Sophomore sounds off, adds unique beat to a cappella group

A baseline beat resonates from the stage as the choir begins to sing and captures the attention of the audience. Vocal Legacy, the a cappella choir group is composed of some of the best singers at Bryan High and in that mix is sophomore Graham Littlefield who excels at beatboxing.

“I started when I was about nine years old,” Graham said. “My dad taught me how to do it and my mom showed me that there were groups that beatboxed, so I just caught on.”

Graham’s passion for the activity only grew as time went on and he discovered he could continue to pursue it in high school.

“I really started to get into it more in middle school,” Graham said. “I’ve kept going at it since then.”

Self-expression is important to Graham and he feels that beatboxing has helped him grow creatively and technically.

“You can express yourself while still making sure that the audience knows what you’re doing,” Graham said. “People know what you’re doing, but at the same time you’re throwing in your own style or showing others what you’re about.”

When he first heard about Vocal Legacy, he was inspired to join and continue with the added influence of beatboxing into a cappella choir.

“The backup voices can be used to imitate instruments,” Graham said. “Drums and percussion are very important instruments too, so I feel like beatboxing adds that possibly lost aspect. It helps bring the vocals to life.”

Beatboxing isn’t something that many people associate with a cappella choir, but it helps make the group feel complete.

“If you take Graham out, it’s just our vocals,” sophomore Kayla Callen said. “It feels incomplete, like it isn’t as modern and contemporary.”

While beatboxing seems to be a newer skill added to the repertoire of a cappella choir, it has been included in Vocal Legacy performances for some time.

“Graham is the fourth beatboxer that we’ve had,” choir director Alex Medlock said. “It has become an element in the group that we didn’t want to lose, so it was good to find Graham.”

Incorporating this contemporary aspect of music into the vocals of the group originally seems out of place to many, but Graham sees it as a natural addition.

“I think that beatboxing is a little bit more of a newer thing that has been added in, but I think that it should start to become more a part of choir,” Graham said. “It’s using your voice, and sometimes in choir you’re supposed to imitate a certain instrument.”

Some assume that practicing these unconventional sounds is a challenge, but Graham has found a way to be sure of the sounds that will be incorporated into the performance.

“I listen to the sounds or look over measures or what we did in Vocal Legacy,” Graham said. “I go over what we’ve done and see if the sounds can be improved at all.”

Audiences tend to react positively to the different sounds of choral voices and beats meeting to create a unique experience with each Vocal Legacy performance.

“The beatboxer, obviously, along with the bass provides low tones which add another layer of interest and excitement to the performance,” Medlock said. “It turns a song into something you can dance to and gives it more rhythm.”

Not only has Graham contributed to the sounds of Vocal Legacy, but also to the overall attitude of the group.

“Graham just brings this really positive energy to our group that we didn’t have without him,” Kayla said. “I think that he meshes really well with all of our other personalities.”

Graham’s passion for beatboxing grows as he improves with the skill through hard work and determination.

“Walking around in the hallways, all he does is listen to his music and work on getting better each day, and he does,” Kayla said. “He works hard to make sure that he continues to improve.”

Graham’s time spent with Vocal Legacy has a positive impact on his beatboxing; giving him a new perspective on his skill and ability.

“Before I joined, I thought that it would be super, super easy, but I have to make sure that all of the sounds are cohesive,” Graham said. “Everyone needs to sound good on their own and with one another. If there is one part that’s off, it’ll throw off an entire song. Everything must sound perfect together.”