Every Wednesday evening, something special takes place. Our newest music crew, the Guitars Over Guns A Cappella Ensemble, gathers for rehearsal.

Launched on January 9th by mentor Michelle Forman, the A Cappella Ensemble offers students a space where their vocal talents can shine. “I wanted to offer a next-level opportunity and a platform for advanced vocalists to explore their potential in ways they do not get to explore in a regular Guitars Over Guns session,” Michelle said.

The A Cappella program is geared toward advanced and experienced vocalists who wish to further their vocal development in a more structured, focused and professional environment, all while building a repertoire of performance-ready tunes. Ranging across ages and backgrounds, the group includes students currently enrolled in our after-school programs at North Miami and Georgia Jones-Ayers middle schools, as well as our alumni who now attend North Miami and Miami Northwestern high schools. Additionally, Michelle looks forward to welcoming members from outside of the Guitars Over Guns program.

For our alumni joining this ensemble, the opportunity is extra meaningful. “Some of these kids have been with me and with Guitars Over Guns for four years or more. Britney has been with us for over seven years,” Michelle stated. “Having them by my side as we embark on a brand-new journey together is a testament to the impact our organization has had on our kids.”

The group may be brand-new, but they have big aspirations. First up? Just a little gig called… the Miami Marathon.

After heading to the starting line on January 27th to perform the Star Spangled Banner, it’s off to the races for this all-star crew. “We hope to perform at the 2018-19 Guitars Over Guns Graduation Ceremony at Marlins Park, as well as our annual Spring Showcase at Ball & Chain,” Michelle said. “The goal is to build a repertoire, and to prep for performance and recording opportunities.”

At their Wednesday-evening rehearsals, students partake in vocal warm-ups and explorations of vocal technique including vox control, blending, dynamics, projection, beat boxing, instrument impressions and more. Additionally, Michelle conducts lessons and exercises on microphone dynamics, stage presence and performance etiquette, listening and intonation, and songwriting – not to mention fun vocal games to help the kids bond as a team.

However, the program goes beyond singing. As the group develops, students will take on leadership roles suited to their skills and personal preferences. “Brit assists me with vocal warm-ups, and Faina will be our brand and social media ambassador,” Michelle explained. “I think being a part of something from the get-go gives them a sense of ownership and inclusion, as they will play a huge role in setting the tone of this program.”

So far, everything is off to a phenomenal start. “Experiencing the vibe between everyone is pretty rad,” said Michelle. “Personality, character, dedication and commitment are all relevant and important aspects of the audition and selection process […] Thus far, the collective energy kicks major butt, and all personalities complement one another. It’s truly a blast to be in the same room with this group. They are all individually incredible kids, but together they are a force of nature.”

Following their third rehearsal, which was very strict and focused, the group let loose in the parking lot. “We were dancing and laughing so much, some of us were in tears,” Michelle recalled. “I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. I’m beyond elated at how things are going already, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

As for future plans, the ensemble looks forward to a marathon of their own. “This group can do a lot, so I’m anxious to see what transpires after we’ve had a chance to work together more and explore our options,” said Michelle. “Either way, we plan to knock your socks off!”