In the Fall of 1998, the only original VoCal still in the group was Stacy Burcham. Amy Throckmorton was elected to take over as Musical Director, and the group chose David Higgins to be President. Ryan Bolger took over the position of Treasurer and Hylon John Heaton agreed to step in as the person who maintained the website, generated graphics for flyers, and performed other miscellaneous tasks. Heaton decided that this important position deserved a name, but it was too hard to summarize everything included in the job description. So, Heaton called himself “The MacPhail”.
The year began with a “Campus Blitz” which included singing all over campus to publicize auditions. Michael Landau and Breanne Martin decided not to continue singing with the group, leaving 8 continuing members going into auditions (Amy Throckmorton, David Higgins, John Heaton, Ryan Bolger, Adrian Staton, April Jones, Stacy Burcham and Jonathan Redford).
At this point, there was talk of forming a SoCal VoCals Alumni Association, and the name “SoVocAl” was chosen. But, the new graduates were too busy and geographically scattered to formalize the group, so it just resulted in one fun evening of singing old VoCal favorites and three years of really great welcome parties for new members. One remnant of this group, however, is the tradition of providing random welcome gifts to new members as they join the VoCals. Alumni felt that it was important to make new members feel welcome and to help them realize the importance of their place in a very special legacy.
The group decided to decrease the overall number of members from 19 or 20 to 14 or 15. The goals for the year were to increase overall professionalism and musicality, and record another album during the Spring Semester.
About 50 or 60 people auditioned, and 8 men and 6 women were called back. The VoCals invited 3 women and 3 men to join the group (Erin Crowley, Carmel Heckel, Amy Fritsche, Bryce Ryness, Matt Quan and Jeremy Kocal).
Alumni welcomed the “newbies” at a party hosted by Ann Lyles at the rec room of Skyline Condominiums, downtown. It was the first Alumni/Member mixer. The goal was to keep strong family ties between old and new members, and to have good jam sessions. The group had pizza, sang, and sat in the hot tub.
Rehearsals were scheduled on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights (ugh – 10 pm to midnight again), with the help of Ryan Bolger’s new web-based invention, the “VoCalendar”. The VoCalendar became so popular that many friends of VoCals (FOV’s) also used it to map their class schedules. The VoCals were headed for a busy year, but the VoCalendar kept members informed with gig and rehearsal information on the Backstage Area of scvocals.com.
The VoCals had to rush to learn music for their Oct. 9 concert with the UC Berkeley Men’s Octet, UC Golden Overtones, and the USC Sirens. The new members were up to the challenge! Despite Ground Zero’s mistake in double-booking the VoCals with the Black Student Union, forcing the show to be held in SGM 123, it went really well. With the help of alumni and some rented equipment from Hollywood Sound, the group even made a digital recording of the show.
The first annual SoCal VoCals Retreat was a Fall 1998 weekend at a cabin in Big Bear. The weekend included bonding events and a mad dash to cram new and old music into new members’ heads. It was a great chance to try out VoCal cooking, see stars (can’t do that much in L.A.), climb a huge waterfall, and stop at Ontario Mills Mall for lunch and a quick street performance on the way home.
Again, the VoCals were hired for the Nov. 6 Weekender gig in San Francisco, and they enjoyed a late dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Pier 39. There, they sang “Happy Birthday” to anyone in the restaurant celebrating the occasion, and engaged in a cheering competition with Alpha Chi Omega sorority members. The VoCals and their alumni sang in the rain on Pier 39 until a security guard asked them to leave at 1:00 am. Other good memories of the Weekender include staying at Bryce Ryness’ house, winning the game against Stanford, making clam chowder bowls, having hot chocolate and s’mores and watching The Princess Bride.
By the second annual SCAMFest, the Claremont group had returned to calling themselves “The Shades” rather than “The Styledogs”. The VoCals debuted the Corrs’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and BNL’s “One Week,” as well as Natalie Umbruglia’s “Torn”. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not as electric as previous years, possibly because the concert was held mid-day instead of at night. The VoCals attended a post-concert party and jammed with Cal Tech’s Ecphonema.
The second annual TroJam featured the SoCal VoCals, Cal Tech’s Ecphonema, and the UCSD TriTones, as well as USC’s Sirens, Hangovers, and a new men’s group called “Allright” which included VoCals Ryan Bolger and Jonathan Redford, and VoCal alumnus Mike Landau.
Festivities of the 1998 Christmas season included many small Christmas gigs, singing “I’ll be home for Kwanzaa” and a VoCals holiday party.
In the Spring of 1999, the VoCals took three new members at auditions: Aaron Tesfai, Elizabeth Brackenbury, and Mark Coupland.
For the third year in a row, the VoCals sold cappella Valentine grams as a fund raiser, so new members had plenty of chances to learn their music.
In a not-so-proud but memorable episode, the VoCals decided to enter a campus talent competition with a cash prize. They weren’t completely clear on the format of the competition, which was called “Showtime at Bovard”. The competition was based on “Showtime at the Apollo” where the audience decides how much of any given act they want to see by cheering or booing, and very few make it past the first ten seconds of their acts. One by one, aspiring USC R&B singers and rappers took the stage and the boisterous audience let them know they’d seen enough. The VoCals were no exception, but seemed especially shocked when a clown came onstage and literally swept them off with a broom. “Never again!” the VoCals swore.
The NCCA went on hiatus for a year, leaving the VoCals more time to focus on recording. During most of Spring 1999, the VoCals disappeared underground to record their second album, “This 2 Shall Rock” or, “T2SR” for short. This album was the first VoCal recording completely engineered and produced by Gabe Rutman at Asylum Studios. One of the most prestigious accomplishments of the 1998-1999 SoCal VoCals was getting a track on BOCA 2000 with “Torn”. This was the first of many consecutive appearances on BOCA releases. In addition, “This 2 Shall Rock” won a second place CARA (Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards) for Best Collegiate Album of the Year. Within four years of forming, the VoCals had truly risen to the level of the college a cappella elite.
At graduation in 1999, the VoCals lost master percussionist and president, David Higgins, as well as musical director Amy Throckmorton, wailing tenor Jeremy KoCal, and growling alto Erin Crowley. Stacy Burcham announced that she would be attending ‘SC in the Fall for her 5th year in the SoCal VoCals. Stacy took over as musical director and Hylon John Heaton stepped up as president.
The Summer of 1999 marked the first official Summer VoCals with regular rehearsal times and many gigs. Returning alumni had a blast learning new arrangements, getting to know new members, and re-living very fond memories of singing with the group.