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Fridays from the Frontline: Heard on the Street (HOTS) – Bringing the HBS Community Through Harmony

Music can bring people together and that’s just what the a capella group at Harvard Business School aims to do. Justin Kim, HBS MBA ’21, shares the story of Heard on the Street and building community through harmony in this week’s Fridays from the Frontline.

Heard on the Street (HOTS) – Bringing the HBS Community Through Harmony

By Justin Kim, HBS MBA ’21

Heard on the Street (HOTS) is the one and only a cappella group at HBS. During this period of disconnection due to COVID-19, we have embraced music’s power to bring people together. The first concert of the season took place last night on YouTube – you can check out the performance here.

Introduction to Heard on the Street

Our a cappella group represents the HBS community with members from MBA and PhD students to their partners. Originally founded in 1987 as an all-male group, the ensemble recently became a co-ed group after merging with a former all-female a cappella group called She-E-Os.

Baby Albert

There is a wide range of singing skills and experiences represented among us. Some of us toured around the world with college a cappella groups, whereas others never formally sang in a group prior to joining HOTS. Despite our backgrounds, we are all equally passionate about singing and harmony.

We recently welcomed our 16th member to our group. He has been with us all along since the beginning of the semester and just came out to the world in November. Welcome Albert!

What we do

There are three aspects of the group – weekly rehearsals, social activities, and concerts.

In normal times, we would meet at the beautiful Class of 1959 Chapel with gorgeous acoustics once a week to rehearse. This year, due to COVID-19 and safety concerns, we had to move the rehearsals outdoors to the Schwartz Pavilion, which worked out great to our surprise. We occasionally had bypassers stopping by to say hello and residents of SFP2 cheering us up from their balconies. Rehearsals are both musically and socially fun. Hearing beautiful harmonies when we strike the right chords helps us forget about all the stress and worries we may have from our busy lives at HBS. It’s also great knowing that every Monday evening we will be able to see these familiar faces and catch up.

We all obviously love singing – but we’re more than just a singing group. Personally, I’ve met most of my closest friends at HBS, especially those outside my RC section, through HOTS. This community has been a great avenue for all of us to meet peers outside our sections or classes and partners! There is something about deeper bonds you can create by performing together. But we also have non-musical social events throughout the year to get to know one another better – dim sum lunch, apple picking, voice parts mixers, etc. I admit, though, it’s hard not to sing whenever we are together no matter the occasion!

I recently came across a virtual HBS alumni reunion video on YouTube where members of HOTS from the Class of 1995 had special reunion performances for their 25th class reunion this past summer. They were both fun and moving. I very much look forward to staying in touch with these wonderful members of the community and singing together at our reunion.

Last but not least, we put on a major concert each semester on campus – normally at the Chapel. This semester, we have transitioned to a virtual livestream concert. Our first show of the academic year just took place On December 2nd via YouTube livestream. Putting together a virtual concert actually required more work on all members. Each of us learned how to use an online software for recording, recorded our individual vocal parts on the platform, and then some of us spent many days and nights editing these recordings to adjust for different mic volumes and other imperfections that would go unnoticed at a live concert. That said, a virtual performance also came with some benefits as well. First, we all learned new skills that we could one day use to produce our own recordings or music videos. More importantly, we reached a much broader audience outside the HBS campus.

It’s not too late to watch the concert! You can check out the recording of the performance here. We will also be donating a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to the Boston Resiliency Fund for COVID-19 relief. Although we rely entirely on ticket sales to fund our two annual concerts, all of us feel incredibly fortunate and privileged to be in this safe campus environment and continue singing in a pandemic. We are excited to aid the larger community suffering from the crisis as much as we can through this opportunity.

Concluding thoughts

Last fall, when I first ran into the HOTS booth at the Club Fair as an RC, I had no idea I would eventually become part of the leadership team trying to make our singing and harmony continue to be heard on campus and beyond.

For students interested in the performing arts, there is more than just HOTS. There are many other clubs at HBS including the HBS Show Club and Beyond Dance. I’ve been amazed to discover such talent at a school that is more renowned for developing CEOs, not vocalists or dancers. I believe that performing arts have no less to do with becoming leaders than superb analytic or negotiation skills. Storytelling, empathy, active listening, and authenticity are words we’ve heard repeatedly from case discussions and visiting business leaders describing crucial leadership skills. That’s the essence of what we do every day as performers on stage to connect with one another and the audience.

Finally, on a personal note, I’d like to deeply thank all my friends in HOTS for joining and staying through this journey to make music and memories together in this crazy time – while starting a company, writing dissertation papers, or taking care of a newborn. I can’t wait for another semester with you all and beyond!

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, Weekly Columns

Schools: Harvard Business School

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