From laughing about their difficulty learning dance moves to discussing the movie “Camp Rock,” the members of The Royal Pitches have cultivated a friendship that oozes with comfort and ease.
In an interview with The Spectrum, four of the group’s members sat next to each other and tossed jokes back and forth, finished each other’s sentences and delved into their time with the a cappella group together.
Yet, this atmosphere of familiarity, which seems to radiate from the air itself, was not built without effort.
Through common interests in singing, women’s empowerment and a focus on making the group feel like a “family,” The Royal Pitches have made it a mission to create a safe space for women’s voices to be heard through music as UB’s all-female a cappella group.
Founded in 1996, the 15-member group is one of three a cappella clubs on campus. With semesterly performances; openings for on-campus speakers such as John Legend, Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama; and annual performances at Take Back the Night, a walk that supports survivors of domestic violence, The Pitches have an extensive history on the stage. Now, looking toward the future, The Pitches have their sights set on the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) and “Pitches’ Elegance,” their spring semester concert.
The upcoming spring concert is a major one for The Pitches — it’s one of their first performances since taking a break from spring 2020 until last semester as a result of COVID-19 (other groups chose to hold online concerts). This decision was made out of concern for members’ mental health, they say.
“We didn’t want to put anything too strenuous on people,” Sara Grossman, a senior media studies major and The Pitches’ PR manager/music director, said. “And, honestly, it worked out the best because we really built ourselves back up.”
The Pitches also wanted to avoid bringing new members into their group without having a better picture of their future. With the uncertainty of in-person concerts, The Pitches felt it was unfair to have someone audition, only for them to never see a stage.
Now, as they return from their hiatus, The Pitches say the time off helped them form a closer bond with one another.
Where their group chat used to run dry, Sari Arrow, a junior psychology major and Pitches assistant music director, says she is always “cracking up” at the different texts her group members send.
The Pitches attribute this shift in their group to a more receptive relationship between members and the e-board, as well as the desire for connection brought on by the pandemic.
“I feel like when it [The Pitches] was taken away, we all missed it,” Rebecca Meyer, a pharmacy student and Pitches president, said. “I think a lot of people use The Pitches as stress relief.”
Maintaining this dynamic remains especially important for The Pitches since a third of their current members joined just this year, and another third will be graduating at the end of the semester.
The Pitches pride themselves on the diversity of personalities that make up the group. The result of having 16 unique members allows for productive disagreement and conversation that pushes the group on their journey forward.
“I think that [the disagreements] make it that much stronger of a group because we are able to work through that,” Grossman said. “I feel like whenever you agree with everyone about everything, it’s not a productive situation. You want to put yourself in situations that challenge you.”
Still, despite these minor disputes, one goal ties each member together: empowering women.
With feminism at the forefront of their minds, The Pitches seek to instill confidence in all women, whether they’re “feminine” or “masculine,” because “they’re still a woman.”
In pursuit of this agenda, The Pitches have selected songs superseding topics like love and men for their upcoming concert.
“I feel like we used to sing songs that were always like, ‘Woe is me. I love men, but they don’t love me. Men control my life,’” Grossman said, laughing.
In making this change, The Pitches’ setlist at “Pitches’ Elegance” will include covers of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “abcdefu” by Gayle, songs The Pitches feel better reflect their group’s message.
The Pitches say they are often rewarded by other women congratulating them and finding inspiration from their concerts, as a result of their women’s empowerment and independence-focused ballads.
“They’ll come up to me and be like, ‘Oh my god, your song was so cool. Like it was amazing to see you guys all up there,’” Meyer said.
Sarah Meyer, a senior biological sciences major, says she found herself feeling inspired while she watched her older sister, Rebecca, perform on stage.
“I was like, ‘That’s such a cool thing for a young girl to be able to look up to and aspire to,’” Sarah Meyer recounted, as she explained why she became a Pitch.
Sarah Meyer says that since joining The Pitches, she has been able to come out of her shell and find the confidence to perform on stage, despite having been “pretty shy.”
The Pitches also describe themselves as “fun, quirky and relatable” — three terms that unite members together.
The Pitches say these characteristics come out during more intimate performances, such as “Unplugged” — the group’s annual Norton Hall performance — where they don’t use lighting or microphones.
“At ‘Unplugged,’ we actually have to listen to each other,” Arrow said. “It’s raw. It’s real. It’s there.”
Now, as they near the end of the semester and prepare for their spring concert — scheduled for May 7 in the Student Union Theater — The Pitches look forward to continuing their legacy and passing the torch onto a new generation of singers.
One of their main goals is to compete in the ICCA, a feat that has often been challenging for The Pitches due to the time commitment required to compete in such a competition and the dedication many Pitches have to their schoolwork.
But The Pitches are confident that these aspirations will come to fruition and allow the members to “break barriers as a women’s a cappella group.”
With these goals in reach — especially as a new e-board takes the reins in light of the graduating seniors, which include Grossman, Sarah Meyer and Rebecca Meyer — The Pitches look forward to even brighter years to come.
“You always want to leave something better than you found it,” Grossman said. “That is what we’re doing.”
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum. She is an English and Spanish double major and is pursuing a certificate in creative writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire and binging reality TV on the weekends.