Fish ‘n Chips celebrates 10-year journey upstream

Fish ‘n Chips members Kortez Buckner (left) and Ryan Anderson (right) sing beside fellow “fish” Dan Berck for a performance at Zeta Tau Alpha sorority on March 24, 2013. (Shannon Millard | GCmag)

For the past decade, they have been harmonizing at events around campus like Up-All-Night, Pink Our Campus and Relay for Life.  Now Fish ‘n Chips, a well-known male a cappella group, is preparing to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

Fish ‘n Chips’ President and Booking Manager, Aaron Scheich said the group started in 2003 when a group of men who were in choir decided they wanted to start an a cappella group.

“It was around the time where the a cappella groups were starting to become popular on college campuses again, and these guys just decided they wanted to do it,” Scheich, a junior from St. John’s, said.

A “fish,” as members of the group are known, starts their journey with an audition. They are held every semester for undergraduate or graduate males. The process begins with an applicant’s solo performance and then a test run with the group to check for harmonization skills. While the audition process may be intimidating, some members don’t have an extensive music background.

Adrian senior Stephen Rey joined the group in 2009 with no professional music training. And before auditioning, had only done choir and a musical in high school.

“It was a challenge at first,” Rey said. “A lot of the guys here know how to read music. I have to learn how to do things by ear, and repetition.”

However, Rey is not alone in his somewhat latent musical maturity. Senior Andrew Darling, now a six semester member, had only been in a musical and a short-lived band previous to Fish ‘n Chips.  Through his experience with the group he said he has learned a lot about musicality and has improved his sight reading.

The group rehearses for six hours a week and typically learns their music outside of their rehearsal time. Fish ‘n Chips performs about once every other week and are often unpaid. According to Scheich, the a cappella group charges for shows where the hosting organization makes money.

“We never charge for a philanthropic event because we feel like we are contributing to the cause,” he said.

Fish ‘n Chips flexed their vocal talents by singing the National Anthem at Comerica Park at the Central Michigan versus Michigan State game and at the Threads Fashion Show last year. However, their talents spread beyond this singular song and the group likes to keep an updated set list each semester. Every member gets three votes at the beginning of each semester for their song preferences.

“We will usually do a song in fall and spring then the next year it won’t be on the set list,” Scheich said. “It helps the performance stay fresh and new.”

Aside from managing their song choices and events, it is challenging for the Chips to keep up with their hectic singing schedule while balancing academics.

“It gets busy,” Tennessee native and graduate student Cordell Turner said. “But it’s all about time management. I just make sure I get my millions of paper written and do what I am suppose to do.”

Along with the healthy homework diet of a full-time student, members also handle one of the most serious obstacles for a singing group: learning to harmonize with each other.

“I think that is one of our biggest challenges as a group,” Scheich said. “Everybody’s got his own style and tone. So it’s always a challenge with any musical group.”

Despite the challenges of being a “fish,” Rey said that the best part of being in Fish ‘n Chips in the comradery between the members. Their teamwork will be put to the test at Fish ‘n Chips’ 10-year anniversary concert on Saturday April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Plachta Auditorium. Tickets are five dollars from a group member and six dollars at the door.  Groups of 20 or more can get a discounted tickets priced at four dollars.

The first president of Fish ‘n Chips will make an appearance; Michigan State University’s State of Fifths a cappella group will also be performing to help celebrate the success of the organization.

Scheich said he thinks the hard work and dedication of the presidents and members for the past decade is what has made the group successful.

“We have really stepped up in the last couple of years to make are name to stand out as a group that is fun to watch and to make people want to come see us,” Scheich said.

Photos by Shannon Millard


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