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Sarah Unruh ’12

After a rebuilding year, Open Road to showcase its vocal blend

by Erin Bradley

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – After spending a year rebuilding, the Bethel College men’s a cappella group Open Road will show the results at its annual end-of-year concert.

The event is May 12 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall, free and open to the public.

Last spring, Open Road said goodbye to all but two members. So the 2012-13 year has been about creating new group cohesiveness and preparing for the future.

“We invited six new singers,” said returning member Aaron Tschetter, junior from from Freeman, S.D. “A rebuilding year means we spent a lot of our first semester working on our music and repertoire and getting everybody’s sound to [come] together.”

Tschetter and the other returner, junior Taylor Stucky from Moundridge, recruited senior Andy Miller, Marion, S.D., juniors Cody Claassen, Whitewater, and Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D., sophomores Riley King, Lawrence, and Ben Kreider, North Newton, and freshman Braden Unruh, Goessel.

“It started off really tentative,” Tschetter said. “When you get a group of people that aren’t used to being together, everyone’s kind of shy. They aren’t sure how much they can say or how much they can contribute to the group. So it really took a lot of ‘All right, guys, it’s okay to speak your mind. It’s okay to sing out. Blend together, listen to each other.’

“Listening has really been an issue we have worked on, just to get such a good blend in our sound,” Tschetter added. “And lot of people have commented in this second semester – how we all sound like a group, how there is not a lot of individual voices sticking out. That is what we are looking, for so we are glad to get that feedback.”

Getting the group to where it is now took plenty of planning, Tschetter said.

“Taylor and I met a lot at the beginning of the [school year] to talk about who was coming into the group and what kind of music we would do. We are still Open Road – we are using a lot of ideas and things that have been done in the past – but at the same time it’s like a whole new Open Road. Like the way we have approached the group this year – a lot more fun and relaxed.”

In their May 12 concert, the group plans to perform some classic Open Road pieces, such as “Here by the Water,” “I Believe” and “So if You Love Me?”

As the rebuilding continues, the group is already looking at next year and preparing for the Bethel College Concert Choir’s quadrennial European tour in January 2014.

“We will add one member and possibly two or three,” Tschetter said. “We will be working toward getting Open Road repertoire worked up for the choir tour, because it’s not often you get the opportunity to sing in big cathedrals and spaces that have been designed for singing.”

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.