yellow Jackets of the University of Rochester.
Rubenstein says it has been a whirlwind since The Yellow Jackets were selected. After graduating in May, he and his group spent two months at a hotel in Los Angeles with other contestants while they were taping the show.
“I’ve never been around so many talented people at one time,” Rubenstein says. “We’d be in the pool or the hot tub and someone would just drop a beat and we’d all start singing.”
Rubenstein’s mom flew out to Los Angeles for every taping, and she even made bright yellow T-shirts for all of the Yellow Jackets’ fans to wear in the audience. “It was amazing to have that kind of support,” he says.
With the popularity of shows like “Glee,” “American Idol” and “The Voice,” both Hart and Rubenstein say now is the perfect time for a show featuring a capella.
“It’s super accessible to a lot of people,” Hart says. “People enjoy watching singing and people enjoy watching people have fun.”
“The Sing Off” premieres September 19 on NBC at 7 p.m. It will air on Mondays through November 28.