Posts Tagged ‘Augmented Eight’

A cappella singers support community through singing

Article by Hai Yu, George Washington University, May 2017

Bill Cline, Music Director, left.

In 1992, D.C.-based economist and a cappella singer Bill Cline was driving by Dupont Circle and was stunned to find many mentally disabled people wandering the streets, homeless. The scene reminded Cline of the impoverished Latin American countries where he had once worked.

In that moment 25 years ago, an idea was born.

Cline and his all-male a cappella group, “Augmented Eight,” would put on a “Sing Out for Shelter” concert in D.C. dedicated to helping the city’s homeless population.

In March, the concert—now in its 25th year—raised more money than ever before. A crowd of 550 concert-goers donated a total of $27,000, which Cline will turn over to the three D.C.-based shelters that he has long supported: Friendship Place, Christ House and Metropolitan House.

“The shelters are the professionals who know how to deal with the complex homeless situation,” said Cline. “We let them do their work to best help the homeless people.”

Despite a $14.8 million increase in funding for homeless services this year, the city’s budget still falls far short of meeting the housing needs of thousands of homeless people and their families, according to The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

Officials at the shelters supported by Cline’s annual concerts said the extra money is critical to their operations.

“The donation helps us fulfill our programs,” said Jean Michel Giraud, president of Friendship Place, where programs including housing, job placement, youth training and outreach are provided to the homeless.

The concert has become so popular in recent years that the mayor’s office sent out a proclamation acknowledging “Augmented Eight’s effort to help the most vulnerable residents in D.C.”

Cline said that when the concerts first began, they drew small crowds in various locations scattered around the city

“We were sort of homeless ourselves,” said Cline. “We have performed at the Gaston Hall of Georgetown University and some small churches.”

The Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, which has a shelter associated with the church, took the group in 15 years ago. Since then, the concert has become closely associated with the congregation at the church.

This year, a system that allows the group to sell tickets online boosted sales. Information about the concert was also available on the Eventbrite website, a popular site for local event browsing.

The group behind the successful concert are 12 members who include lawyers, physicians, State Department employees and an architect. They reside in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, but come together to sing during weekly rehearsals.


John Symington, President, center

John Symington, the current president and first tenor of “Augmented Eight,” is a former member of Yale’s renowned all-male a cappella group, “The Whiffenpoofs,” and was introduced to “Augmented Eight” at a “Whiffenpoofs” concert.

Besides the benefit concert, the group practices for an annual “Spring Sing” concert festival put on by the American A Cappella Alliance, a nonprofit organization promoting a cappella ensemble singing of all styles of popular music.

Symington said his recent favorite songs are “Who You Are” and “Oh Shenandoah.”

“Asking me what’s my favorite song is like asking a 100-year-old what’s his favorite pie,” said Symington. “I enjoy the song I am singing the most.”


Founding member, stalwart bass, John M. Kauffmann dies at 91

JMK on Waterside porch (2)

John Kauffmann, Waterside

John Michael Kauffmann, 91, died peacefully at his Yarmouth, Maine, home on November 16, 2014.

Born in Champaign, Illinois, John grew up in the Washington, DC, area and spent summers at the family’s camp, Waterside, at Christine Lake in Stark, NH. He graduated from The Choate School in 1941 and went on to Princeton University to graduate cum laude in the class of 1945. At Princeton he was a member of the Charter Club and active in theater and music, and lettered in crew.

From 1944-46 John served as a diplomatic courier in Africa and Europe. After World War II, he prepared a history of his Princeton classmates’ contributions to the war effort. He reported at the Washington Star and wrote for National Geographic, including an August 1959 cover story about California’s great sequoias. He joined the National Park Service as a planner, assisting in the establishment of national parks including the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Cape Cod National Seashore. In Washington, John helped forge a singing group of Princeton and Yale graduates, known as The Eight (and later as The Augmented Eight). The group still sings in the Nation’s Capital.

In 1972 the Park Service relocated John to Alaska to study areas under consideration for designation as national parks, monuments and reserves. His work contributed to the passage of legislation permanently conserving more than 100 million acres, and his home on Kershner Avenue in Anchorage became a meeting place for conservationists and students.

His 1973 book, Flow East: A Look at Our North Atlantic Rivers, celebrated rivers and canoes, and the people who work to conserve them. In 1980-81 John enrolled at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, whose Dean designated him Honorary Alumnus in 2012. John moved to Mount Desert Island in Maine to co-publish the Bar Harbor Times. In 1992 John published his second book: Alaska’s Brooks Range: The Ultimate Mountains.

In the latter 1990s, John achieved his life’s greatest dream: the permanent conservation of the woodlands around Christine Lake. At the same time John contributed to the founding of a local heritage center celebrating the people and history of Stark, NH. Beside the fireplace at Waterside, he played the guitar and sang well loved songs, such as a crowd favorite of his own composition, “Therapeutic Beer”.

John was a member of boards and organizations including the The Wilderness Society, the National Parks and Conservation Association, and American Rivers; Washington’s Cosmos Club, Metropolitan Club, and Chevy Chase Club; the Alaska Conservation Foundation; and, in Maine, the North Yarmouth Academy, College of the Atlantic, Cumberland Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Friends of Acadia, and the Forest Society of Maine.

A memorial service will be held at 1 pm on February 21, 2015, at the Congregational Church in Yarmouth, ME. Services will also be scheduled in Washington, DC, and Stark, NH.

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A8 adds new pipes to its ranks!

The Augmented Eight welcomes its two newest members, Saumit Sahi and Brandon Bierlein.

Saumit Sahi Saumit “Gen Z” Sahi – Second Tenor
Saumit graduated from Princeton in 2013. Notwithstanding the formidable curriculum offered at Saumit’s prestigious alma mater, Saumit occasionally requires additional explanation of cultural references in the A8 repertoire (such as references to whitewall tires, LP records and rotary dial telephones).
Rick Bond Brandon “It’s not a party without the” Bierlein– Baritone
Brandon, a lawyer, intends to join the judge advocate general’s corps of the United States Air Force. When pressed, Brandon assures us that he can handle the truth.



Augmented Eight Retreat to the Outer Banks

Members of the Augmented 8 and families enjoyed a great weekend earlier this month on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, guests of stalwart bass, Paul Kraske.  Activities included an entertaining (and educational) boat ride during which singers (and their kids) learned about fishing, crabbing and hunting on the Currituck Sound as well as a tour of the beaches north of Corolla to see the famous wild horses of the Outer Banks.

Saturday night October 5th the A8 performed for guests of the Sanderling Resort in Duck and Sunday morning had a rare opportunity to sing inside the historic Currituck Lighthouse.   Many thanks to Captain Alex Ross, Meghan Agresto, the Sanderling Resort and the other folks who made this special weekend possible.


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