Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

The founding members of Gracenotes, the sole a cappella group on campus, graduated in spring 2009, leaving behind a legacy to live up to set by the expectations of its predecessors.Five years ago, Kristen Waghorn arrived at West Chester University as a music education student eager to get involved. Fascinated by a cappella music, she set off on a quest to join an a cappella group on campus. Learning that WCU did not offer this opportunity, Waghorn took matters into her own hands.

As a member of a barbershop quartet for four years before enrolling at West Chester University, Waghorn decided to bring the style to campus. She asked her neighbors in the dorms to collaborate and made announcements during choir rehearsals asking for interest among her peers.

Finally in October 2005, Waghorn found a group of six young women interested in forming a barbershop group.

With Waghorn as their ringleader, the ladies got to work learning a few songs.

“Membership fluctuated in the beginning,” said Waghorn.

“There was no audition process, so commitment level was low. We just sung to have fun.” Waghorn acknowledged Courtney Park as second-in-command for naming the group.

Gracenotes’ first performance was at West Chester University’s first annual Aid to South Africa event in April 2006. The group was officially recognized by WCU’s Student Government Association on April 3, 2006.

In spring 2006, Samantha Hahn, one of Gracenotes’ original members, suggested the girls hold a concert at the end of the semester to showcase their work. The concert was held for their family and friends in the Instrumental Room in Swope.

Soon Waghorn began to think about the future of Gracenotes. She asked Amy Buckner, a music education major and Gracenotes’ newest recruit, to follow in her footsteps after she herself graduated. Buckner observed and worked with Waghorn to learn the conducting style unique to barbershop music.

Waghorn never dreamed of the opportunities that would be offered to Gracenotes as they began to perform both on- and off-campus. They opened for rock group The Fault Line at West Chester University in 2007. Other on- and off-campus performances included Barclay Friends Retirement Home, Old Fashioned Christmas in West Chester, various weddings and receptions, and honors banquets.

Perhaps the group’s biggest achievement was the opportunity to record with singer/songwriter Ben Folds. In fall 2008, Gracenotes submitted an entry to Folds’ YouTube contest for a chance to be featured on his album “Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!” whose proceeds would benefit VH1’s Save The Music Foundation. Gracenotes’ won

Courtney Park arranged an a cappella version of Folds’ “Fred Jones, Part 2,” and the group learned the complicated arrangement in a few short weeks.

One of over 250 groups that entered nationwide, Gracenotes was one of fourteen given the honor to appear on the album. Park received a phone call from Folds himself informing her of the opportunity. In December 2008, Gracenotes traveled to Princeton University and spent hours recording with Folds.

Gracenotes experienced another amazing opportunity just a few months later when they opened for Ben Folds at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia on February 14, 2009. The ladies sung two of their own pieces and finished with Park’s arrangement of “Fred Jones, Part 2.”

On April 26, 2009, Waghorn conducted her last Family and Friends Concert, as it has affectionately come to be known. The twenty members of the group performed eighteen songs from their repertoire, including favorites such as “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” as well as traditional barbershop numbers such as “If You Had All The World And Its Gold” and “Gonna Live ‘Til I Die.”

The concert also featured another original arrangement of Park’s, an a cappella twist to the classic song “Someone To Watch Over Me.”

Nine of the twenty members of Gracenotes graduated after the April 2009 concert, leaving eleven young ladies to follow in their footsteps. Waghorn admitted that though Gracenotes needed a change, it was hard for her to leave the vibrant group she founded four years previously.

“I remember a time when it was a really good rehearsal if we had all four parts.When we used to rehearse for one hour in Old Swope,” Waghorn wrote in a letter to her fellow members of Gracenotes.

“So much has changed and so much has happened.it has been an incredible journey that I certainly will never forget.”

Waghorn is excited to see how her “baby” will grow in the coming years and the opportunities the group will experience.

After honing her skills, Buckner is ready to step up to the challenge that awaits her this semester. She plans to hold an information session in early September with auditions to follow soon after in hopes of getting more young women involved in barbershop a cappella music.

Gracenotes also hopes to share the legacy with the entire WCU community by performing at more on-campus events, because as Gracenotes proudly proclaims, “the world needs a little more harmony!”

Beth Serowsky is a third-year student double majoring in English and Musical Theater. She can be reached at


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