'Common Tones' A Capella Group Awaits University Approval to Serve and Sing

At Boston College, campus organizations are a key aspect of students' lives, serving as both a way for them to pursue their passions and expand their social circles. In order to be recognized by the school, a group must register itself as a student organization — and the application process is more rigorous than you’d think. How exactly does this process work?

Last Wednesday, I sat down with Michael Burke, MCAS '18, to get some answers. Burke and his friend Max Bechtold, MCAS '18, recently teamed up to form “The Common Tones,” an a capella singing group consisting of BC students looking to find their voices together. They started the registration process back in October by sending in their primary application, which gives the applicants a chance to explain their group and its mission. A potential organization needs to garner enough support to show that people are actually interested in joining; ten student signatures are needed for UGBC to even consider the primary application.

BC doesn’t allow two completely identical student organizations to exist, so each group applying for registration must boast a distinct feature that sets it apart from similar groups on campus. Several a capella groups already exist at BC, making it especially difficult to register a new one. Burke believes that another a capella group is absolutely needed since there seem to be fewer open spots than there are students eager to join the various singing organizations. “Lots of people get turned away in auditions to the other groups,” he noted, showing that there is enough interest outside of the organizations that already exist.

“We are specifically community service-oriented; that’s what really sets us apart,” says Burke. He intends to organize trips to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other community venues to bring the joy of song to those who need a pick-me-up.  The philanthropic nature of the group also gave the inspiration for its name: In music theory, a “common tone” is a pitch contained in two different harmonic structures like a note shared between two chords in a progression, each one amplifying the effect of the other. They truly are notes and chords for others, something the Common Tones hope to embody as they take their music into the community.

Danielle Johnson / Gavel Media

Danielle Johnson / Gavel Media

After submitting the primary application through the OSI (Office of Student Involvement), an aspiring organization has to draft a constitution that outlines the group’s function and administrative structure, such as how the executive board will be chosen and funding details. College students typically haven’t had very much exposure to this very open-ended task, so the university offers examples of constitutions from previous organizations to guide the process. A ten-minute presentation must then be prepared for UGBC's Board of Student Organizations, who interview the applicants afterward to get more details.

The Common Tones have already been approved by UGBC, so Burke’s last step to receive recognition is a meeting with a University official. With UGBC’s stamp of approval, the group is expected to be approved by the BC administration as well, but the Student Organization Resources page clearly states that applications can be denied at any point throughout the registration process. Despite the many hoops to jump through along the way, Burke says UGBC "has been very responsive to us, and very timely.”

Organizations seek official recognition for practical reasons: Clubs and groups can’t apply for funding unless they are officially registered. Only registered organizations can sign up to use university spaces for auditions, practices and performances. Once a group is officially recognized by the University, they can also use the name “Boston College” in their title—“The Common Tones of Boston College,” for example. All in all, the two to three month period that it takes to register a group is worth it, considering the added perks.

The Common Tones are awaiting final approval from BC. For more information on the group, e-mail Michael Burke at burkeni@bc.edu.

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