Caroline Khoury, a senior member of the Ransom Notes, practices for her upcoming April concert.  The Ransom Notes is a capella group at UT consisting of 13 people who perform 20-30 gigs per year.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

With all of her might, Caroline Khoury stepped on the arched platform and into the spotlight to perform the song she had been waiting two years to sing.

Khoury was accepted into the UT a capella group, Ransom Notes, her junior year. She had not performed since high school and immediately knew this group was what she had been missing.

Freshman year, her roommate encouraged her to audition for the group. Khoury soon realized she missed the deadline for auditions, and during her sophomore year there were no open spots. Khoury, now a journalism senior and music director for Ransom Notes, auditioned for the group her junior year. 

“I was sitting in my room junior year, minding my own business when I randomly remembered about Ransom Notes,” Khoury said. “I don’t know if it was by chance, luck or God, but when I looked up audition dates, they were in two days.” 

More than 70 girls auditioned for the group and only three made it, Khoury included. She auditioned with “Broken-Hearted Girl” by Beyoncé and “At Last!” by Etta James

Within two weeks of making Ransom Notes, the group had Khoury performing monthly for crowds of 200 people. Her first performance with the group solidified her passion for music.

The Ransom Notes consist of 13 people: six boys and seven girls. They perform anywhere from 20 to 35 gigs during the school year and have an annual winter concert in December and spring concert in April. With a repertoire covering everything from Beyoncé and Patty Griffin to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Ransom Notes explore many genres of music.

“For my first gig with Ransom Notes, all I remember are the smiling faces in the audience,” Khoury said. “I was standing on the smallest, gray-carpeted platform and realized there was no other place I wanted to be.”

Lexi Bixler, director of Ransom Notes and economics senior, said that Khoury was a shoo-in from the second she sang the first verse of her audition performance.

“We look for two main things in our potential candidates: talent and personality,” Bixler said. “Caroline was outstanding in both areas and has grown into a fearless performer. Her incredibly powerful voice, control and clarity set her apart.” 

Khoury and Bixler worked closely this year as they organized rehearsal schedules, picked setlists for gigs and pieced together arrangements for the group. 

“Caroline has been an incredible music director and absolutely wonderful to work with,” Bixler said. “She is a perfectionist, yet has a disarming quality about her that allows her direction to be accepted.”

The Ransom Notes have performed for many UT students throughout the years. Michael Aaron, a journalism sophomore, first heard Khoury sing with the group last year.

“I’ve heard Caroline sing several times, and I think she has an immense amount of talent,” Aaron said. “There is definitely a lot of soul in her voice. She reminds me of Christina Aguilera in a way.”

Though she is only 5 feet 2 inches, Khoury described her voice as surprisingly strong and soulful. While she knew she wanted to join an a cappella group in college, she was unaware of how much it would impact her life. 

“I realized that if I didn’t have Ransom Notes, I’d probably be depressed without even knowing it, because music would have been missing,” Khoury said.

She has found her love for music leaking into other areas of her life. Recently, she has explored combining her passion for performing with her future journalism career.

“I think if I never did anything in music again, I’d be extremely sad,” Khoury said. “As a journalist, I can see myself being a potential music critic.”

Her final performance with Ransom Notes will be Sunday, April 28 at 7 p.m. in Hogg Auditorium, the day after a free performance at the Blanton Fifty Fest

“I am so blessed to have found an outlet to sing while in school,” Khoury said. “Ransom Notes was the best decision I’ve made at UT.”

Singers from One Note Stand, an a capella ensemble from UT, rehearse in a stairwell of the Art Building prior to Acappellooza, a benefit concert for victims of the Central Texas wildfire.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

To the cheers and screams of an audience of more than a hundred, “Acappellooza” kicked off Tuesday night with performances from One Note Stand, Hum A Cappella and The Ransom Notes as part of a benefit for Bastrop fire victims.

Radio-television-film senior Ali Haji said last year’s director of Ransom Notes created “Acappellooza.” Acappellooza is the group’s attempt to bring large scale a cappella performances to the University, Haji said. Haji is the current director of Ransom Notes, which has held performances since 1996 when it was founded by two Plan II students, who began by holding rehearsals and auditions in their dorm room.

“This is the second annual Acappellooza,” Haji said. “All the a cappella groups come together here in one concert to provide a nice free concert that anyone can attend, and we found it appropriate for this year’s performance to make it a benefit for victims of the fires.”

The music of a cappella is a style of choral music including soloists and singers mimicking instruments, which has not always been popular in Texas, said music and Jewish studies senior Sam Rosen, musical director of The Ransom Notes.

“A cappella is basically choral to the tune, contemporary songs with a soloist and accompanying singers who mimic the sounds of instruments from drums to guitar,” Rosen said. “You could say that we sing unpopular songs by popular artists.”

While The Ransom Notes and One Note Stand led with takes on well known pop songs like Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”, South Asian Hum A Cappella led with a combination of Hindi and English music. Hum started with a performance of “Bewafa” and then ended on a combination song of Re Piya and Adele’s “Rolling the Deep”, enhancing the diversity of the show and bringing loud applause from the audience.

UT is one of many colleges in the country that does not have a large scale a cappella scene, unlike the west and east coast, where a cappella has a much longer standing tradition in college campuses, Haji said.

“The South has never generally had large a cappella groups,” Haji said. “Other schools have had this sort of thing and The Ransom Notes had the idea to bring it here to UT.”

Students responded very enthusiastically to the show, cheering to their friends and peers performing.

“It was really great,” said psychology sophomore Michelle Robichaux. “It was a nice surprise to see that we can actually do a cappella in Texas.”