C Mag Simplifies: Paly Acapella

C Mag Simplifies: Paly Acapella

You’ve probably heard of Palo Alto High School (Paly) choir and their extravagant concerts, but did you know about the various subgroups? Read on to learn a little more about how the choir system is structured and the unique qualities within each a cappella group!

program structure

Everyone who enrolls in Paly choir is in Festival choir, which is composed of two smaller groups: The Concert choir, which is the default group, and Madrigals, which requires a selective audition process. Those who audition for Madrigals (Mads for short) can also audition for Spectrum choir, which is an all-women group slightly less advanced than Mads. Anyone enrolled in these groups is also eligible to join one of four a cappella groups: Heartbeats, Heartbreakers, Folk Yes or Vikapella.

The selectivity of the process varies by year, as it depends on the number of potential members and the slots available in each group. The audition consists of a form in which a singer lists their top two groups and the voice parts they can sing. This is followed by an audition in which each individual sings a solo and an a cappella piece. Members from each a cappella group judge how well a singer’s voice will blend with the rest of the group. They then decide who to admit, prioritizing those who marked them as their first choice. At the end of the year, these groups face each other at the Small Ensembles concert, where they compete for the Hewlett Cup and validation for their whole year’s work.


Paly’s oldest a cappella group and Small Ensemble reigning champions, the Heartbeats, is an all-girls group that performs 50’s doo-wop and bubblegum pop. Best known for incorporating some pink in their performance outfits, the Heartbeats perform both around campus and in gigs all over town.

“We only perform in four-part harmony. We also have a very specific genre focus, which sets us apart from the other a cappella groups,” senior and Heartbeats member Katie Hetterly said.

The Heartbeats’ performance genre is not only unique to their group, but has also helped dictate the members’ attitudes. “I chose to join Heartbeats because of their fun, bubbly atmosphere and dedication to the music. I really enjoy being able to work and sing with such a great group of girls,” Hetterly said. “I feel like being in Heartbeats has really helped me improve as a singer and helped all of us build more self-confidence and unity.”


Vikapella, the biggest and only coed a cappella group on campus. The group chooses pop hits and rearranges them into a cappella form to perform at the Paly choir concerts. According to junior Ida Sunnerås-Jonsson, the group’s unique features also bring various challenges.

“It’s challenging to have eight members in different grades who all need to come to rehearsals at the same time, and it’s difficult to blend and balance our voices with a coed group, especially at concerts where we use mics,” she said.

Despite this, Sunnerås-Johnsson feels that being a part of Vikapella has helped her find her niche in an environment that encourages her growth as a musician.

“This has shaped me to take more personal responsibility as a musician in a group that is dependent on how hard each member works to know their own part and how they fit into the group’s sound,” Sunnerås-Jonsson said. “I think it’s awesome when we’ve worked really hard for a long time and it shows through our final work.”


The Heartbreakers are the all-male version of the Heartbeats. They typically perform during school choir concerts and private events, focusing on doo-wop barbershop, quartet style music.

Through their passion for creating music and regular rehearsal sessions, the Heartbreakers have formed a brotherhood. “It’s a family…We love what we do, and each of us come from such different places. Our love for music and our diversity are what set us apart from the other groups,” senior Joao DePina said.

A dedicated vocalist, DePina feels as though his a cappella group has allowed him to improve in his craft, and, despite the difficulties, he has generated a positive environment for him to grow as an artist.

“Music is a part of who I am — it’s what defines me. My love for music has only grown by being in an a cappella group…I love my brothers.”

folk yes

Folk Yes is an all-girls a cappella group that focuses on performing folk music. The group originated six years ago, and their unique genre sets them apart from the other groups on campus. They can be found at the Fall Ensemble or smaller gigs such as the YMCA donors meeting or the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) event. They also perform as carollers around the holiday season.

Senior and Folk Yes member Taylor Duncan was drawn to the a cappella group because of the unifying aspect of folk music. “Folk music really brings people together so I enjoyed that aspect of it, which made me gravitate towards this group,” she said. “Having an a cappella group to turn to and connecting [with my friends] through all the harmonies and shared passion makes me feel better.”

Folk Yes has recently submitted an audition for an elite acapella competition and plans to improve their on-stage engagement in order to achieve their goals.