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A cappella groups more than instrumental

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(WXOW) – At a time of schools being asked to do more, often with fewer resources, a couple of area music programs are taking it upon themselves to do just that on a whole new level.

It's not a new concept. In fact, creating songs with nothing but a human voice is among the oldest forms of music known to man. It is, however, thanks to pop culture that a cappella music sees a resurgence.

Deke Sharon should know. He's the music director for the hit movie Pitch Perfect and has worked with a number of emerging a cappella groups like Pentatonix.

The thing that makes it a little different now is people using their voices more as instruments to reflect what's going on in popular music on the radio,” said Sharon. “Probably the most noticeable of those things is the use of vocal percussion and beat-boxing because rhythm is such a central part of pop music now."

Now hitting the high notes in colleges across the country, modern a cappella is still relatively quiet at the high school level. That’s a fact the kids of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau's Vocal Point strive to change.

G-E-T senior Austin Stelphlug said, “[We enjoy] being able to show other high schools that don't have the ability to do this just what we can create and what we can do and how amazing a cappella music is and what it can bring to a choir program."

"It's really important to share that with everybody so we can get the arts back into our schools," added Vocal Point’s Rachel Lavender.

G-E-T choir director Ryan Stuempges said he never really has to worry about support for the arts in his district. Nevertheless, when he started Vocal Point three years ago, it injected new life into the school's music program.

"Vocal point rolls in around 6:45 or 7:00 a.m., on their own time,” said Stuempges. “That's the cool thing about these kids. They want to do more."

It goes beyond the music. It's more of an expression," said sophomore Haily Johnson.

That expression echoes beyond the halls of G-E-T, just up the road in Arcadia. Last year, then new choir director Adam Petroski transformed the school's traditional show-choir to a full-on a cappella group.

Petroski said, "I kind of had this goal in my head that someday I want to show my students what I got to be a part of in college because I had such a great experience."

It wasn't necessarily a popular decision at the time.

"To only just stand there and sing pretty much, it was hard,” said Arcadia junior Taylor Rae. “But, I guess, I got used to it, and I kind of like it more than show choir."

The transition is working. Arcadia is currently experiencing a crescendo in their choir numbers

"This year we have about 75 kids in choir. Next year we have well over 90-95 kids signed up,” Petroski said.

Arcadia junior James Werlein added, "And for all of us, it's like this is another way of learning stuff."

When it comes to learning, Deke Sharon reminds us there's something to be said for music.

"Not only are kids more engaged in school when they've got the arts and specifically music, but also they do better in school,” Sharon said. “In mathematics classes, the numbers go up when there's a music class."

That makes high school a cappella groups more than instrumental.

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