The Pennharmonics History
The Pennharmonics was founded in the summer of 1993 by Shawn Pearce and Rob Edsall in State College, Pennsylvania. Affiliated with The Pennsylvania State University based on its membership, The Pennharmonics has grown into one of the premier groups in the Penn State a cappella scene.
Initially founded as a summer pick-up group for those staying in State College over the summer, the original dozen or so members held their first rehearsal on the covered bridge in Spring Creek Park on the edge of State College, somewhere between the shadows of Beaver Stadium and Mount Nittany. There was little intention for the Penns, as they call themselves and are known by their fans, to continue once summer came to a close, but this group decided to remain together during the academic year and became the Penn State community’s third contemporary a cappella group.
For the first part of its life, The Pennharmonics was the “fun” group on campus; a group of singers, mostly not pursuing a future career in the music industry, getting together to sing for fun, friends, fellowship, and having music in their collegiate lives as a distraction from the rigors of academics. The group grew, facing challenges along the way. In the early years, lifelong friendships were formed, vocal percussion was experimented with and developed, and albums were released (“Premiere” in 1995; “The Day Our Instruments Died” in 2000). The group experienced several sets of growing pains, almost going their separate ways more than once.
Around the millennium, the group took on new direction with a new purpose. Wanting a more professional approach and looking to achieve more, the group sought more dedication. With that, the “fun” group on campus began to rise to the top. The Pennharmonics began competing in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) culminating in 2003 with a trip to the Finals in New York City representing the Mid-west region, placing first in the quarterfinal and semifinal competitions, and receiving Best Arrangement and two Best Soloist awards. A studio album featuring this group was released the following year (“Penneration X” in 2004). From that run on, the Penns have competed, in total, in ICCAs four times, placing 7 times in quarterfinal and semifinal events. Members of the Pennharmonics have garnered 14 awards during this same period in every award category (Best Soloist, Best Arrangement, Best Vocal Percussion, and Best Choreography). The pinnacle of this was a second trip to Finals in New York City for the group in 2012, placing first in both the quarterfinal and semifinal competitions, receiving Best Soloist, Best Choreography, and 2 Best Arrangement awards in the process.
The Pennharmonics have also released nine albums. In addition to the three studio albums above, The Pennharmonics have released three live albums (“Best of 2001-02” in 2002; “Pennmanship” in 2005, and “(icyhotpinsandneedlespeppermintywondergood)” in 2006). In 2007, the Penns released "Acappocalypse,” a studio album. This standout album was produced by Simon L. Rogers and was the group’s first venture into a fully recorded, engineered, mixed, high-level produced, and market-ready studio album. The group also released “Black and Silver” in 2011 and "Black Cloud Silver Lining" in 2014.
Members of the Pennharmonics have succeeded in their various walks of life. Members pursuing musical careers have become Broadway stars, performed in internationally-renowned operas, music festivals and productions, have become YouTube sensations, have started professional, semi-professional, and community/non-profit a cappella groups, become CASA ambassadors, judged/produced ICCAs, and operated a cappella arrangement services companies.