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Made for Sound

August 10, 2012

In 1992, Chris Bettencourt ’93 had an idea for a summer job. A member of Connecticut College’s CoCo Beaux who lived on Martha’s Vineyard, Bettencourt gathered a few friends from Skidmore and Wesleyan, along with some fellow Beaux, and developed a plan to start a singing group on the island. On July 28, The Vineyard Sound (VS) celebrated its 20-year anniversary with a reunion concert on the Vineyard.

Performing in reverse chronological order, the VS alumni broke up into five-year groups to sing a few old favorites for the crowd at The Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.

Keeping the spirit of the CoCo Beaux alive was Ethan Underhill ’15, a current member and, at the age of 19, the first VS singer who is younger than the group itself, who was delighted to be able to participate. “Meeting former members was amazing, because they all have great talent. Seeing them take center stage and showing the audience how it’s done was the best part for me.”

In a group where each singer is hand-selected by an alumnus, Underhill joins a long line of CoCo Beaux who have sung on the island. Underhill was chosen by Sam Bigelow ’99, who got to know Underhill while serving as his college counselor at Choate Rosemary Hall.

“When I met Ethan, I instantly connected with him and thought he was an ‘old soul.’ And then I heard him sing,” Bigelow says. “In the back of my head, I always thought he would be a tremendous addition to the group. When he got into Connecticut College and then the Beaux, it was too good to be true.”

Bigelow contacted the Vinyard Sound’s Board of Directors and secured Underhill a spot in the 2012 group.

“Right away, Ethan really got it,” he says. “It’s more than just a singing group —  it’s a brotherhood.”

At the reunion concert, Bigelow was able to reconnect with Underhill, as well as many other friends from the past.

Clay Rives ’97, who sang with the group in ’96 and invited Bigelow to join in ’97, considers Underhill to be his “Vineyard Sound grandson.”

“Ethan would run up to me, lift me up and call me grandpa,” he says with a laugh, “Being at this event instilled a sense of pride and wonder at how many talented singers we have in the group.”

David Buffum ’92, a member of the original Vineyard Sound, is thrilled the group is still going strong.

“There is nothing better than doing something you love with people you really enjoy,” he says. “At this concert, there were 70 guys who all felt that way about singing. It was a great time for all of us to connect and reminisce about a time that was very carefree but extremely formative in our lives.”

When the group began, “a cappella was not an established thing,” Underhill says. Rives remembers a time when it was difficult to find work or an audience who would listen. Today, the group is performing nearly every day, and, in fact, has spawned a second group on Cape Cod called the Hyannis Sound.

Underhill says, “For me, the most meaningful part was meeting the Beaux who had preceded me. They have made great lives for themselves, but they still look back on this time as a turning point in their young adult lives. It makes me look forward to coming back.”

-Bailey Bennett '14













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