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Columbia's SHARP To Host "Aca Live" On Mar. 8th

We're in a new month, but we're continuing the tradition of bringing you the same great talent.

Our next featured act on "Aca Live" is non-other than the all-male group SHARP from Columbia University. SHARP is big on treating the band as a cohesive team, and it shows from their personalities all the way to their threads. Their unique style is simultaneously centered on both distinction and uniformity and their music benefits the most from this approach.

Learn more about the group below and see the men of SHARP perform tomorrow night, Mar. 8th on our Facebook Page at 9 PM/ET!

1. Can you tell me about the group's founding? When did the group begin? Any specific influences, past or present that you all can point to that inspire(d) your style?
Before SHARP was founded, the a cappella scene on campus was a bit repetitive, and all the other groups at Columbia seemed to fit the same mold.
As a result, in October of 2011 our three founding members decided to break off from the groups they were currently in and created a new group founded in hard work, mutual respect, creativity and musical spirit.
Today, we are committed to producing outstanding musical experiences for audience members while creating top-notch arrangements of popular soul, R&B, classic pop, Motown and Top 40 hits.

2. What would you say is the group's current focus, if any, when it comes to the songs you all perform today? Any particular style?
Our main focus is to differentiate ourselves from the typical college a cappella scene by hitting a wide variety of genres with original arrangements that fit our mantra of sexy, smooth, and soulful. Our song selection meetings for each semester are lengthy and can get contentious, but we always end up coming out of the process with a group of songs that we believe showcase our musicality and style to the greatest extent.
Our selected songs range from classic R&B to old school soul to hip hop, which are genres not usually touched on by a cappella. In the past year we have put a lot of focus on elevating our arrangements to a new level, and this semester each of our seven new songs were arranged by a different member of the group to ensure each arrangement had variety and a significant amount of time and dedication put into the musical structure.

3. SHARP currently shares the Columbia University campus with various other a cappella groups. How does the group differentiate itself from these other groups? What makes the group so special?
Considering our main focus is differentiating ourselves from typical a cappella, we do a pretty good job creating a unique performance environment that attracts a wide range of students to a cappella music. Beyond the musical aspect of our differences, we always perform in black suits with blue pocket squares as a way to physically project our motto of sexy, smooth, and soulful.
Our style lends our concerts and events to be more in the vein of hip-hop dance performances than a typical college a cappella performance, which creates a really fun atmosphere to perform in. If the entire audience is laughing, smiling and singing along, then we’ve done our job.
4. What current projects are you currently working on? Any new albums, videos, tours, philanthropy?
We just recently filmed our first music video last semester (“Coffee x Pillowtalk”), and it was a huge success. In fact, our music video is the first studio-quality acapella music video to come from any group at Columbia. We were able to record the audio and video in approximately 24 hours over the course of two weekends with the help of one of our founding members and a good friend of ours who is a current Columbia student.
As for the remainder of this semester, we are about to embark on our first tour this coming Friday. We’ll be traveling down the east coast for a week visiting and singing with a cappella groups from Princeton, Johns Hopkins, UVA, Bryn Mawr, Penn State, and UPitt. Beyond the tour, we are constantly trying to grow our Spotify presence and are looking to record a few more songs that we can share with our fans before the summer.

5. Last school year, your group participated in HerCampus Fashion Show. When you think of college a cappella, fashion shows aren't typically the norm. Can you tell us a little about the event, how SHARP got involved and any memorable moments about the experience?
We have actually performed at the show twice, both in the Fall of 2014 and in the Fall of 2015, and each time was a lot of fun. We got involved just after being contacted by someone who was involved in the event’s planning, and after we performed there the first time, they asked us to come back the next year.
Even though one might not think of college a cappella and fashion shows as being compatible, we fit the mold of the event quite well given our unique style. It was really awesome getting up and performing for a few hundred college-aged girls that were hyped to watch us sing.

6. What are some things SHARP likes to do outside of music that contributes to your musicality?
Everyone in the group has some kind of musical background that allows them to bring totally different things to the table, and that helps contribute to our musicality as a whole. We have a few guys who have experience in acting and musical theater, and others who actively participate in theater productions on campus.
One member, Jesse, is in a Latin dance group on campus, and another, Lockie, is an international-champion Irish dancer. And there are others of us who have classical and jazz training, which really helps with our attention to music theory in both arrangements and rehearsals.

7.What do you think about the current state of a cappella? Do you feel groups like yours get enough attention? Do you ever struggle in getting attendance to performances? Too much competition in the collegiate space?
In our opinion, the biggest hurdle with a cappella music is finding a way to share it with a broad audience. Ever since we were founded, we’ve tried to push back against the preconceptions that a cappella music is “boring,” “uncool” or “dull.” Now, with the release of our music video, we’re finally beginning to attract unlikely a cappella listeners to our concerts.
In the past, our concerts have been pretty well attended primarily because we have a huge support base among our friends and family. However, we’re always trying to grow, and we believe that our original arrangements and our commitment to outstanding visuals (music videos, photo shoots, etc.) will continue to help us achieve this goal.
8. Are there any big plans for the future? Hoping to try out some new genres, collaborate with other groups, travel to perform, etc.?
The tour we are going on this coming week is a brand new experience for us and we are beyond excited to share our music and meet with other groups across the east coast. Hopefully, it will be the first of many trips for SHARP, as we are constantly looking to expand our fan base beyond our own campus. We also hope to finally make a full-length album within the next 2 years, which has been hard to achieve due to the monetary constrictions that come with being such a new group.

9. Have you all ever experienced any weird or unexpected moments at a concert or performance?
Singing with a group of friends makes it really easy to put ourselves out there and make the most of a potentially uncomfortable situations. For example, for our Valentine’s Day Singing Grams, someone requested that we sing a song to their friend in a large study room in Butler Library on campus.
Roughly 100 students were studying for their classes while absolutely silent, which led us to think that this was not such a great idea. But we decided to go through with it, and it turns out that everyone in the room was more than excited for a quick 2-minute study break that featured a live performance of men in suits singing “Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney.
10. When you consider the fact that you are one of many groups at Columbia University, what is it like trying to convince new talent to join SHARP versus another campus group?
We hope that anybody looking to join our group sees and embraces our vision for the future of the group. Because we are pretty different than other groups on campus, by being ourselves we usually attract the people that we see as a good fit for the group.
SHARP began as a team effort, and today the team effort is still going strong. By celebrating inclusivity and creating an environment where members can truly be themselves, we think SHARP has brought a cappella music at Columbia to a more accessible realm that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
11. Anything else you'd like for our audience to know about the group?
One of the most important aspects about the group is that we actually do all really get along with each other. Performance groups can become fractured due to stress/drama/etc., but we are able to avoid that from all being really tight with one another. A lot of us hit up the gym together, you can usually catch us at all at Sunday Brunch before rehearsal, and it’s not unusual to hear us be compared to a frat. We’re brothers, and we all take pride in that.

12. Lastly, could you give us some background on the below photo from your Instagram? What was the event, how'd you get involved, what was memorable about it, etc.?
A little over a year ago, we were invited by Ridgewood High School (former school of a current SHARP member) to speak to a few students in a music class about what it’s like to sing in college. In the evening, we put on a joint concert with both of the school’s a cappella groups, The Maroon Men and The Acabellas.
Overall, getting off campus and sharing what makes SHARP so special was a great bonding activity for us, and it gave us all some time to reflect on why maintaining an outlet for creative expression after high school is so important.

For more information on Columbia SHARP, connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.