No Instruments Required: Portola High’s First A Cappella Group


Annie Qiao

Members of Rising Dynamics practice their rendition of “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel. While the song was originally sung with all-male parts, the female voices add a much richer harmony overall, making this song more popular amongst a cappella groups.

Helena Hu and Annie Qiao

With melodious voices rising and falling in beautiful phrases, the soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines blend in harmony for the musical arrangement. The members of Rising Dynamics, Portola High’s first a cappella group, are able to make beautiful music with only their voices.

What began as a simple conversation among close friends at Ruby’s Diner prior to IUSD’s annual honors choir concert last year quickly transformed into the idea of creating an a cappella group to continue singing together in the future.

“What’s really fun about it is that for the songs that we know, we always improvise together, and I think that’s what makes an a cappella group really fun and different,” founding member and sophomore Julianne Nguyen said. “You can make the entire music, the entire song, your own.”

Rising Dynamic is a mostly student-led team, with founding members being juniors Jude Chau, Nishad Francis and Joseph Kim and sophomores, along with Nguyen, Rachel Abalos, Marina Bogosian, Raksha Rajeshmohan and Ariana Wu.

They began laying the groundwork during the summer, but the process has had its ups and downs. Some struggles that the members have faced include finding sheet music and transposing it into a suitable range, learning the parts and finding the time to practice together.

Club adviser, music teacher Adrian Rangel-Sanchez, said he hopes that Rising Dynamics will remain student-organized and that the club will serve as an inspiration for students on campus to get involved with music.

“A cappella is something that I’m personally really passionate about, because when I was at Uni, in my junior and senior years we started and directed Footnotes, which was Uni’s first ever a cappella group,” Rangel-Sanchez said. “That’s what inspired me to become a vocal music teacher, so I hope that students through this experience also get inspired and maybe move on to continue pursuing music after high school.”

Rising Dynamics plans on performing at vocal concerts later in the year and collaborating with other high school a cappella groups in Irvine. In the future, the members said they hope that the club will grow to be a stand-out group on campus and exemplify musical excellence while still encouraging close bonds.

“For some of us, in our first year in choir, we started off a bit simpler. We didn’t have any people,” Francis said. “So hearing this where we can have four-and-five-part harmonies with even just a small group making beautiful music, it kind of harkens back to the beginning and shows us how far we’ve come, which is something I love listening to.”

Auditions for Rising Dynamics are to run from Oct. 22-24 during lunch in the choir room and are open to all students. The link to sign up is and can be found on their Instagram @risingdynamics.