15 Aca-Awesome Celebrities Who Sang A Cappella In School
Long before they were winning awards and our hearts, these 15 celebrities were just college kids with some extracurricular interests in singing.
1. JOHN LEGEND
John Legend now produces an a cappella documentary series called "Sing It On," which just premiered this week, and who better to contribute to a show like that than a Grammy-winner with his own a cappella past? Back when he was a young John Stephens, Legend was a member of UPenn's Counterparts. We’d recognize that voice anywhere.
2. AISHA TYLER
3. MINDY KALING
4. JAMES VAN DER BEEK
Before Dawson’s Creek, Van Der Beek was singing with the Drew University 36 Madison Avenue a cappella group to try to win hearts. "A girl heard me sing 'Englishman in New York' and I got to, like, go to her dorm room to give her our CD," he told The New York Times. And while he hasn't done any public singing lately, he was in a Ke$ha video once.
5. AND 6. KERRY WASHINGTON AND GWYNETH PALTROW
A photo posted by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow) on Feb 26, 2015 at 6:11pm PST
While attending the Upper East Side's Spence School for girls, the future Olivia Pope had a singing idol: one Gwyneth Paltrow. "It was a nine-girl a cappella singing group—we called ourselves Triple Trio. And when I was in junior high school I really wanted to be in Triple Trio because there was this really amazing senior named Gwyneth Paltrow and she was president of Triple Trio," Washington told Jimmy Kimmel last year. "And then I was co-president of Triple Trio one day. My shining honor!"
7. MASI OKA
Before he was the star of Heroes, Masi Oka was the music director of the hilariously named Brown Bear Necessities at Brown University. The all-male group is known for wearing suspenders, but one year, Oka created an arrangement of "Flashdance…What A Feeling" and went onstage in a purple leotard and a tutu. "A cappella is all about commitment," Oka later said.
8. DIANE SAWYER
The veteran reporter was a member of Wellesley College’s Blue Notes in the mid-'60s.
9. SARA BAREILLES
Bareilles was a member of Awaken A Cappella while she was at UCLA, and loved it. "It's so goofy," she told The New York Times, "but I felt like I'd found my family at school."
10. ED HELMS
Anyone who watched The Office knows that Andy Bernard often broke out in song and bragged about his Cornell a cappella group Here Comes Treble. But Helms did actually sing with the all-male Oberlin College Obertones during undergrad (for one semester—he once said he quit because he "decided smoking pot was more important than extracurricular activities"). He also formed the bluegrass band The Lonesome Trio with two of his college friends; their debut album comes out this summer.
11. LAUREN GRAHAM
Long before she debuted on Broadway, Lauren Graham was in the Barnard Metrotones. “That was like the most fun I had in school, and still some of my best friends are from that group,” she told the Columbia Spectator.
12. WENTWORTH MILLER
13. RASHIDA JONES
With Quincy Jones for a father, it’s no surprise that Rashida is musically inclined. Perhaps she even took some production cues from him when she served as the musical director for the co-ed Harvard Opportunes. And though she might not have a signature tune ("Ha, a signature tune! I wish. That's what makes you an icon, right?"), she says her favorite holiday song is Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas."
14. ANNE HATHAWAY
"That song 'All You Want' by Dido—I was in an a cappella group in college, and that was my audition song," Hathaway revealed earlier this year of her tryout for Vassar’s all-female Measure 4 Measure. The extra practice certainly paid off—Hathaway won her Oscar based on her singing performance in 2012's Les Miserables.
15. MIRA SORVINO
The future Oscar-winner was a founding member of the co-ed Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones in 1985. One of her solos was during their cover of Yazoo's "Only You," which Sorvino will apparently still sing if you ask her nicely.
BONUS: "STEPHEN COLBERT"
The real Stephen Colbert has been known to break out in song on his show, and even guest-starred on The Office as Andy's Here Comes Treble nemesis Broccoli Rob. The persona "Stephen Colbert" claims to have attended Dartmouth and performed with the group The Sing Dynasty. Here's the thing though—there actually is an a cappella group at Dartmouth called the Sing Dynasty, but they formed because of Colbert's joke. Regardless, even without official a cappella bona fides, Colbert can and will perform sans-instrumentation at public functions.
DOUBLE BONUS: OSAMA BIN LADEN
No, really. According to Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower, as a teen, Bin Laden basically formed a vocal band. "Although he was opposed to the playing of musical instruments, he organized some of his friends into an a cappella singing group," Wright wrote. "They even recorded some of their tunes about jihad, which for them meant the internal struggle to improve themselves, not holy war. Osama would make copies and give them each a tape."