Singing the praises of Cockappella

Some people spend a lifetime searching for something that makes their faces light up the way Ben Peele’s does when he talks about Cockappella

“This is Carolina culture,” says Peele, who is president of the coed a cappella group. “We come from all different majors, all different states, all different backgrounds, but we’re all USC. We’re just a bunch of random students who like to sing, and we’re pretty good at it. But even more than that, we love it, and that’s something I hope we never lose.” 

Peele, now a senior psychology major, had been involved in marching band and church choirs since elementary school, but the idea of performing a cappella came later. 

“I came to USC and did marching band for a year, but the idea of getting back into singing was there,” he says. “I’d seen videos of people doing a cappella on YouTube, and it just seemed cool. Having a whole group to sing with and have fun with really drew me back to it.” 

Peele began his USC a cappella career with SoundCheck (now the Carolina Gentlemen) and joined Cockappella a year later. As the group’s public relations representative, he worked to get Cockappella more involved around campus, and the group competed in an International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella competition last spring. Now, as president, he’s taking his vision and pushing it forward. 

“I want to see us record some singles and get those out on iTunes,” he says. “I want to see us go around the state to different schools and perform small concerts there and sell our stuff, and I want to see us going back to competition next semester and doing even better.” 

All of these goals are possible, he says, because of the positive attitudes and hard work of his fellow members. 

“In Cockappella, it’s definitely a family dynamic,” he says. “Sure, everyone wants to get the solo, but whoever gets it, we’re all like, ‘You definitely deserved it. You’re going to be great on this.’ There’s no resentment. I love it.” 

And in case you were wondering, Peele says he’s seen firsthand how the recent rise of a cappella onto the pop culture scene — in the form of “Glee,” “Pitch Perfect” and shows like “The Sing-Off” — has influenced the popularity of the singing style in real life. 

“Absolutely, more people are trying out now because of these shows,” he says. “When we were at the organization fair, I would say, ‘Hey! Do you want to sign up for Cockappella? We’re looking for singers, beatboxers and rappers. If that’s you, we want you.’ 

“And I would literally hear people as they passed by say, ‘Oh my God, it’s like “Pitch Perfect!”’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, yes it is, but really, we’ve been doing this for a long time.’” 

But while the hype over “Pitch Perfect” still hasn’t died down, Cockappella’s time in the spotlight is just beginning: after more than a year of recording and production, the group’s first album, “Up and Coming,” is now available for purchase. 

“This CD — we made it, and we raised the money with our friends and our families, and a lot of us in the group put forth quite a bit of money to actually get this thing off the ground,” Peele says. “We put our hearts and souls into making this thing happen. 

The CD, which had been in the works for more than a year, is an incredibly proud moment for Cockappella members past and present, Peele says, and it represents the group member’s dedication to their craft and to each other. 

“We want to be the best,” he says. “If we’ve come that far in less than four years, imagine where we’ll be two years from now. It’s incredible.” 

“Up and Coming” features a cappella arrangements of 10 pop songs old and new. The CDs are available for $10 at local stores Papa Jazz Records, Pecknel Music Company and Star Music Company, and they’ll also be sold at upcoming Cockappella concerts.

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