On Campus, Arts

Common Tones Build Inclusive Community Through Song and Service

Michael Burke and Max Bechtold, both MCAS ’18, exchanged a brief, knowing glance before breaking into lighthearted laughter.

If someone had told the specifics of what the world of college a cappella had in store for Burke and Bechtold at the start of their freshman year, the charismatic co-creators of Boston College’s newest a cappella crew would’ve called him or her crazy. Now, as the second year of their undergraduate endeavors at BC comes to a close, the sophomores reminisced about how a shared passion for music allowed for the impressive assimilation of a fresh-faced singing group to a thriving campus music scene.

Launching into a charming, it’s-actually-a-pretty-funny-story kind of narrative, Burke explained the motives for making The Common Tones of Boston College a reality. Meanwhile, Bechtold expounded on how, exactly, the large group of co-ed crooners has incorporated community service into its repertoire. Though it has not yet devised a regular service schedule, the group has found various opportunities to bring its talent and energy to performances at local nursing homes and schools.

“It kind of started as a joke at an audition for another a cappella group,” Burke recalled excitedly. “From there, a number of us didn’t make it, and then we thought, ‘Wait a second, this is actually a great idea. More people can be involved, and we can create a group that has an enthusiastic environment that we would love to be a part of.’”

Though whispers and rumors of founding a new group had for years circulated following the heartbreaking cuts after a cappella callbacks, it wasn’t until the Fall 2015 semester that the two decided to do something about it. With intentions to create a larger, more inclusive a cappella group than those already in existence, Burke and Bechtold worked to bring together a community that allowed the more-than-capable vocalists—a cappella hopefuls who would’ve made the cut if not for the limited number of available spots on other groups—an opportunity to make the music they love. The group became a registered student organization this February.

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“A lot of people were wholeheartedly committed to being part of something that they didn’t know was going to succeed,” Bechtold said, acknowledging the group’s rather remarkable success in becoming a recognized singing group at BC. “I think we were easily able to become a cohesive group because we had kids who were incredibly determined to do this, and that support from the members really allowed for success.”

Further identifying the group as a new, refreshing addition to the realm of BC a cappella, Burke explained their goal to incorporate service within the group.

“We really wanted service to be ingrained in what we were about,” he said. “It’s written throughout our mission statement. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to really build this community, to use our talents to help other people. That was the goal.”

Despite a mere joke serving as the catalyst for group’s early origins, The Common Tones are no laughing matter. Serious about its commitment to service and uniting communities through the compelling power of music, the brand-new group emanates the same level of palpable joy and professionalism as some of the well-established a cappella crews that have for so long been ingrained in the fabric of BC’s music scene.

As exhibited in their first annual Spring Show, The Common Tones are a powerhouse of pure vocal talent. Song covers, like the group’s creative version of The Chainsmokers’ “Roses” as rendered at the group’s recent Campus School performance, are impressively arranged and powerfully performed for attentive audiences. Considering the group’s unique focus on service and community-building in its mission statement, The Common Tones have created a service-oriented identity that favors philanthropy.

Burke sees the group’s high number of underclassmen as beneficial, rather than a drawback. He commends the underclassmen who have assumed daunting leadership roles, explaining how their experience taking on the responsibilities allotted to them will provide the group with knowledgeable officers and the individual with formative leadership skills for the future.

“We were really able to create something pretty awesome out of nothing,” Bechtold said. “It wasn’t something I had ever considered or thought about doing before. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the faith of all our members.”

Burke agreed, citing The Common Tones’  infectious spirit of camaraderie as the element he appreciates most.

“It has really become a home for people on campus. The group provides such a loving and joyous space, and to be able to bring that love to schools, nursing homes, and other sites for service opportunities is just so rewarding.”

As for the future of The Common Tones, the founders hope to expand through the promotion of the group’s egalitarian and community-building founding principles.

“We’re gonna get as many people singing with us as we can,” Burke said.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

Photos Courtesy of Andrew Malley

May 4, 2016