Student music director's arrangement makes yearly best-of compilation album
Virginia Tech’s all-male a capella group Juxtaposition celebrates its 20th aniversary this year with the release of a short demo featuring two covers, “Mirrors,” originally performed by Justin Timberlake, and “Pompeii,” from the band Bastille.
The latter will be featured on “Varsity Vocal’s Best of College A Capella (BOCA) 2014” album. Naturally Sharp, Virginia Tech’s other all-male a capella group, will join Juxtaposition on the best of 2014 album, contributing a cover of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.”
Varsity Vocals accepts thousands of nationwide submissions for its annual best-of album. Only 18 tracks make the final cut, making the selection to appear on this album a valuable mark of accomplishment in the a capella community.
Juxtaposition’s music director, Bryson Baumgartel of Ashburn, Va., a senior majoring in piano performance in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, arranged both of the demo covers. He said having a song he arranged selected to appear on BOCA was an extremely rewarding experience.
“It’s our fourth appearance on BOCA and the third time appearing on a best-of compilation CD,” said Baumgartel “[It's] so it's reassuring to see that we are still riding the momentum we created with our last album.”
2014 wraps up Baumgartel’s fourth year with Juxtaposition, a group he joined straight out of high school after past experience singing in choirs. His first shot at arrangement came in his very first semester at Virginia Tech, a rendition of “Breakeven” by The Script. In 2012, he took over as music director for Juxtaposition.
“Arranging for Juxta is a lot of fun,” said Baumgartel. He said the process always starts with song selection — usually somebody in the group shares a song that they really enjoy and feel would be a good fit for the group, and it either clicks immediately or doesn't. “’Pompeii’ was one of those songs that clicked immediately. I've done a majority of the arrangements for the group, but some other guys will take up the responsibility if they feel really strongly about a song and have a lot of ideas. Sometimes collaborations will happen, too, where two or three of us put our heads together to do one song.”
Baumgartel stressed that arranging for an a cappella group is a unique experience. “A lot of the choices you make as an arranger are based on your intimate understanding of the voices in your group — you have to know all the different limits of the voices, high notes and low notes, and that sort of thing. Somebody who arranges a song for a big jazz band, for instance, has to do a lot of the same things I might do for Juxta — listen a lot, transcribe the chords, and then start making decisions about how you're going to make this song unique to your group.”
Baumgartel added that it’s incredibly exciting for Naturally Sharp to appear on the album alongside Juxtaposition. “JMU and UVA have been dominating a capella in both Virginia and on the national stage for years, so with two Virginia Tech groups appearing this year, we hope we can start to change that.”
The upcoming semester is a big one for Juxtaposition. They will host a concert April 4 to celebrate the return of alumni to Blacksburg for the group’s 20th anniversary. They plan to release a greatest hits album of recorded songs from the last 20 years, as well as an EP with all new music.
Written by Drew Knapp.