When he walks onstage, David Buzzell (CMU’17) has just one thought. It’s not about the crowd of almost 700 people, the unfamiliar theater, or tomorrow’s 12-hour drive back to Pittsburgh. It’s not about the trophy, the six performances preceding this one, or the 12 living instruments surrounding him. He has only one thought as the stage lights start to brighten: Do I have the tempo?

Buzzell is performing as a member of Deewane A Cappella, Carnegie Mellon’s South Asian singing group. Although he is one of the newest singers, joining as a tenor, he has immersed himself into the group by transitioning into music director, too. He coordinates arrangements, blending today’s Top 40 with Bollywood hits, including the set Deewane’s about to perform—and Buzzell is about to conduct—at the 2014 Gathe Raho.

V12n1 Fn 1In Hindi, Gathe Raho means “keep singing.” Annually hosted by the University of Iowa, it’s billed as one of the premier South Asian–interest collegiate a capella competitions. Deewane is competing for the fourth consecutive year and has proven to be a formidable contestant: 2nd place in 2011; 1st place in 2012, and 2nd place in 2013, which Buzzell says has added pressure to the underclassmen to maintain the tradition. Weeks and weeks of practice have preceded the performance; practicing vocals, creating choreography, and emanating enough energy to engage any potential audience.

Older members have warned Buzzell to anticipate nerves, which will try to lure him into rushing tempo. They may have been right. On stage, the 12 singers watch Buzzell for the cue. It’s showtime.

Deewane performs the first song, not only with the correct tempo, but with more focus than in any recent impromptu rehearsals across Iowa City—hotel crevices, a local bar. So far, so good. Next up is a ballad, the most difficult of the three medleys they’ll sing. The collective sound is pitch perfect, giving the group added adrenaline to really belt out the finale. By the final unaccompanied note, consider the crowed engaged, based on the wild applause. To Buzzell, that feels as good as a trophy. In his estimation, the group couldn’t have performed any better.

Sure enough, Deewane is awarded first place. As the group holds the trophy, Buzzell doesn’t ponder what’s to come: Deewane’s first album, a music video, more competitions. He’s just having fun with friends.

—Elana Goldberg (DC’15)