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A new student’s guide to arts groups around Grounds

As fall semester is underway, it is time to get involved

<p>Joining an arts group can be a great way to find friends that share common interests.</p>

Joining an arts group can be a great way to find friends that share common interests.


Chalk on walkways, flyers on lamp posts, booths set up all over South Lawn — clubs and student organizations all across Grounds are advertising with smiles to potential new members. Walking across Grounds at the beginning of the year brings a fresh wave of new opportunities to get involved.

For new students, it can be overwhelming to find a group to feel like you fit in. Oftentimes, students don’t know where to start. Joining an arts group can be a great way to find friends that share common interests, like music, performance, design and more. Whether it be students with arts experience from high school or students who are interested in pursuing the arts but do not know where to look, the following guide can provide some insight into the many arts groups at the University. A comprehensive list of the arts groups can be found on the atUVA website.

For those who love to sing, there are a few traditional choirs on Grounds affiliated with the McIntire Department of Music. Students from all majors and fields take part in these groups as a creative outlet and a way to continue singing after high school. The all-gender University Singers is the flagship choir of the department. Along with their many performances on Grounds, the group has performed on many tours around the world and any student can sign up for an individual audition that tests range, musicality and basic music theory. Other choirs affiliated with the Department of Music include the Virginia Women’s Chorus and the all-tenor/bass Virginia Glee Club.

For many, these choirs become family.

“University Singers was my first family at U.Va. and welcomed me in when I was still finding my place at the University,” said Kevin Duan, University Singers President and fourth-year College student. “[University Singers are] all united by their love of and passion for making breathtaking music and sharing it with the community.” 

As Duan makes clear, these music groups are a place where new and old members can come together to create performances that they are proud of, as well as cultivate lifelong friendships. For any prospective singer, Duan said groups like University Singers welcome new members with open arms and support them through the audition process. 

“I know you are feeling anxious and scared, but I guarantee you are not alone,” Duan said.

After the stress of auditioning, the payoff of performing is worth it. To hear performances from University Singers, the Virginia Women’s Chorus and Virginia Glee Club alike, be sure to attend Rotunda Sing Wednesday on the Lawn starting at 8:00 p.m.

As reiterated in the movie “Pitch Perfect” and its many sequels, a cappella is a big deal on college campuses — especially at the University. Groups sing with no instruments, using their voices to fill in the background. The University has a thriving and welcoming a cappella community, each with their own flair. 

Some groups sing in the higher register, like the all-treble Hoos in Treble and The Virginia Sil’hooettes, whereas some sing only in the lower register of tenor and bass, like the Hullabahoos and Virginia Gentleman. The University also boasts all-gender pop groups, like the New Dominions and Harmonious Hoos. Some even focus on specific types of music — the Flying V’s, for example, sing exclusively rock music, while Ektaal sings a blend of popular South Asian and English songs. 

“I like to think that there’s a group for everyone, and the entire audition process really lets you see what each group is all about,” said Eddy Trujillo, president of the A Cappella Presidents Council, member of the Hullabahoos and fourth-year Engineering student. 

Trujillo encouraged anyone interested in singing to audition, regardless of one’s musical background. 

“I had never sung in a choir or read sheet music with my voice prior to auditioning. While having experience is nice, we look for raw talent and care the most about the fact that every new member we take is really joining a family,” Trujillo said.

A cappella groups presented at the Activities Fair and will perform at Rotunda Sing. Auditions take place during the first week of classes. 

Music on Grounds does not stop at singing. There are a plethora of bands and orchestras, both student-run and University-run. 

The Cavalier Symphony Orchestra is a fully student-run orchestra that anyone can join without an audition, though there are smaller audition-only chamber groups within the orchestra. The symphony provides students with an opportunity to continue with music in college without a rigorous schedule. 

The music department also provides many audition-only chamber ensembles and jazz groups. One particularly renowned group is the Charlottesville Symphony, which is open to faculty and members of the community as well as talented students. Different from the student-run Cavalier Symphony Orchestra, the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra is an auditioned group for professional musicians all across the city. They perform numerous concerts throughout the semester with a lineup of guest performers. 

Each of these groups will be present at the Activities Fair with more information about auditions.

For students that have dance experience –– or for those that want to try something new –– there are many dance groups to consider. Ranging from aerial dance to breakdancing, there truly is a dance group for everyone. Some of the audition-based groups include the Virginia Dance Company, The University Dance Club, X-Tasee Dance Crew and AKAdeMiX Dance Crew. Some of the non-audition groups include APEX Dance Crew, the Ballroom Dance Club and the University Salsa Club. 

For some, these groups are a way to step outside of their comfort zone. For others, they are a way to continue a love for performing. 

“It gave me the opportunity to continue performing … I learned so much from other dancers who were more well versed in other styles that were foreign to me,” said Victoria Rodawig, Virginia Dance Company member and second-year College student. 

The Virginia Dance Company is a student-run group for dedicated dancers, and they perform many times throughout the semester. Auditions will be held the weekend after classes begin.

“For any prospective members, I would advise them to really enjoy the audition process,” Rodawig said. “Even though it may be a little scary to dance in front of strangers … all of us have been in the same position. Just think of it as a fun masterclass!”

For those who have a knack for design and the visual arts, consider submitting to the V Magazine at the University, the school’s fashion, arts and culture magazine. The student-run magazine releases a publication every semester and features student submissions of art, photography, fashion and writing. VMAG also puts on various events throughout the year, such as a fashion gala at the Fralin Museum of Art last spring. The magazine can be a great way for one to gain exposure for their creations. 

Other groups exploring design and visual arts are the Ceramics Club, the Darden Photography Club and more. Regardless if the artistic elements are physical or virtual, each visual arts group at the University emphasizes the importance of staying creative and learning new ways to engage with art. 

Whether a student is an actor, a band member or prefers to be behind the scenes, there are many theater organizations on Grounds, especially for new students. 

In First Year Players, upperclassmen direct and put on a musical while first years and transfer students act. The group is structured so new members are supported by people who have been in the shows before. 

“In FYP, we have this sort of corny thing that it stands for ‘Find Your Place,’ but it really is true,” said Isabella Sheridan, director of this semester’s musical and third-year College student. “Everybody who wants to be a part of this community will find a place in it –– be it in cast, pit or tech –– and they will be met with so much support from every member of the organization.” 

This semester, FYP is putting on “Hello Dolly!” The musical follows matchmaker Dolly Levi to New York, where she is tasked with finding a match for the rich Horace Vandergelder, though she secretly wants to marry the man herself.

First-years are welcome to audition for the cast, audition for the pit or join one of the tech teams. 

There are also other theater groups that perform both plays and musicals where upperclassmen can be cast. Spectrum Theatre puts on either a play or a musical each semester directed entirely by students, and anyone is welcome to audition. Shakespeare on the Lawn puts on two of Shakespeare’s productions per year, for which there are open auditions. 

If you enjoy making people laugh, you should consider joining one of the University’s many beloved comedy groups. The University’s oldest improvisational group, the Whethermen, performs both short form and long form comedy.  Short form involves short, unrelated scenes or games while long form flows through several improvised scenes that connect. The Whethermen perform many times throughout the semester, and their chalk advertisements are constantly put up around Grounds. Its next upcoming show is Sept. 9. 

Comedy groups around Grounds bring a positive vibe to the University through making audiences double over with laughter. 

Though auditioning for arts groups can be nerve wracking, stepping outside of a comfort zone could lead to the most memorable experiences in college and finding a group of best friends. 

“The arts community at U.Va. is an amazing community full of accepting and caring people,” Duan said. 


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