University gives you so many opportunities to try something new through clubs and extra-curriculars. Whether it’s volunteering, sports, dance, or music, there is something for everyone. For recent graduate Matthew Leandres, this was a cappella.
Matthew was a member of the Water Boys, an all-male a cappella group, for four years while studying Applied Mathematics at Waterloo. The Water Boys were founded by eight engineering students who wanted to sing and do something musical outside of class.
They became the University of Waterloo’s first a cappella group and inadvertently founded the largest a cappella club in Canada. It started out as a fun group that would sing at campus events to a larger presence that went to the finals of International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella on Broadway – and being the first Canadian group to do so.
This all happened when Matthew and the Water Boys headed to New York City to compete on stage against the top a cappella groups in the world. “It never felt real even when it was happening,” Matthew reflected on their time competing. “It was such a crazy opportunity and it was really uplifting to see how many people supported us emotionally and financially. It was something I’ll never forget.” The Water Boys raised $5,500 to fund their trip through a very successful GoFundMe campaign.
Matthew also spent a couple of terms in other a cappella groups at Waterloo, and two years in a small group known as Fancy Good with his best friends. “My friends from a cappella are some of the best friends I’ve made in my entire life. Our bonding from a cappella extends much farther than just the group itself.” For Matthew, being a part of a group and being inspired by others is the most important part of a cappella.
Not only did Matthew meet lifelong friends and compete on an international stage, but he also picked up several other transferable life skills. “I learned about communication, leadership, sociability, being in front of large groups.”
Getting involved also helped Matthew balance school work and take a break from studying. “It feels to better to go back to studying after spending time doing something you enjoy, like singing with your pals. It also gave me a sense of belonging in the Waterloo community.”
Waterloo's UW A Cappella club is Canada's largest university a cappella organization, with upwards of 200 members over the course of a year and 5 different a cappella groups to join. Information sessions are held every term in the first week of lectures. Most of the groups then hold auditions, and one group (ACE) is free for anyone to join.