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New Chords a cappella group rehearses in Tupper Hall in Athens, Feb. 29, 2024.

‘New Chords on the Block’ mixes music, friendship

Standing in a huddle, each member of “New Chords on the Block” put their hands together. Within seconds, all the members jump and raise their voices, chanting, “Chords, Chords, Chords.” Energy lights up the room, and New Chords is ready to commence its final rehearsal before the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCA. 

New Chords on the Block was formed in 2010 as the first mixed a cappella group at Ohio University. The name originated as a reference to the boy band, “New Kids on the Block,” and because it was the newest a cappella group on campus at the time. Of the 17 members, 16 competed Saturday in the ICCA, taking fourth place overall.

Feelings going into the competition were tense, but club president Larissa Strong, a senior studying political science and sociology-criminology, was confident in the group’s abilities to shine.

“I think we're in a really, really great spot,” Strong said. “All of our new members are incredibly talented. I'm so proud of how far they've come just from not being in the group at all to being very highly valued members.”

Strong joined New Chords in 2020 and has found a family within the group since then. The chemistry among the group is clear in its performances, practicing for months to perfect its routine. For a competition performance to come together, it typically takes the group around four months to learn the song and choreograph. 

“I really feel like everyone in New Chords really likes each other and everyone enjoys spending time together,” Strong said. “So even though we've been really busy prepping for competition, I know that we all spend a lot of time together outside of those pre-planned rehearsals.”

Preston Nichols, a freshman studying choral music education, beat boxes for New Chords. Although this is his first year with the group, he is excited to be a part of the action and continue his passion for a cappella.

Nichols recalled a memory at the University of Cincinnati during his first solo, when a fellow Chords member gave him some words of encouragement before getting on stage for the first time.

“(When) we’re set to go, we’re hyping each other up,” Nichols said. “Sese actually told me to get into the mind of Beyoncé — ‘I am Beyoncé.’”

Logan Long, a sophomore studying psychology, is the member at large for New Chords. She began her singing journey in the second grade and has been with the group for two years helping choreograph. Long sees New Chords as an extension of her family and a close-knit group of lifelong friends.

“Even though all of us aren't within the same majors — we don't have that many classes together — we come together,” she said. “We're like best friends. We have multiple inside jokes from years past … And it makes me so happy. Just coming into a rehearsal and knowing there are people that actually care about you.”

Members of New Chords are accepted through auditions in the fall and practice two-to-three times a week depending on the events on its schedule. Countless hours go into its routines, but for New Chords, rehearsals are anything but work. 

Despite graduation growing near, feelings and memories with New Chords will remain key moments during Strong’s time at OU.

“I will be stepping down and graduating, but I'm really excited to see what they're going to continue to work on,” Strong said. “I know whoever steps into leadership after me and after my current exec board is going to be just perfect for the job because I can think of every single member of New Chords right now, and I know they would all leave New Chords with just so much skill.”

Although the season is over for New Chords, the future holds more memories and the potential to return to the ICCAs again next year, this time seeking victory beyond the quarterfinals. 

“I am so excited to see what new members we bring in next year,” Long said. “This year, we brought in so many new members that are beyond talented. The vocals, how we sound, is just amazing this year, and I just can't wait to see what else we do for the end of the year.”


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