A Lesson In Beatboxing

S#arp Attitude's Melinda Packer Brings the Beat to Williston
Photo by Dennis Crommett
Photo by Dennis Crommett

The world of collegiate a cappella has been heating up the past few years. With the rise of shows like the The Sing Off, success of movies such as Pitch Perfect (a sequel is due next spring), or the popularity of a cappella groups like Pentatonix, there’s never been a better time for the world of a cappella.

Here in the second trimester at Williston, both the Caterwaulers and Widdigers have been taking a bit of a break from classical repertoire to focus on choral pop and our own student-led a cappella arrangements.

Although I have a lot of experience composing and arranging music, there’s one very important aspect of good a cappella that I do not have as much experience in:


This is where Melinda Packer comes in. Melinda is the founder of S#arp Attitude, an all-female a cappella group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Photo by Dennis Crommett

Back in March, Melinda also won Best Vocal Percussion at the International Championship for Collegiate A Cappella‘s (ICCA) Northeast Region Quarter Finals. This is no small feat—especially since she was the only female beatboxer there!

This week, Melinda visited Williston’s campus to lead workshops on beatboxing for both the Caterwaulers and Widdigers. Her work with them was nothing short of amazing. She did a demo that was truly outstanding, but then broke down what she was doing and taught the students the science of how she made the sounds. Within a few minutes, she had the entire room laying down some really great sounding grooves.

Learning the mechanics of making certain sounds, and how to combine certain elements to form new sounds, students were able beatbox in no time.

Collaboration is at the essence of all we do here at Williston. I knew Melinda back from my grad school days, and it was so fantastic to bring her to campus. What she did in a just a few hours with our students will resonate for the rest of the year!

Don’t believe me? Well, mark your calendar for our Winter Choral Coffee House on February 24. With beatboxing in our repertoire, it’s sure to be a real treat!

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