written by
Shana Yang

Exploring Harvard Clubs: Music & Performing Arts

Admissions Tips 6 min read

Joining a club at Harvard can be intimidating at first. Some are extremely competitive and require students to either apply, audition, and/or comp. However, there are a number of clubs that accept all who apply or audition—you can even start a new one—so you’ll definitely be able to find a student group that you can call home.

harvard ghungroo
Harvard Ghungroo 2017

Deciding on what extracurriculars to do can often be an overwhelming process. I’ve burnt myself out every year with various commitments, but have ultimately dedicated a majority of my time to several performing arts and music organizations on campus. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different types of arts organizations I was involved with at Harvard.

This informational essay was written by Shana Yang, Harvard ‘19. If you want to get help writing your Harvard application essays from Shana or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

Dance

Before coming to Harvard, I had never taken dance classes seriously. However, I was able to participate in both the Asian American Dance Troupe (AADT) and Ghungroo. AADT is a dance group that primarily focuses on traditional forms of Asian dance, as well as modern music like K-pop. The time commitment and difficulty vary depending on the dance. My experiences in AADT were extremely positive, and its leaders were always looking for intentional ways to foster more bonding between members, especially as membership naturally grew over time. AADT is also an example of a Harvard club that’s great for both beginners and experts.

harvard aadt
Image courtesy of Harvard AADT

Ghungroo is the largest student-led production at Harvard. It celebrates South Asian music, dance, and art. It is hosted annually during the spring and includes over 400 students. Absolutely no dance experience is necessary, and the time commitment is very low. It’s a fun experience to join with close groups of friends who might have not had any dance experience. Usually, many seniors do it as a fun activity because they have more time freed up in their schedules and the dance itself is relatively easy to learn.

harvard ghungroo
Harvard Ghungroo 2017

A cappella

Besides involving myself in dance organizations, I also joined other music and performing arts clubs, including a cappella. At Harvard, there are around 11 a cappella groups on campus, and each has their own unique characteristics. In the beginning of the year, the groups usually perform for freshmen to showcase their distinct features and different genres of music. I was a member of the Harvard Callbacks, a group founded in 1986 by students who loved R&B.

Each club’s auditions process looks different, and some have more rounds than others. No experience is required to join, and there are even some singing groups on campus like The Notables that accept all who audition.

A cappella auditions usually happen up to twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Fall auditions are more competitive because there is naturally a higher number of people who end up auditioning, whereas only a handful of people usually audition in the spring. Some groups don’t host auditions in the spring because they are at full capacity or don’t feel the need to gain extra members.

harvard a capella
Image courtesy of The Harvard Opportunes

Typically, when you try out for a Harvard a capella group, there will be about four rounds of auditioning before you are accepted. After each round you’ll be notified if you passed and will continue forward in the process, or if you were cut.

The first round is a preliminary audition that requires you to sing scales, match pitches, and sing a verse and chorus of your favorite song. During the first and second callbacks, the participant would learn a “block” (the music sung behind the soloist) from members and sing along with them, in addition to another solo piece. Finally, during the final night audition round, participants would learn more about the group, bond with them, and sing another block and solo piece. Depending on how many groups you audition for and how many rounds you make, your final night auditions could last for up to six hours!

The a cappella audition process is quite rigorous, and being in a group is a serious time commitment. But those qualities are also what make it such an enriching and fun college experience, and I enjoyed every part of it.

harvard a capella
Image courtesy of The Harvard Krokodiloes

I was able to meet an amazing group of people who were passionate about and driven towards the same goal. Every year, we went on two tours: one in New York, and one in another location usually outside of the U.S (during the time I was in the group, we went to Puerto Rico). Our New York trip was in the winter, and we’d go to the city and sing at the Harvard club, busk in Central Park, and meet up with our alumni. Our second trip in Puerto Rico happened over our spring break, and we’d sing for various events and organizations and soak up some Vitamin D on the beach.

My time in an a cappella group gave me some of my closest college friends and enjoyable trips. It also granted me leadership experience. I was the Assistant Music Director and Business Manager during my junior year, and learned about how to lead a group in both the musical and financial aspects.

Music Business and Music Production

While performing always felt great, I also wanted to gain leadership and organizational experience, especially in the realm of music business. When I joined the Harvard Electronic Music Collective, the club didn’t have many members and was struggling to stay alive on campus. The club itself consisted of a mix of student DJs and music producers who were passionate about making music.

harvard hcemc
Cheat Codes at HCEMC

Despite having almost no level of involvement or leadership experience prior to joining, I took a shot at applying and became the president. I worked with a small team of about eight other members to eventually bring HCEMC back to life. Through sharing our passions for what we wanted the year to look like, we were able to revive the club and organize events with renowned artists from all over the world, including Armin van Buuren, Oliver Heldens, and Cheat Codes. We also collaborated and hosted events with similar clubs on Boston campuses, such as Boston University, Berklee College of Music, and Northeastern University.

So what now?

I hope this gave you a peek at what being involved in arts organizations at Harvard really looks like. Do your research beforehand and casually scroll through Harvard’s 450+ organizations— most have websites and Facebook pages that can help you learn more about the club.

harvard college band
Image courtesy of Harvard College

Your experience in an organization is ultimately what you make of it, and you can always revive inactive clubs or start a new one. Once you’re able to meet an organization’s members, try to picture if they’d be a group of people you think you’d enjoy spending time with. Understanding the kind of people you want to surround yourself with is the key to having a successful experience in any Harvard club— and, ultimately, college itself.


This informational essay was written by Shana Yang, Harvard ‘19. If you want to get help writing your Harvard application essays from Shana or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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