20 years of VA Sil'Hooettes

The Virginia Sil’hooettes celebrate their 20th anniversary this weekend with a CD release and concert

While most a capella groups perform and record songs by their favorite artists, very few of these artists recognize the effort. Ben Folds, however, is — as always — a bit different. When he discovered the plethora of tributes to his music by a capella groups on YouTube, he set up a contest through which winners’ songs later were featured on a compilation CD.

Enter the Sil’hooettes, one of the University’s well known a capella groups. The Sil’hooettes entered the contest with “You Don’t Know Me,” a duet that Ben Folds sang with Regina Spektor. While they did not win and will not be featured on the CD, they did receive an impressive consolation prize: The Sil’hooettes opened for Ben Folds Monday at his concert at Mary Washington University, performing their version of “You Don’t Know Me.”

“It’s cooler than being on the CD anyway,” said Courtney Stroud, a third-year Nursing student who is the group’s business manager. “We get to meet him.”

The opportunity came during a busy period for the Sil’hooettes. They will soon host their 20th anniversary concert; about two-thirds of their alumni will return. The concert will feature songs from both alternative and well-known artists including Feist, KT Tunstall, Jewel, Lloyd, Queen and Bob Marley.

“We don’t want to be a typical a capella group,” said Jenna Pastuszek, Sil’hooettes President and a fourth-year College student. “We try to stay away from the Top 40 list and perform songs that sound hard.”

Any member can submit songs to the music director, fourth-year College student Sara Dougadir, who then arranges the songs into an a capella format. Dougadir is one of three members who are music majors. The group, though, welcomes anyone who is interested in joining to try out.

“Anyone can audition,” Pastuszek said. “We even have two girls who can’t read music. They do have very good ears though.”

The Sil’hooettes are also releasing a new CD this semester, titled Take it to the Bridge, a double reference to both the bridge of a song and Beta Bridge. The CD’s cover will feature Beta Bridge painted for the Sil’hooettes.

“I’m in charge of managing and keeping track of all funds,” Stroud said. “And CD production is a big expense.”

In the current economic crunch, the group’s financial hurdles are higher than usual.

“Believe it or not, we’ve been pretty heavily impacted by the economy.” Pastuszek said. “We usually have somewhere between 10 and 12 paying gigs a semester and now we’re down to two.”

Luckily for the Sil’hooettes, their recent marketing push and tendency to take every gig that comes their way means they will not be fading away despite setbacks. The recognition the group has received during the past several years also helps.

The Sil’hooettes will perform their 20th anniversary concert April 4 at McLeod Hall at 8 p.m.

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