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Making the LowKeys

Letters to the Editors

By Oliver B. Libby

To the editors:

I’m writing to address a few points in the Oct. 10 Arts article entitled “All Jammed Up.”

First, the article suggests that the LowKeys achieved Sanders status easily. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We had to: become a Harvard student group in the face of strong opposition; sell out Lowell and Paine Halls; record two CDs; travel in the U.S. and to Paris; and sing for hundreds of audiences before even being considered for Sanders Theatre. We negotiated with the top a cappella groups at Harvard for years to be included in auditions, jams and the community in general. We had to prove ourselves to discerning audiences, singers and Harvard officials before we won our bid for Sanders, and it still took four years of hard work and commitment.

The article also suggests that the LowKeys were simply a group of rejects who started their own group. This is not the whole truth. 1999 featured the largest and strongest audition pool in years, and the fewest number of open spots in the groups. So the motivated singers who almost made the cut in this particularly tough year founded a group that has proven talented and determined enough to succeed.

Third, there is amply enough talent for the singing groups on campus—this year’s audition pool was excellent. Seven groups is more than six, so it is true that more groups are drawing on the same supply, but I have seen from experience that the LowKeys don’t take talent from the other groups—we simply give more talented people a place to sing. There is a limit to the number of groups we can have, but there is definitely enough talent to sustain the seven top a cappella groups today.

Finally, the article dwells on the notion that a cappella groups steal from other groups. If students want to sing a cappella, they will. They are not being forced to sing for us—in fact, it’s pretty tough to get in. We certainly don’t drag unwilling singers away from other ensembles. Demand dictates the supply of a cappella groups. If singers want a cappella more than anything else, they will audition. Many a cappella singers also do other activities: debate, dance, theater and choral music, to name a few.

Oliver B. Libby ’03

Oct. 14, 2003

The writer was a founding member, music director and president of the Harvard LowKeys.

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