InToneNation: What Blair a capella does during the off-season

Dec. 18, 2023, 1:58 p.m. | By Giorgia Toti | 6 months, 1 week ago

When InTonenation is not caroling during December and February, what are they doing?

February of 2023, InToneNation was delivering singing grams for Valentines day. Photo courtesy of Maggie Megosh.

As the holiday season starts to roll around, Blair students will once again see the familiar faces of InToneNation, Blair’s a capella group, when singing grams and consequently embarrassed faces will fill every classroom. But what does InTone do when they aren’t singing Electric Love? Well, they’re practicing. Practices are held once a week all year round during which the team prepares for school events, public gigs, and service events. 

A short history

InToneNation was founded in 1994 and it originally started out of the choir department. They performed at different events, but mainly at choir recitals, and a range of music, traditional and non-traditional. “To do challenging one on one part a capella music, there's nothing like it… It's the greatest challenge and it's literally college prep… It's a real edge to have the experience of doing one on one without a net,” says Isabel Hernández-Cáta, the club sponsor and Blair music teacher. Now, after nearly 30 years of running, InToneNation is a core part of the Blair community and a safe space for many students. 

The process of what

Auditions for the group are held in October and July and once someone is on the team, they are on it for life. InToneNation president Atlas Smith-Gibson describes a typical audition, which includes various tests of musical ability. “We have them sing the scale as a range test up and down, and then sing a song that they bring, just 30 seconds to a minute,” they say. Then on the weekends, they hold callbacks where applicants must learn and sing a simple song. “We teach a simple song, whatever that may be for the year and just see how that individual works with the type of music we do. Then we let them know [how] they did,” Smith-Gibson says. 

Sabine Kitenge, a junior on the team, finds that auditions are always stressful, even in relaxed settings. “The environment is chill, but auditioning for anything is stressful,” she says.

When assessing an applicant during the audition process, the most important thing that InToneNation officers look for is availability, as the club is very time-intensive. “Honestly, if you're too busy, we wouldn't want to take more of your time because we know high school gets busy,” says Smith-Gibson.

After auditions are over and practices begin, the team meetings are held on weekends in a member’s home and many members find that these practices are just like hanging out with friends. Musical director Navek Leonard loves InToneNation’s relaxed and friendly community him. “When you go [to practice] you don't have to worry at all about who you're going to talk to because [you] would happily hang out with anyone for hours,” Leonard says. 

Junior InToneNation member Reetika Banerjee finds that her favorite part of being on the team is hearing all groups harmonize at the end of practice. “It's fun learning new pieces and it's really cool to hear everyone harmonizing together. It's very satisfying... harmonizing – that's my favorite part,” Banerjee says. 

What Now?

Currently, InToneNation is working to prepare for the holidays, where they will perform in Blair and in the nearby community. “ [We are] preparing to do our caroling around the school, as well as a performance in downtown Silver Spring, and a possible one at a senior home,” says Smith-Gibson. 

Diversity and inclusion is a huge part of Blair in general and the team wants to make their carols as inclusive as possible to reflect that aspect of the Blair community. They are looking for all songs for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.“We want to celebrate all cultures and definitely pull holidays just away from Christmas,” says Smith-Gibson. 

Why Join?

Most members, like Banerjee, join InToneNation to find a community of like-minded people to sing with. “I didn't really know much about [a capella]... , but I always liked singing, and I thought it'd be really fun to sing with the group,” she says. InToneNation is a place for curious singers to come together and improve their singing skills as well as make new friends. 

Kitenge was in a similar situation to Banerjee, she was curious about what it might be like to sing in a group. “I’ve just always liked singing. I've also really always loved a capella music. So when I learned that there was an a capella group of Blair I was like, that's really cool,” Kitenge says. 

For Smith-Gibson, it’s the community that makes them love InToneNation. “I think it's being around people who are also passionate for music in the same way you are [that makes me love the community]… My family is a very college, academic centered family but the arts just are not as celebrated. So it was nice to join a group where the arts are celebrated,” they say. 

Soon, as the nights get longer and the temperatures cooler, students at Blair will begin to see more and more of InToneNation. Caroling will fill the halls the week before winter break and soon after students will be able to send singing grams to one another. They will also begin playing public events, so when in Downtown Silver Spring, keep an ear out for the voices of InToneNation.

Last updated: Dec. 18, 2023, 9:58 p.m.

Giorgia Toti. Hello! I am Giorgia Toti, a junior at MBHS, and this is my first year as a writer on Silver Chips Online. Along with a love of writing I am a part of Girl Scouts and am finishing my final Gold Award project, a coxswain … More »

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