Fifteen a cappella groups from schools throughout Westchester will meet at the Master's School in Dobbs Ferry Sunday to vie for the honor of top high school vocalists.
In its 11th year, Gilda's Club's annual "A Cappella Extravaganza" fundraiser is the culminating event for most high school a cappella groups in the county, and students promise they won't be holding anything back.
"A lot of people don't know the infectiousness of a cappella. We prepare all year for this event, so schools really bring it," said Raveena Aurora, a junior at Rye Country Day School and youth committee member for Gilda's Club.
Mamaroneck's newly-formed a cappella group, Funkappella, will make its debut appearance at Gilda's this year, and MHS music director Dina Madden believes it will be a true learning experience for them.
"Funkappella is made up of really motivated kids who have worked hard this year to be able to perform in such a large venue," Madden said. "I'm not sure they understand completely how powerful this event really is, but this weekend they'll learn what it's all about."
Founded in 1991, Gilda's Club—named for comedic actress and cancer patient Gild Radner—is a nationwide non-profit dedicated to providing support for people affected by cancer. There are now 22 Gilda's "clubhouses" throughout the country.
Amy Mlodzianowski, program director of Westchester's clubhouse, stressed the importance of fundraisers like Sunday's concert to keeping the organization in line with its mission.
"It was Gilda's vision to have a place where cancer patients and their family could go to talk about it or just participate in activities without having to worry," Mlodzianowski said. "And all of our activities are free because the last thing someone seriously ill needs is an added expense."
The 23 Gilda's Club Youth Committee members were almost entirely responsible for planning and organizing the event—in fact it was through participating in last year's concert that Aurora was first introduced to Gilda's Club and inspired to join.
"I sang last year and fell in love with the organization," she said.
Although "The A Cappella Extravaganza" is predominantly a chance for student singers to showcase the results of all their hard work during the year, teachers all agree the youth organizers do a great job of keeping Gilda's Club in the spotlight.
"Raising awareness is so important with high school students," said Gillian Crane, associate Dean of Students and a cappella director for The Master's School. "I make sure we talk about Gilda's Club during rehearsals so the students understand the charity they're performing for."
Although most of the a cappella groups do have faculty directors, many of them choose their own songs and arrange them on their own. Although Aurora would not say which songs her group would perform—"We keep it secret until the day of the concert," she said—she promised they would be crowd pleasers.
"Most groups choose contemporary music," Crane said. "But the highlight is watching kids who do vocal percussion or beat boxing. They love to hear that."
Schools represented Sunday include: Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, Bronxville, Horace Greeley, Westlake, The Masters School, Rye Country Day School, Briarcliff and John Jay.
Judges will come from Manhattanville College in Harrison to determine winners, but for most the competition is far less important than the chance to perform and raise money for an important cause.
Crane said, "I tell my students to think about they way they feel when they're performing—then I say, 'That's the way people with cancer feel when they go to Gilda' Club."
The concert will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25 at the Master's School, 49 Clinton Ave., Dobbs Ferry. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults.