Behind the Scenes with ASS

by Lianna Johnstone

Staff Writer/Photographer

My senior year of high school when touring Pitzer, I attended The Southern California A Capella Music  Festival (SCAM Fest) at Big Bridges Theater.  This concert introduced me to a capella music, and ever since I have enjoyed going to SCAM Fest each year.  One my favorite premier Claremont Colleges a capella groups has always been the After School Specials, more commonly known as ASS

ASS at 2013 SCAM Fest
ASS performs at 2013 SCAM Fest. Photo courtesy of The Claremont Shades.

ASS was founded in 2002 under the name Shower Quality as a play on the quality of singing the group produced.  Soon after, the group changed their name to After School Specials partially to gain the acronym of ASS.  ASS has come a long way from their roots, and won the 2014 International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA) quarterfinals in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year.

After one of their local performances in Claremont, I was able to sit down with two ASS members, Scripps junior Sarah Ridge and Pitzer Junior Sophia Rehmus, to learn more about their process creating their prize-winning performances.  Dedication, passion, love, practice, teamwork, and talent are the key ingredients for their success.   More specifically, the process breaks down like this:

The first step is choosing a song.  In this step, the members bring different song ideas to the group and then through a democratic voting process they choose what song to cover.  As they have become more serious, songs are sometimes chosen to showcase different singers voices.

The next step is composing and assigning vocals to different members.  In this step the group makes arrangements of a song including all voice parts: sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. Also during this process, they split up and go over their different parts.

The final step is putting the parts together and practicing as a group.  ASS practices three times a week and each rehearsal can vary from an hour and a half to as long as three hours.

Flexiblity is key during this whole process. For the song “She will be loved” by Maroon 5, Ridge learned four different parts for four different performances, meaning she had to sing soprano one and two, tenor and alto.

For the members of ASS, the group has become more like a family.  They travel to auditions and performances together and love to spend time with each other outside of rehearsals and performances.  Rehmus told me, “I get sad,” after separating from the group following a practice or an overnight trip to perform somewhere.   The passion, energy, sense of playfulness, and love between the members of the group is apparent in their seamlessly perfected performance of their new songs this semester: “Happy” by Pharell Williams, “You know I’m no good” by Amy Winehouse, and “Pusher love girl” by Justin Timberlake.

ASS performs at ICCAs
ASS performs at ICCAs. Photo courtesy of ASS.

ASS is hosting the 2014 International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA) quarterfinals at Big Bridges Auditorium on Saturday, April 5th

For tickets and more information go to:



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