The NAU Highlanders not only create music, but the group establishes a brotherhood between all its members. The Highlanders were formed in 2013 as the first male a cappella group at NAU. Now the group has become two-time International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semifinalists and received awards for best choreography and best vocal percussion.
This is junior Sebastian Garcia-Valle’s third year participating in The Highlanders and his second year as president of the group.
“My major is music education, and my goal is to be a high school choir teacher,” Garcia-Valle said. “I was already involved with the choir program here, and some friends encouraged me to join The Highlanders. I enjoyed being a member of the group, but then I decided to run for president. Being president is a big responsibility, but I enjoy taking care of the logistics and helping everyone out in the group.”
Garcia-Valle began singing his sophomore year of high school. Although Garcia-Valle has not been singing for a long time, he said it’s something he fell in love with.
“I love music, music theory and singing in general,” Garcia-Valle said. “Senior year [of high school], I realized that it was a passion of mine, and I wanted to teach music. The Highlanders have definitely made me love music more. Our goal as a group is just to make beautiful music for our audiences.”
Since the group formed, they have performed different genres of music each year. At the ICCA competition in February, they performed music by Michael Bublé, Sam Smith and The Black Eyed Peas.
“Although we won’t be competing at ICCA this year, we are sticking to a broad range of music for our gigs,” Garcia-Valle said. “This year we’re going to be singing music by 5 Seconds of Summer, Panic! at the Disco and The Weeknd. Any song that we think would fit our group’s sound is what we choose to perform.”
Garcia-Valle said their music director, Sague Molina, is in charge of choosing music and arraging it into a capella style. He also sings in the group.
Despite not performing at ICCA in 2019, The Highlanders have big plans for their group.
“In February 2020, we will be going on a four-day tour in northern California. We’ll be performing at local high schools up there,” Garcia-Valle said. “As for our album, it will most likely be released in April. This album will feature songs we’ll be performing this year and will be available on most streaming services.”
Junior social media director Parker Jackson is also a dedicated member, and has become involved in more than just singing.
“This will be my third year in the group,” Jackson said. “Apart from singing, as social media director I do all the advertisements for The Highlanders. I take photos for the group, manage our website and help create the flyers. I get to combine things I love like social media and photography for this awesome group. I love that I get to sing but also help out the group through a social media lens.”
Jackson has been singing for most of his life. He said he remembers watching “Hannah Montana” when he was young and wanted to sing for a crowd. Apart from The Highlanders, Jackson also sings for NAU’s Men’s Chorale and the Shrine of the Ages Choir.
“My ultimate goal was to make it into Shrine of the Ages, because they are the top choral group at NAU,” Jakcson said. “After I made it into this group, my roommate freshman year pushed me to audition for The Highlanders. I messed up during my audition, but I ended up making it in. This group has created so many great memories for me, like going to ICCA competitions.”
Sophomore Clayton D’Angelo also said attending the ICCA competitions was a great experience. This will be D’Angelo’s second year participating in The Highlanders.
“My mom is a music teacher, and I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” D’Angelo said. “I was looking for ways to get involved on campus when I stumbled upon this group last year. I ended up auditioning, and the rest became history.”
D’Angelo said he is excited to start his second year as a member of the group. He said he is most excited about the California tour.
“I’m from northern California, so it’s going to be really fun to get to perform up there,” D’Angelo said. “I’m excited for people to see us perform our music in another state.”
The Highlanders will be performing shows on campus and around Flagstaff. Their performances on campus are held at Ardrey Auditorium. The Highlanders are also available for bookings through their website.