“When I saw SCAMFest my freshman year, I [thought], ‘That’s what I want to do,’ Sammy Shrestha PO ’23 said. Two years later, they not only performed in the beloved 5C event but were also responsible for organizing the entire show, a performance designed to celebrate the latest and best in collegiate vocal music.
On Saturday, Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium saw the return of SCAMFest — the Southern California A Cappella Music Festival. The Claremont Colleges’ largest a cappella event of the year, SCAMFest brought together a host of singing groups and rounded up a sold-out crowd.
Ten groups took the stage, including six from the 5Cs: the Claremont Shades, Blue and White, Mood Swing, One Night Stanza, Ninth Street Hooligans and Midnight Echo. The seventh a cappella group on campus, After School Special, was unable to perform due to a high number of COVID-19 cases and exposures in their group.
Four a cappella groups from other California schools also took part, including two groups from UCLA: Bruin Harmony and the Scattertones (who will soon perform in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella finals). The other ensembles included UC Davis’ The Spokes and USC’s SoCal Vocals.
Usually held during the fall semester, SCAMFest was postponed to the spring due to COVID concerns this year. The typically-annual event is organized by Claremont Shades, a group headed this semester by co-presidents Shrestha and Kiana Harnish SC ’23. The pair introduced the event, emphasizing how excited they were to be performing in SCAMFest after its two-and-a-half year hiatus. They also honored those in 7C a cappella groups who have graduated since the last SCAMFest in 2019 and were thus unable to perform in their final SCAMFest due to the pandemic’s limitations.
Shrestha and Harnish were then joined by the rest of the Shades, dressed in shades of red, and performed two songs: “Road Less Traveled” by Fatai and “Lavender” by Camille Trust. With an impressive arrangement that showcased both talented soloists and the strength of the group, the Shades kicked SCAMFest off on a high note.
Having been in awe of SCAMFest their first year, Shrestha remarked on their experience finally performing in the show.
“[It was] definitely incredible to perform and absolutely terrifying to perform,” they said.
The other nine groups followed, each introduced by a member of the Shades. The performances mostly alternated between 7C groups and those visiting from the other California schools.
Most groups took the stage clad in their group’s signature color: Blue and White wore those signature hues, Mood Swing dressed in yellow, Midnight Echo showed up in silver. Aside from coordinated outfits and the lack of instruments, choreography is another facet of a capella which distinguishes this style from other vocal performances. Most groups had their own choreographer to arrange the groups’ presence — from swaying and hand motions to more complex orientations and movements — amplifying the production aspect of a cappella.
Audience member Alex Morgan PO ’25 appreciated the festival’s high-performance aspect.
“The UCLA boys’ group was definitely one of the most memorable performances because I think they really captured the spirit and performance of a cappella as it exists in pop-culture from shows like ‘Glee,’” he said. “But, I also really enjoyed the USC group and the Shades, among others, because they had some really beautiful arrangements as well, and they also had some really remarkable voices.”
The Shades meet three times a week, and they increased that to daily practices in the week leading up to the show. Reflecting on all that went into the event — especially for the Shades as both performers and organizers — Shrestha expressed excitement about how it turned out.
“I am really happy with how [SCAMFest] went, and a lot of people, including myself and all the other Shades leadership put in a ton of work since the start of winter break … And I’m really glad that we did because it paid off entirely, and it was incredible,” Shrestha said.
Due to the previous postponement, Shrestha and Harnish planned extensively in accordance with LA County and 5C COVID-19 guidelines, as well as with the staff at Bridges Auditorium and the visiting university groups to get the event cleared for the spring. After these coordinating efforts, the administration finally signed off on the event, and SCAMFest was confirmed. However, Shrestha had to keep an eye on COVID numbers and regulations on a regular basis leading up to the show.
“It was pretty surreal, after doing a bunch of planning and answering emails every day and having meetings with the Bridges staff and just every aspect of that, to finally sit in the audience,” Shrestha said.
The only major shift from previous years was the disappointing absence of After School Special from the lineup, as well as an audience kept to 40 percent capacity; all 1,000 tickets sold out.
However, a smaller crowd didn’t limit the attendees’ enjoyment. Members of the audience shouted for their friends taking the stage. Standing ovations were frequent, and cheers were constant. The crowd was especially lively during performances of popular songs, like Ninth Street Hooligans’ rendition of “Die Young” by Ke$ha and when Bruin Harmony, an all-male group, leaned into the boy-band aesthetic and sang One Direction’s “Story of My Life.”
“What I remember most about the performance,” Morgan said, “was the energy in the room and the collective anticipation and excitement when one of the singers hit a really awesome note. And I wish that we could recreate that energy more often on campus.”