For many teens, the word "barbershop" may conjure up images of their grandfather getting his hair cut. But to the eight girls of Des Colores, the word is a means to express their talent alongside some of their best friends.
Des Colores is an all-girls four-part barbershop singing group which began in July under the encouragement and instruction of voice coach Diana Winnicki. With a bachelor's degree in music education, Winnicki has been giving voice lessons to kids and teens for the past 15 years, first through teaching positions at Iroquois and Canandaigua, and now privately at her home studio in Corfu.
"Women's barbershop is promoted by Sweet Adelines International. I first became familiar with women's barbershop when I first started teaching because they offer a lot of free materials to encourage young women in harmony to sing barbershop music. Otherwise it's a dying art," said Winnicki.
While barbershop groups are typically quartets, the number of talented pupils at her disposal prompted Winnicki to include eight girls. They range in age from 11-year-old Holy Family sixth-grader Maureen Edwards to 17-year-old Alden senior Rebeccah Sivecs. The group is filled out with Leah Froebel, 13, Ally Smith, 13, Casey Arnold, 15, and Emma Fusco, 15, all of Alden, and Sarah Hill, 14, and Amanda Wareham, 15, of Pembroke.
The girls' vast age range might seem like group cohesiveness would be difficult to obtain, but that is not the case. During rehearsals, it's often difficult to finish a song without someone giggling or whispering to the person next to them. In between producing their lovely harmonies for each song, the girls playfully shove each other and crack inside jokes, most of which can not be repeated here. The girls' bond formed partly due to a ritual before their weekly summer rehearsals.
"Some people would have lessons before the group, and some people would have lessons after the group. We would bake brownies and bring Hawaiian Punch, and sit on the front porch while somebody had their lesson. By the time it was the group's turn, all the food was gone," said Emma.
Winnicki also recognized the girls' fast friendship, "They have so many common threads. They all have musical interests other than singing. These are the smartest kids in their school, academically. They're all athletic. It's easy to get along and make friends when you have so much in common."
The girls' equally active lives made it difficult at first to find time to practice in between dance recitals, soccer games, band practices and school commitments. But the girls' dedication has spurred them to continue, fitting in practices when they could, often on Saturday afternoons.
Another similarity between the girls helped create the group's name. After throwing around names like "Crentist" from "The Office", the girls discovered they had all at one time performed the New York State School Music Association solo, "Des Colores," which is Spanish for "all the colors." As an all-state judge, Winnicki was also familiar with the song. Following the name, each girl is assigned a color, which they wear to events.
Des Colores first performed at a Batavia Muckdogs baseball game, singing their versions of "The Star Spangled Banner" and "O Canada." They have since performed at a recital, a Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation baseball game, and at the Genesee County Mall's Kids Day America.
"When they open their mouths to sing, you don't expect that to come out from these young people," said Winnicki.
As a barbershop group, what the girls are performing rarely correlates with what they listen to on the radio, with their repertoire including "Mr. Sandman" and "Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," complete with choreography.
But vocal talent never goes out of style, and the girls certainly have this with their wonderfully blended four-part harmony that echoes throughout their rehearsal room. Combine this with the girls' fantastic stage presence, and they are a sight to see as each personality shines through.
The girls recently recorded their first demo, but due to a technical error, they will re-record it this month. With a demo CD, the girls will be able to apply for more events.
As of now, Des Colores is waiting to see what events will come their way, their greatest wish being to sing the national anthem at a Sabres game. There is also a possibility of four of the girls attending the Sweet Adelines International Conference in Hawaii next year, if they can secure the necessary funds.
Regardless of where they go, the most important thing to the girls is the fun they are having right now.
"It's really fun because you're with people who like to do the same thing as you. They all have amazing voices, and we end up having a really good time," said Maureen.
To schedule Des Colores for a performance, e-mail email@example.com .
Carlene Miller is a junior at Alden Central.