Spotted in Jewish DC: DMV-based Jewish a cappella group Makela

by Ava Gurman / January 5, 2022

Did you ever watch Pitch Perfect or see Pentatonix perform and wish you were in an a cappella group? Ever wondered if there was a local a capella group you could audition for? If so, you’re in luck! Makela is a DMV-based a cappella group for singers of all ages, faiths, and identities, performing songs in Hebrew and English across a wide variety of genres. 

Our Community Coordinator, Ava, spoke with Daniayla Stein and Sabrina Scull, Music Director and President of Makela, about the group’s history, favorite songs to perform, and how to join!

Ava: When was Makela founded? What’s the story there?

Daniayla: Makela was founded in the ‘90s by a group of students at George Washington University and local young professionals. Over time, the group grew out of its affiliation with the school and became independent. We’ve had a rotating membership for more than 20 years. 

Ava: When did you join?

Daniayla: I’ve been in the group for about 3 years. Our longest current members have been in the group nearly 10 years! 

Sabrina: I have been in it for about 5 years.

Ava: What has been your favorite song or set you’ve done?

Daniayla: We recently played the EDCJCC Hanukkah Market and had a blast. We had a lot of group changes over the course of the pandemic and that was our first performance with our new members and since the pandemic started. Everyone worked hard and put on a great show. You can check out some of the videos from the show on our YouTube channel

It’s hard to pick a favorite song because each iteration of Makela brings its own style and flavor to the songs we have in our repertoire. Right now, I love our version of “Quiet” by MILCK. We’ve been singing it for a few years now and have kept it in our setlists the past few years because the spirit of it is so inspiring—and very Jewish if you ask me!

Here’s a video of us singing it at the Hanukkah Market. The soloist is our amazing alto Riley Panko. 

Sabrina: While I also love “Quiet”, my favorite song we do has to be “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (watch here!). It’s just such a beautiful classic song and the harmonies sound amazing a cappella. 

Ava: What is your favorite part of being a member of this a cappella group? Is there something special you’ve gained from being a part of Makela?

Sabrina: It is really special to step away from the business of work and life in DC and sing with a group of friends. Everyone is so talented and really cares about the group.

Daniayla: Same. It’s a welcome relief from the daily grind. I also really love how working with this group inspires me to grow musically. 

Ava: What makes this group special?

Daniayla: When I first auditioned for Makela I went home to my wife and said, “this is the nicest group of people I’ve ever met!” I couldn’t believe how completely welcome I felt and how kind everyone was. I was so happy to find such a great group of people to make music with. 

I think another important thing about Makela is that we don’t require our members to be Jewish, or have a certain musical skill set or previous singing experience. When we run auditions we look for important musical qualities like blend, tone, and range. We don’t let expectations about what makes a “good singer” on paper guide us. [Editor’s note: Makela is looking for new members. Learn more about auditions here!] 

Sabrina: I agree—everyone is truly delightful and so fun to sing with. It’s also a nice extracurricular group to be a part of because while we are all responsible for attending rehearsal and learning our parts, we all recognize that this is purely for fun and not one of the stressful things in our lives. 🙂

Ava: How do you usually find shows or gigs?

Daniayla: A combination of things! We have some relationships that we’ve kept over the years with organizations that do repeating events. Sometimes folks find us from our website or see us at a performance and reach out to us. 

Sabrina: Daniayla covered it. And I will say that we love finding new, fun performances! (Editor’s note: want to book Makela for a gig? Contact them here.)

Ava: I heard you’re holding auditions right now! What are you looking for in new group members?

Daniayla:  Right now we’re accepting auditions for tenors and basses only. No official previous experience is required, although it always helps if folks have sung in a group before (a cappella or not). The most important thing in a cappella is the ability to blend- so we always scan for that too! Ideally our auditioners would be looking to gain a community as well. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s one of the best parts of being in the group!

Sabrina: Blend is huge! We also want folks who are enthusiastic and have great attitudes.

Find out more about Makela by visiting their website or checking them out on Instagram and Facebook.

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