GFS students and faculty got a special treat when UMBC coed a capella group, Cleftomaniacs, along with group member Chanler Harris ’15, visited campus last month for a series of performances in each division. Everyone enjoyed hearing songs from the dynamic group’s repertoire which includes current pop hits, old favorites and lesser-known gems. In addition to listening to their unique arrangements and seeing the group’s fun choreography, students and faculty were able to hear a song led by our very own Chanler.
Chanler sat down with GFS performing arts department chair Rachel Waller, who taught Chanler as a student, for a Q&A about her love of music and performing, college life and lessons learned from GFS.
What do you love most about singing and performing with Cleftomaniacs?
I love a cappella. It’s one of the best ways to stay involved with music in a group setting while you’re also in college without having to turn it into something academic. Singing and music have always been a hobby of mine, but I couldn’t ever add it as a major or minor. Music is supposed to be my break from stressful grades and classes, so a cappella lets me keep doing music and performing it for fun rather than for a grade.
I specifically love being part of the Cleftomaniacs because it’s the main coed group on campus and is one of the most diverse groups on campus which shows through our music. We have performed deeply emotional songs, pop anthems and music from The Fairly Odd Parents. The group is this cool mix of serious music making and pushing envelopes while also being ridiculously goofy. I love it.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I’m an ancient studies major with an Asian studies minor and I’m receiving a certificate in modern languages with a focus in Mandarin Chinese. I still don’t know what my long term goal is, but I have been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English to middle school students in Taiwan for the next year. Beyond that, I’m currently considering pursuing a doctorate in classical studies or a masters in East Asian studies - but none of that is set in stone yet! Taiwan might change some things for me.
What are some of the highlights of your time at GFS?
Definitely the extracurricular activities that I took part in. The music, theater and dance departments were really formative for me and my interests and a lot of the talents that I’ve developed. Performing in musicals and dance shows and concerts has become something that I still love and have continued to do in college, and would really love to continue to do in the future. The teachers of these extracurriculars - Ms. Waller, Ms. Malone-Wolf, Mr. Lyles - were also some of the people that have given me the best advice that I’ve ever received, and the things that they taught me just from having conversations still stick with me.
What skills did you learn at GFS that helped you in college?
I learned a lot about how to interact with people from different backgrounds than my own. I went to an inner-city Baltimore school before coming to GFS in 6th grade, so GFS was a kind of a culture shock. Going to a smaller school that was populated by students from different places in Maryland, different states, and even different countries, gave me a lot of experience on how to avoid making assumptions about others and find common ground with people from anywhere.
Partaking in the performing arts also taught me how to be confident, how to speak in public, and how to present myself. Even though I’m almost terrified before doing these things, I’ve learned how to put my best foot forward regardless.
What is one of your favorite GFS memories?
When I was a Junior, Chamber Choir was leaving a performance on one of the GFS buses. At some point, someone started singing Heartless by Kanye West, and we all eventually joined in - but in the unrealistic, instant arrangement, Pitch Perfect way. It was really funny and we were all shocked and impressed that we had done it, and kept singing it even when we were back at school. Fast forward one year and we were planning our Senior Skits. I was in charge of the Chamber Choir skit (which, embarrassingly, you can still find online). After coming up with the idea for the skit, we needed to have one song that the group could sing well without us ever really having any time to get together and make sure it sounded good - and of course, everyone remembered that one time we accidentally sang Kanye West’s Heartless really well, so it was put into the skit. It was one of those times when something really small came back like a punchline, and the fact that it’s been immortalized by YouTube still makes me laugh.