Before the school year even started, the Pennchants' board members were meeting in order to prepare for their 30th anniversary show. Pennchants—Penn's "premier all–male a capella group”—has been a prominent musical force on campus for almost three decades now. They will be having their biggest show yet on April 26 and 27. “The name ‘XXX’ is a pun on the fact that it’s our thirtieth anniversary,” Dylan Levine (E’19), the music director, explains about the title—which parallels the group’s partly professional and partly goofy style. “But then also it’s kind of like a sexy Magic Mike–like sort of thing.”
Dylan goes on to describe the outside help they’re hiring, which includes an external live production expert with high–quality equipment like wireless mics. This addition has created the opportunity for Pennchants to add choreography to their songs.
Marjon Enriquez, a first year Biotechnology Masters student in the School of Engineering, Pennchants’ public relations head, calls this show the, “culmination of everything [they’ve] worked for as a group and as a board.” During the summer, they outlined what they wanted to achieve this year—their “big break–out year.” And a break–out year it’s been: they shot their first ever music video last Friday, had two professional photoshoots, and even signed a deal with apparel brand MEMBERS ONLY. Now, they're gearing up for their biggest show to date.
Business Manager Tiger Zhang (W ‘20) feels that their upcoming show isn’t the end product of their efforts, but rather a starting point for future progress: "This is where the next generation of the PennChants begins," he explains. The group has already taken steps to develop a slightly different style—they’ve recently taken up the image of a boy band and have greatly increased their social media presence, spotlighting individual members and showcasing the arduous process of creating a show.
Another project, spearheaded by Marjon, involves reaching out to Pennchants alumni going all the way back to the founders. There are even alumni coming to the shows, which highlights the passion each member—both past and present—has for the group. The three present board members all express how close of a group they are and how Pennchants is basically a family. There’s a special sort of camaraderie that stems from rehearsing together for hours on end each week. “Every generation, every pocket of four to five years has that same feeling to each other. But, then, on a larger scale, it’s harder to get that feeling across thirty years.” Tiger says. Now, with an alumni board, “there’s a fresh feeling of engagement.”
Tiger says that it’s this passion that prevents Pennchants from ever becoming something tedious. “Because everyone’s so passionate and enjoys each other’s presence, it’s something more cathartic you can do to relieve stress,” he explains. This can be attributed in part to every Pennchants member's desire to improve from the start: “We don’t enter completely polished,” as Marjon puts it. They're often rewarded by this strong drive to advance—when members bring their arrangements to rehearsal, they feel proud to see them come to fruition, “having the chords lock and having it just work,” as Dylan says. It’s fruitful to, “feel like a really core part of the creative progress” he explains, and “see something you created come to life.”