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By ALEXANDRA CHENG —

Here she was again, sitting dead center on the Frary Steps at 10:15 p.m. sharp, claiming her prime seat 15 minutes ahead of the performance.

Jess Gaffney, a chemistry-literature dual major at Claremont McKenna College, is arguably one of the biggest a cappella enthusiasts on campus.

“I have always loved singing but am not very good at it myself,” Gaffney said. She cited her fifth- and sixth-grade music teacher Mr. Kono as having inspired and nurtured her appreciation for music.

The 19-year-old water polo player’s obsession with a cappella first began when she stumbled upon some YouTube videos of the singing group Pentatonix.

Pentatonix is a YouTube a cappella sensation that has been creating mash-ups and covers of popular songs since 2011. The movie “Pitch Perfect” is another pop-culture sensation that has fueled Gaffney’s love for a cappella. “The mash-up at the end is so epic,” she exclaimed.

There are nine a cappella groups across the five Claremont Colleges, impressive for such small colleges, the Santa Barbara native says. The various groups perform regularly on the Frary Steps, but having just recruited new members for the fall semester, it will be some time before their next concert. When asked which a cappella group is her favorite, Gaffney was hesitant to choose just one, finally saying, “that’s really hard … but I’d have to say ASS is my favorite.”

After School Specials is one of the 5C’s best. Gaffney says she respects all of the a cappella groups but that she has many friends in ASS so she had to go with them. Auditions were held over the weekend and of the more than 100 tryouts, only six students were offered invitations to join the prestigious group.

Last year, Pomona College hosted the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, a nationwide a cappella competition. Of course, Gaffney was one of the first in line for tickets. ASS is the only 5C a cappella group that has competed in the ICCAs and made it to the West Coast semi-finals.

As for herself, she said she would not audition for any of the groups on campus. “Having grown up, I understand that I can’t sing well,” she explained.

(Written by Alexandra Cheng, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Sept. 26, 2015)

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