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ASU's jazz a cappella club offers outlet for creativity, break from stress

The Undertones club allows students to rekindle creative expression through the unique hobby of jazz a cappella

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Members of The Undertones perform their final act of practice in the Music Building on Tempe campus on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Tempe.

Leaving their stressful responsibilities behind, members of The Undertones fill their club room with echoes of roaring laughter and jazz on Monday and Wednesday nights.

Since its founding in 2017, The Undertones does not only serve the purpose of being ASU's only jazz a cappella group, but it's a retreat, a safe space for students to bond and congregate during their stressful weeks of bustling college life. 

"We want someplace to be where people who are in more intense majors like computer science, engineering or journalism, stuff that has tight deadlines can come and hang out," said Jaxson Finger, a sophomore business major and president of The Undertones.

The a cappella club performs at a series of ASU events and, this past weekend, performed at the Barrett Student Showcase during Family Weekend.

The Undertones hosts auditions every fall for ASU students who may be interested in joining. 

The Undertones continues to create a fun-oriented environment surrounding the club by creatively implementing jazz a cappella cover songs from a wide variety of genres ranging from classic jazz to modern pop music. 

"We've done everything from Billie Eilish songs to Christmas caroling to classic pieces. Currently, we've been doing some kind of weird alternative-rock-jazz piece fusion. So we do everything, as long as it's a little different than pop songs or what other groups might be doing," Finger said. 

Eric Orson, a sophomore computer science major and treasurer of The Undertones, leads music arrangement when the a cappella group plans on practicing a new song to cover. 

"I arrange songs that already exist and make them into a cappella. So we don't need any instruments or anything," Orson said.

When coming up with songs for their concerts, Orson said they pick "a mix of fast songs, slow songs, and jazz arrangements of modern music (that) are jazzy and interesting." The group's concerts usually end up performing 15 songs.

At The Undertones' concerts, they also have solo performances where their members can "show off their own musical prowess and bring a lot of music into the community," Orson said.

The Undertones doesn't just serve the purpose of jazz hobbyists uniting together, but it serves to create a strong community outside of the club as well.

Katie Durow, a sophomore global studies and german dual-major, has noticed the significant impression on the community The Undertones leaves just within her first year of being in the club. 

"Out of the performances that we've done so far, we've really made an effort to connect both within our group and with the audience," Durow said. "Bringing the message of our songs to the audience is a really big thing. And we do that with our dynamics and our body language."

When preparing for performances, The Undertones does "emotion talks, with our songs, where we sit down, and we go through the lyrics of the songs and talk about the emotions that they can bring from us and into the audience," Durow said. 

The a cappella group, Durow said, desires to also present to people a different perspective of jazz compared to the stereotypes people often have of the genre. 

"A lot of people overlook jazz, thinking that it's just elevator music or coffee shop music, but it's so much more than just that. It has so much passion and emotion and interesting elements to it," Durow said. 

Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, David Rodish and Greta Forslund.

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