By Clare Quinn
“You came on a good day, we’re learning a song.”
Liz Browne may be the president of the Sexy Pitches, but her presence emits that of a kind, older sister. A loose, oversized, light-washed jean jacket sprawls across her tiny frame; nondescript black leggings, a trademark for comfortable rehearsal attire, fit around her trimmed legs. At a moment when the voices in the room reach a pervasive scream, Browne – quietly but assertively – calms her friends.
“Let’s sit and listen,” she says. The group follows.
The Sexy Pitches have come a long way since their 2006 founding. Last spring, they hosted an invitational – the “Salem Pitch Trials” – to raise money for the Malala Fund, an organization that aims to empower women through education. This doesn’t seem too surprising: the Sexy Pitches are proud of their womanhood and like to raise money for related causes. Equipped with a red and white patterned bandana tied around her sandy brown hair, Browne vaguely resembles Rosie the Riveter. It’s fitting.
For the first twenty minutes of their two-hour Sunday night rehearsal in Humanities, the 18 girls sit in a circle and talk about their lives. Cross-legged and barefoot on the rough coffee-stained indigo carpet, they listen as one tells of her weekend escapades at her cousin’s out-of-town wedding.
This is the second year the Sexy Pitches have had an official executive board. Previously, the group worked on a “democratic” policy; members would volunteer for extra work, like meeting with the school’s Student Association (SA) or FUSEing (securing) rehearsal spaces. Browne and her fellow members noticed this lax stance “just wasn’t working,” and together came up with streamlined executive positions to help stabilize the group. The group, which is now an officially-chartered and SA-recognized campus club, elects board members for these specific roles at the end of each year.
Melina Marinakis, 20, has been in the Pitches for three semesters and claims she feels more comfortable now than ever, thanks to the group’s increased leadership. Still, she praises the traditional democracy of the Pitches, which has not been lost.
“Everyone has the same voice,” Marinakis said. “Problems always work out. We put it to a vote: majority rules.”
Though they each have unique singing voices, Browne compliments the cohesion of the group, a feat not easily implemented. They start their warm-up with the trademark a cappella bounce, biting as their lips trill over the words of “Boomts and kats and boomts and kats.” Leaning forward and back, the Pitches – led by Browne’s unwavering grit – fill the worn-down room with an unequivocal confidence. They aren’t shy to admit that their voices deserve to be heard.
“Hurry On Now,” a smooth R&B-indie crossover tune by Alice Russel, has appropriate lyrics for the club’s bravado (“He stole my sorrows from the morning; he ripped them from the night/And you best believe I’ll keep singing to make my wrongs go right.”) One of the Pitches’ members arranged the song via Noteflight, a music program which allows users to arrange and create their own sheet music online. It’s not too accurate a representation of sound; the drums, hollow and short-winded, sound as if they are coming from the empty room next door. The vocal parts coo a choral “aah”; a robotic manipulation of human sound, musty and monotone. Yet the Pitches crack a smile: they know the power behind the words. They sing with vengeance.
Standing in an a cappella arch, the Sexy Pitches sway patiently to the slow beat of the tune, wagging their fingers boldly at imaginary lovers who wronged them. And they’re doing it together, in perfect synchrony. Browne stands close to the center of it all, singing along. She loves the song. Hardly interjecting, her role is more that of a highly-trusted mentor: she is the liaison of the group, ensuring inclusivity and open communication between its members. Perhaps a physical manifestation of the group’s equality or simply because they’re all good singers, the low bass, held-forever “Hmmmmmmmmmms” and the perky, high-pitched “Woowwwws” vibrate with matching energy. They sound as one.
Browne smiles; she got to sing through the song once before she had to leave rehearsal early for her shift at Noshi’s Coney Island, which she calls a “burger, dog and shake” restaurant located on Main Street. Browne is busy; between the Pitches, work, and classes (she is a Psychology major, and once she graduates she hopes to get into music therapy), she has a busy schedule. Still, there is always room for the Pitches.
“This group is very much my priority,” Browne said with an almost diligent assurance. “I put my heart and soul into it.”