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Teacher pursues a capella singing after college

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Written by: Emily Yao

Chemistry teacher Elana Zizmor fell in love with singing when her father introduced her to voice lessons at the age of seven. It inspired her to pursue her passion during elementary, middle and high schools’ and to participate in jazz band. Zizmor also auditioned and sang for multiple honors choirs and made money singing for her synagogue. In college, Zizmor performed with various a cappella groups before joining Rapid Transit.

Rapid Transit, an a cappella group, was formed in 2005 by Yumi Aikawa, a medical student at the time. After posting an advertisement, Aikawa and four other singers came together and became the first members of Rapid Transit. Later, an additional five singers auditioned to be part of the group. “It started with one person having an idea and putting themselves out there,” Zizmor said.

Zizmor auditioned for Rapid Transit in 2007 because she wanted to meet other singers after moving to the Bay Area. “I was deciding what I was passionate about to get myself involved, and one of those things was music,” she said. “I was already singing in [a world music] group, but I wanted something that was more local and comfortable, like college-style a cappella.” Zizmor took part in the group’s first recording,  “Introducing Rapid Transit,” a 12  song album.

According to Zizmor, Rapid Transit rekindles the passion she had in college for college-style a capella, which consisted mainly of pop music. “We do current music by making our voices more instrument-like,” she said. “What makes Rapid Transit different is the fact that we are still doing what we did in college, and we are bringing it to the Bay Area community, where college-style a cappella is not quite as popular.”

Rapid Transit usually performs once or twice a month throughout the Bay Area, but cuts down on the number of performances during audition season. “We are currently holding auditions and bringing in new people,” Zizmor said.

According to Zizmor, applications are used to judge whether or not the performer’s schedule is flexible enough for the time commitment required to sing with the group.

Afterwards, the person is taken in for pitch exercises and is asked to perform one to two solos to demonstrate the strength of his or her voice. If the person performs well, the performer is brought back for a callback, where he or she performs a few more songs before the final decision is made.

According to Zizmor, her most memorable performance was singing with Hookslide, another a cappella group, at the San Francisco Victoria Theatre in 2010. “Many people showed up for the event, and Hookslide was a lot of fun to perform with,” she said.

The group practices every Monday for three hours. Because all members live in different cities, the practice location switches off every week.  “We coordinate practices by splitting our rehearsal space,” Zizmor said. “We rehearse one week in the East Bay, one week on the Peninsula and go back and forth between the two.”

Even though major a cappella competitions take place in the Bay Area, Rapid Transit has yet to participate in any competitions. According to Zizmor, the Bay Area competition has followed a trend of choosing barber shop a cappella groups as winners and because the judges are usually older, they tend to prefer barber shop over college a cappella.

Zizmor’s goals for the group are to record another CD, have fun, make good friends and continue singing well. “I’m more interested in singing and sounding good than pursuing any lofty goals,” she said. “Music is one of those things I absolutely need in my life or else I am just not happy.”

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Teacher pursues a capella singing after college