Without instruments to provide the tune, a cappella singing showcases the glory of the human voice, and the intricate possibilities that underlay harmony and melody. But while fairly common at four-year colleges and universities, student-run a cappella groups are rare at community colleges, due to the continual turnover of the campus population.
Enter Anastasia Alexopoulos, a second-year Music major at SUNY Broome and one of the organizers behind the Buzz Tones.
Two of Anastasia’s friends started the group in Fall 2018 as the Stinging Singers, but had to bow out when their own schedules conflicted. Anastasia, whose major focuses on vocal performance, stepped in to keep the group going. One name change later, the Buzz Tones is entirely student-run, conducting their own rehearsals, picking musical numbers and finding arrangements.
The singers were friends before the group began, but have grown closer during the practices, which typically take place every other day. They have performed during various campus concerts, as well as the Spring Faculty Staff Assembly, and have made their debut at community and charity events. These include caroling at the Veterans Home in Oxford, singing at a Christmas party for a group home, and participating in Choruses for CHOW, which benefits the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.
Originally from Long Island, Anastasia’s family moved to Vestal, then Owego. Appropriately enough for a future a cappella singer, she began her musical journey at her Greek Orthodox Church, singing Byzantine chants.
While her involvement in the church choir began at her mother’s behest, her high school chorus teacher sparked an increasing interest in voice. She joined her school’s chorus, chamber choir and jazz band, along with Making the Band, Owego Free Academy’s school rock band. She isn’t just limited to singing, either; she has also played the bass for 13 years.
She has a trio of favorite singers: Esperanza Spalding, who combines jazz singing and bass playing, much like Anastasia herself; Michael Bublé (“I’m a very big jazz fan,” Anastasia explained); and the popular singer Adele.
Riffing on the future
Anastasia didn’t initially intend on going to her local community college. She applied to many different schools, but advice from family and friends led her in a different direction.
“A lot of people told me that SUNY Broome was changing and I should check it out. At first, I was a little skeptical. My mom said, ‘Just try it,’” she said.
She’s glad she did, and is especially grateful to her voice professor, Music Coordinator Brenda Dawe.
“Once I came here, I began to be able to see what I’m capable of,” she said. “I feel that SUNY Broome gave me a great opportunity.”
SUNY Broome has also become part of a family tradition. Anastasia’s older sister Panayiota is a student here, and president of the International Students Organization. Her younger brother Vasili will become a Hornet this fall. Their three other siblings are still a little young for college, but don’t be surprised to see an Alexopoulos in the hive for years to come.
Now in her last semester, Anastasia is considering her transfer options; her top schools are SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Potsdam and Queens College. Her long-term goals are to earn a Master’s of Music in jazz performance and perhaps a Ph.D. in music education, and teach at the college level – much like her own professors.
Why college? “When you see music majors, they’re there because they really want to be in class,” she explained. “In high school, sometimes you get kids who feel like they’re forced to be there.”
She has a role model in her favorite instructor, Laurence Elder – a critically acclaimed songwriter, vocalist and pianist who has toured extensively with Grammy Award-winning music artists.
“He’s awesome. I want to be like him – teaching, but with my own jazz band and records,” Anastasia said.