THE BLOG
01/09/2015 04:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Saving the Tempo

by Kyndall Ashe

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"We're leaving."

"Leaving?"

"Leaving."

His voice struck me like a bullet through a wall of glass, shattering the peace I felt in the beginning of my junior year. George was the musical arranger and de-facto leader of Tempo Tantrum, the student-led a cappella group to which we both belonged. Now he was taking two of our strongest members away to start another group. These three were the "glue" of the group. Without them, everyone expected Tempo to collapse. But I would not let this happen on my watch.

I was determined to save Tempo, fighting what seemed to be the inevitable end of our group. My attitude in this situation mirrored my determination to take the most demanding courses available at my school in lieu of taking the easy route through high school. My love for math and Latin kept me on the advanced academic track in school. Now my passion for music drove me to take a leadership role in keeping Tempo alive.

I trace this passion to moment in fifth grade when I nervously stepped up to the microphone at my school's weekly Chapel service to sing the Star Spangled Banner. The rush I felt mid-verse was a incomparable feeling. In that magical moment, I felt confident yet serene, powerful and at peace, and I knew music would mean the world to me forever.

However, I needed more than my passion for music to save my group, so I drew on my leadership skills and thought outside of the box. The group would be losing members, so I decided to consider the potential of freshmen--a group of students traditionally excluded from Sidwell's a cappella groups-- in the audition process, which I organized. Initially no one thought Tempo could compete in the world of a cappella at Sidwell with a large number freshmen members. However these words of discouragement sounded shockingly familiar.

When I was new to the school as a 9th grader, I decided to run for Student Government representative despite being told that my class--comprised of mostly returning students--had a deeply rooted dynamic that would prove to be difficult to decipher in one year. I defied the advice, delivering a speech before all of my new classmates about the power a fresh voice and a new perspective could have when it came to representing the class. Winning that election was an extremely eye-opening moment.

This experience showed me that even unseasoned freshmen could be assets to keeping Tempo alive. When our three most important members left, we also lost several of our remaining junior members. The most talented upperclassmen were already taken by other groups, and we didn't have an arranger. So I quickly organized auditions open to freshmen, discovering great untapped talent, and took on the role of arranger.

I arranged the music for our first concert, but the performance was not indicative of the potential I saw in our group. As the year continued the group improved, and though we struggled at times to keep the rowdy freshmen focused at rehearsals, it was certainly a learning experience for my co-head and me, and in the end our group was able to survive.

Now, in my senior year, not only does Tempo survive, but it also thrives. For our first concert of the year I discovered an arrangement by Pentatonix, a group whose sound Tempo has always desired to model. Using an already-made arrangement made it so that I was able to teach my fellow members their parts in a much more timely manner, and I was able to devote more of my time to directing. Our performances are now revered for recreating the sounds of popular music with just the voices of twelve high schoolers. After our Winter concert this year, I was actually approached by George with words of praise. I even detected a hint of regret in his voice.

Tempo is now considered one of the top performing groups in our school and region. Tempo's survival and success came from the same tenacity and self-determination that have defined me throughout my school career. I drew on my identity as a leader unafraid of a challenge, and followed my passion to truly make a difference in my school community. I certainly plan to do it again!

Kyndall Ashe, a freshman at Amherst is a graduate of the Sidwell Friends School.