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Wiregrass Ranch a cappella group sings its way around East Pasco

By Megan Hussey, Times Correspondent
Published: March 6, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 05:16 PM
ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times A Capella Club at Wiregrass Ranch High School member Vijay Rajamanickam, 14, sports a T-shirt with the logo of the club during rehearsal at the school on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

WESLEY CHAPEL ó Pasco has its own Pitch Perfect, in the form of the Wiregrass Ranch High School A Cappella Club.

The walls of Wiregrass Ranch High ring forth each Monday afternoon with the sounds of songs performed with no musical accompaniment. And as young voices rise in unison to sing everything from The Star-Spangled Banner to Bruno Mars, teachers and students stop to listen.

Now in its third year, the Wiregrass Ranch A Cappella Club has grown to include nearly 20 members who convene each Monday afternoon in a school common area.

"Sometimes at the end of the meeting, the kids donít want to leave," said Jewell Fye, a staff club coordinator who also is a coach and instructional assistant at Wiregrass Ranch High. "They just want to keep on singing."

The club sings at school ball games and pep rallies, and performed a Christmas program that sent them caroling across the school and for special-needs students. Outside the school, they entertained residents at Baldomero Lopez Memorial Veterans Nursing Home.

"This is the type of music they can make their own," said Fye, also mother to three student singers. "They blend in and go with the flow."

During a typical rehearsal, the club sang everything from Bruno Marsí Just the Way You Are, My Girl by The Temptations and Perfect by Ed Sheeran. They do vocal warm-ups, and discuss ways to enhance their performances.

"This club gives these kids another avenue of music to explore," said Alisa Cimino, club sponsor and teacher. "And they are meticulous. They sound incredible."

It was Wiregrass Ranch High student Laura Curtain who thought up the A Cappella Club, which is led by president Joelle Marie Labutay, a senior, and vice president Julia Mullin, a junior. Both have performed in public, and Labutay is auditioning for The Voice. Club member Zach DíOnofrio recently qualified to compete on this season of American Idol.

"Iíve been singing since before I could talk," said Labutay, 17.

Labutay is a YouTuber who has performed at Pascoís Spotlight on Talent event and at Tanghalang Pambata, a youth music event hosted by the Philippine Cultural Foundation.

"The A Cappella Club gives me the opportunity to sing modern music," she said.

An active chorus member, Julia Mullin has been singing since childhood and finds the a cappella style more freeing and creative.

"We donít need accompaniment," said Mullin. "We do it all ourselves."

Fye said the club has no plans to participate in singing competitions, opting instead to maintain a fun and casual atmosphere in the group.

"We are a family," said Labutay.