Eastern has had a lot of acapella groups over the years, but they were usually student-run and dissolved quickly. Now, a music professor has made it official and acapella is here to stay. Zachary Marshall, assistant professor of music in voice, started the ensemble at the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester after he saw the need for an acapella group as an important learning opportunity and recruitment tool for the music department. Acapella is music sung without the accompaniment of instruments. The EKos perform several different genres of music, including pop, jazz and gospel, and add their own unique flair to the pieces they sing. “There is normally a split in each voice part,” said Rebekah Knight, freshman vocal performance major. “So if you were to think about it as instruments, you would have eight or nine different instruments backing up the solo.” The ensemble is composed of both music and non-music majors and the style offers something different for each of the members. “For me personally, it’s a different genre of music,” said Jordan Durham, junior music industry major. “With choir, we are taught to sing a specific way in order to produce a specific sound. But when you’re in an a capella group, it’s more encouraged to experiment with your own thing.” The complexity of these parts in an acapella group makes for interesting songs, some of which EKos members arrange themselves. “I like singing the songs that people in our group arrange because it showcases how different each arranger thinks about the songs,” said Brittany Stewart, senior music industry major. “Connor’s arrangements are more rhythmic, and in Taylor’s there’s always this one chord that’s a ‘Taylor chord.’” Taylor Cochran, junior political science and globalization and international affairs major, had never arranged music until challenged by Marshall, who often encourages the EKos to arrange pieces for the group. “When I’m writing I like to focus on each line, so each person that’s singing has their very own unique line to sing, and when it all comes together it jells,” Cochran said. “When I’m writing, I don’t know what it is going to sound like until it all comes together.” “When we saw Shut Up and Dance, which is the song Taylor originally wrote for us, it was so cool because we all looked at the page and thought ‘there’s no way,’ but when it came together it was amazing,” Knight said. Cochran enjoys pop songs and beat-boxing. Zach Day, senior deaf studies and American sign language major, enjoys the tight chords and harmonies that come with jazz. Knight loves contemporary music and Durham likes gospel songs to see the audience reactions. Despite only having two regularly scheduled practices during the week, the EKos frequently meet together days before performances, sometimes as late as midnight. The group unanimously agreed they spend way too much time together outside of rehearsal, but it’s the extra time that makes the ensemble more of a family. “When you have this number of people, it’s very close knit, which allows us to be a lot more in tune with each other,” Knight said. “Especially, I think, when we are singing because we get to know each other and how we work to be better as a group.” The group has had sleepovers, numerous dinner dates and game nights, but soon they will embark on an even greater adventure together: An international tour in Italy. The EKos will be traveling to the Jazzit Festival in Feltre, Italy, in June of 2017. After sending in a recording to the festival’s organizer, the group was invited to perform and will also perform in Rome and Florence. “I don’t think any of them have been to Italy, so it’s going to be fun for all of us,” Marshall said. “I believe strongly in study abroad, and the opportunity to travel is a great recruiting tool, so this trip is multi-faceted for us.” The trip also poses a learning opportunity for the EKos since Marshall has been challenging them with jazz pieces throughout the semester. Jazz pieces are typically more rhythmically challenging, and it breaks the group away from their love of pop songs, Marshall said. Marshall took four EKos students to Costa Rica in May of this year, but the Italy trip will be available for all the EKos members. “This is a really good group we have, and we are going to lose some seniors,” Cochran said. “He thought this is the time to go. If we’re going to take an international trip and do a tour, this is the time.” The trip will cost roughly $40,000, but the EKos hope to cover it with some out of pocket expenses and fund-raising through concert ticket sales and T-shirt sales. “Each of us have a certain amount that we have to pay, and we have a target goal that we are trying to fundraise this year,” Cochran said. “We’re trying to get $12,000, and the hope is that with $12,000 and the part that we each have to pay, it will cover it all.” The group looks forward to performing at more private gigs, and has even received interest from EKU alumni for private performances after singing at the Alumni Awards and Pioneer Celebration Dinner during Homecoming weekend. The EKos perform all across EKU’s campus, whether it’s the national anthem at a 5K race or Spotlight Days with EKU Admissions. The group takes their talent to churches and will perform a high school tour in the spring. They will do up to 15 events this Fall alone, which is more than any other ensemble in the music department, Marshall said. “This group is very deserving of a trip like this,” Marshall said. “They work hard and put a lot of time and energy into what they do.” Members include: Chloe Golding, Buddy Tyree, Taylor Cochran, Taylor Wells, Jesse Klapheke, Brittany Stewart, Jordan Durham, Rebekah Knight, John Mathre, Connor Sands and Zach Day. For more information on the EKos and upcoming events visit them on Facebook at EKos or contact Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.