AU Club Feature: On A Sensual Note rises to the occasion by creating virtual singing opportunities

A cappella group overcomes COVID-19 challenges during the fall semester

AU Club Feature: On A Sensual Note rises to the occasion by creating virtual singing opportunities

On A Sensual Note performs in Kay Spiritual Life Center in spring 2019, before the pandemic moved operations online.

The a cappella group On A Sensual Note (OASN) has been forced to adapt to a new virtual singing format since the coronavirus pandemic moved American University's classes online last year.

While OASN was AU’s first all-male a cappella group, Bret O’Brien, the group’s communications director, said that it adjusted its membership to be more inclusive to anyone not in the gender binary. The group now identifies as AU’s first a cappella group, open to “anyone that identifies as a male and/or anyone outside of the binary,” O’Brien said.

“I think of OASN as more of a family, rather than a group or an organization on campus, because we are all so close,” O’Brien said. He joined the group when he was a freshman, and now as a junior, he said, “I think, to me, our mission statement would be fostering inclusivity while doing what we love to do with people that we love to do it with.” 

O’Brien said that, before the pandemic, OASN held concerts on campus with other a cappella groups, partnered with a cappella groups from other universities, fundraised and went on a yearly out-of-state tour to places like New Orleans and Miami.

Last semester, the group was on a Miami beach when it discovered the semester was moving online, O’Brien said.

With members all over the country, it is challenging to coordinate times to sing virtually, he said.

Despite these difficult times, the show must go on. OASN was the only a cappella group to hold new member auditions in the hopes of expanding its membership this semester, O’Brien said. The group also teamed up with other a cappella groups on campus for an informal, virtual preview concert in October.

In an effort to stay active and support the arts, OASN members partnered with local Bethesda, Maryland, ice cream shop Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream & Treats for a fundraiser on Halloween where people could safely order ice cream in-person or online and mention OASN.

With more auditions during the spring semester, O’Brien’s advice to anyone interested in auditioning would be to “sing a song that means a lot to you.”

“It helps us get to know you, and also I think it just comes across more genuinely,” he said.

O’Brien said that his favorite part about OASN has been the people and how supportive they are. 

“I really found a family in OASN, and that is something I have not found anywhere else,” O’Brien said.

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