Aca – awesome: My Pitch Perfect Story

By: Hillary Schulman

Those who know me, know that music is a major part of my life. Without it, I would not feel whole. I’ve been singing since I was born, and my mother’s favorite story to tell about me is the one where I sang myself to sleep – mid-word, mind you – during a long car ride. I wrote my first song at 10 years old and got my first guitar at 6 years old. This guitar was one of those plastic ones, but if you plugged it in, it really sounded like an electric guitar. I got my first real guitar at age 14 and an amplifier to go with it a year later. I took 4 ½ years of private voice lessons and was in my school’s choir for 7 years while participating in 9 years of musical theater. When I moved on to college, I knew I had to go the a cappella route.

I went to Brandeis University for my undergraduate degree, and at Brandeis, there are three Jewish a cappella groups: one co-ed (Manginah), one male, and one female. Little did I know that Jewish a cappella was going to be my niche, my outlet, for all things music. When I was accepted to Manginah, I didn’t hesitate to say, “yes” and my life changed forever.

My first rehearsal with Manginah immediately made me feel like part of a family. The bond that the group members had with one another was inspiring as well as crucial to the well-being of the group. Everyone’s personality shone through whether he or she sang in the background or lead vocals, and I soon realized that this was the perfect family for me. Additionally, we all had one common bond: Judaism. Whether you were religious or not, the love for the culture and the music was so strong that it didn’t matter that almost none of our fans knew the original versions of our songs. Those songs became associated with us, and we developed a fan-base because of our musicality and personality. We strived to be the best on campus, and by my sophomore year, we were. This group became such a part of who I was that during my study abroad semester in Ireland, I would sit in my room late at night and watch the new videos and status updates from the group and go through what was called “Manginah-withdrawal.”

My senior year came around, and I was elected Musical Director. I went through the year trying to make the group even better and expand the group’s horizons as far as performances. At the end of the year, I felt like a part of me had been taken away. It was very difficult not being a part of the group when the school year started up again, and I still have “Manginah-withdrawal” from time to time.

I realized that other people might be going through the same thing, or at least have the same kind of love for music that I do so, with the help of a few friends, I am starting Rhode Island’s first Jewish, co-ed, post-collegiate a capella group called Pastrami on RI. We will be holding open auditions in the beginning of February, and I am so excited to continue the passion for Jewish a cappella! The group will be a part of (401)j, the young, Jewish NextGen collaborative, and I hope to see many people come out for auditions! You don’t need to know how to read music, and you don’t even need to have experience to come audition; just a love for singing and the desire to be a part of a wonderful group of people! If you are interested, please contact to provide your name and contact information so that we can keep you updated on everything that is happening!


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