Singers from Union will compete for “Thruway” title

College basketball players know March means madness. For Jaclyn Mandart and some of her friends at U

College basketball players know March means madness.

For Jaclyn Mandart and some of her friends at Union College, March means melody. The 22-year-old senior and singer will be on stage Saturday at the GE Theatre at Proctors, part of “Thruway: A Sing Off.”

It’s a tournament with notes instead of nets, harmony spots instead of half-court shots — six a cappella groups from Union, the University of Rochester, the University of Connecticut and Colgate will compete for the title “Champions of the Thruway.”

Proceeds from the show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will benefit the Community Land Trust of Schenectady.

Union will be represented by its three a cappella outfits — the Dutch Pipers, Garnet Minstrelles and Eliphalets. Rochester’s Midnight Ramblers, UConn’s Chordials and Colgate’s Dischords will also suit up and sing out.

‘Thruway: A Sing Off’

WHERE: Proctors, GE Theatre, 432 State St. Schenectady

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday



Emulating TV show

Mandart, a psychology major from Patchogue, L.I. who has helped put together the concert, said the show will follow the pattern of the NBC television series “The Sing Off.” Each group will perform three songs, and two finalists eventually will be chosen. The top groups each will sing one song, and a winner will be chosen.

“The concert is a lot of fun,” said Mandart, who will perform with both the all-female Garnet Minstrelles and the co-ed Eliphalets.

“It’s a way for us to meet and hear other a cappella groups from other colleges because it’s an invitational show. It’s a way for us to get involved with the community and do something good for the city. The Community Land Trust raises money for housing projects for low-income families. It’s a good way to get involved and do something to benefit the place we live.”

Another perk is Proctors. Mandart said all singers will get the chance to perform inside the 436-seat, “black box” theater.

This will be the second time “Thruway” has been held in downtown Schenectady. Janet Grigsby, a senior lecturer in sociology at Union, said the college’s a cappella groups have held their “Thruway” show on campus for many years. She’s also a member of the Community Land Trust board of the directors, and helped organize the 2011 edition of the show.

“The land trust, like many non-profits, is looking for financial support now more than ever,” she said. “Since I teach at the college, I reached out to students last year to see if any students were interested in doing some fundraising on behalf of the land trust.”

Singers signed up, and last year’s show sold out. Mandart said the performances raised more than $6,000.

Collegiate tradition

Grigsby added that a cappella singing groups have long been traditions on some college campuses. The success of the Fox series “Glee,” about the adventures of a high school glee club, has boosted interested in collegiate performance.

Grigsby said people who hear “Thruway” will also see high energy. Enthusiasm is part of the plan.

“Last year, the audience was instantly receptive,” she said. “The singers were just having a great time and doing a great job. They do somewhat complicated harmonizing; the sound was electric without any instruments other than their voices.”

Bev Burnett, executive director of the land trust, said the concert is important to her organization.

“Right now, it means almost everything,” she said. “With funding cut, fundraising is really what we need to begin to rely on. It’s great that the kids are willing to do this. It gives them an opportunity to perform for the public and for us to get some benefit from that.”

Community Land Trust of Schenectady administers state “RESTORE” grant emergency home repairs for low-income senior citizens, offers home improvement classes, landlord and tenant instructional classes and credit counseling. “Pretty much anything that’s related to housing issues for low-income people,” Burnett said.

Like Grigsby, Burnett loves the sounds from the “Thruway.”

“Everybody works really hard so it’s really just a fun night to go out and listen to some kids with some really great voices,” she said.

Mandart said the show is a mix of competitive and collegiate spirit.

“We do get pretty competitive in the sense that we step up our games, we learn a bunch of new songs, usually pretty difficult arrangements,” she said. “We don’t necessarily know what the other schools are doing . . . we put more effort into this show than we do any other show of the year.”

In it to win

Shawn Tangnavarad is singing to win. He’s president of the all-male Dutch Pipers, who finished second in 2011.

“I know all the guys in my group are very eager to try to place first this year,” said Tangnavarad, 20, a junior English major from Fairfield, Conn.

“I love singing, I love performing,” he said. “I got into a cappella when I got into college and I’ve never had a better time singing on stage than I did in ‘Thruway’ last year. It’s a great cause. Professor Grigsby is very passionate about the Schenectady land trust and I think a lot of us have become passionate as well.”

Categories: Life and Arts


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