NYUAD Student Carries a Tune All the Way to the White House

NYUAD student Benjamin Jance IV (NYUAD '15) performs with NYU's all-male a capella group at the White House.

When Benjamin Jance IV (NYUAD '15) joined The Vocaholics, an a capella group at NYU New York, he had no idea that getting outside of his comfort zone would eventually find him in the company of the American president, Barack Obama, and First Lady, Michelle Obama.

"When I studied away in Washington, D.C. last spring, my roommate was Nick Marroletti, president of The Vocaholics," Jance explained. "He invited me to audition when I got to New York in the fall." For the audition, Jance sang a stanza and the chorus from "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" by Shakira, as well as matching pitch and singing scales. Soon after, Jance was offered a spot in what he calls "NYU’s finest all-male a capella group."

The group quickly formed a close-knit family, rehearsing three times a week, two to three hours each time. Working with a music director and pianist, the group learned songs piece by piece, then as a whole, eventually getting rid of the accompaniment in order to sing without instrumentation. The group performed at two concerts throughout the semester, as well as at a number of other events.

But their biggest feat by far took place in December when they sang in at the White House.

Any performance group can apply to perform at the White House for the holidays. As The Vocaholics had already been selected in the previous year, "we were so excited to be picked again," Jance explained. Although the group began by singing holiday hits and choir pieces in the Grand Hall, they were soon invited up to the Diplomatic Room, where they sang Beyonce’s "End of Time" for Mr. and Mrs. Obama. The Obamas danced in front of an audience "and the dancing was solid!" Jance said. The performance was followed by brief introductions and handshakes with the couple, and Jance described the event as truly unforgettable.

Following his experience with The Vocaholics, Jance is excited to be back in Abu Dhabi and hopes to be a part of a new a capella group that was recently formed by several of his classmates, including Julianna Bello (NYUAD '16). "I think it’s great that while we improve the role of performing arts within the school and the community, there’s also room for more informal outreach as well. New York has a number of a capella groups, and they’re all one big family.” The aim, Jance said, is to build that sort of structure here.