Treblemakers uplift East Asian musical excellence, community


Daily file illustration by Emma Ruck

Treblemakers is Northwestern’s premier East Asian-interest a cappella group, and one of three competitive groups on campus.

Joyce Li, Reporter

Medill sophomore Angela Zhang said she never imagined committing to singing when she arrived at Northwestern. But watching the Treblemakers, NU’s premier East Asian-interest acapella group, perform at Rock the Lake last year changed her mind. 

Zhang said growing up, she did not see much Asian American representation in music.

“There was something really special about seeing folks of color onstage—seeing people that looked like me,” Zhang said. “Knowing there was a space here at Northwestern which was a community, but also just brilliant at performance … I just was so inspired.”

Founded in 2004, Treblemakers is one of three competitive a cappella groups on campus. Members of Treblemakers are from all over the world and perform songs in multiple languages, including English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Tagalog.

“Our general mission is to spread East Asian interest, awareness and musical excellence with the community surrounding us,” Bienen senior and Treblemakers General Manager Sabrina Chen said. “It just gives us an opportunity to perform things that people don’t always get to hear.” 

Both Chen and Zhang said their most memorable Treblemakers performance was at the 2022 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. The group traveled to the University of Michigan in February to perform an arrangement at the ICCA Great Lakes Quarterfinal. 

Treblemakers’ set consisted of “愛 (Ai)”, a Mandarin ballad by Hong Kong singer Karen Mok, and a Disney medley. 

Zhang said Treblemakers aims to represent the cultures of its group members and provide Asian American representation in music performance.

“It’s just been an incredible experience to know that I’m part of a family that … centers multiculturalism and inclusivity within the arts,” Zhang said.

In addition to competing at ICAA, the group also hosts quarterly showcases where members perform all of the songs they learned throughout the quarter. In its Fall 2022 Show, the group performed seven pieces, including “Lose” by Indonesian songwriter NIKI, a medley of Olivia Rodrigo’s music and its 2022 ICCA set. 

McCormick sophomore Fay-Ling Laures attended the Treblemakers’ fall showcase. 

“It’s great that they explore and expose their audience to more East Asian artists and music,” Laures said. “I really like that they sometimes sing in different languages because it gives East Asian artists a platform to shine.”

Another one of the Treblemakers’ key foci is community building. Chen said the group goes on a bonding retreat every year for a weekend and spends time together outside of rehearsals getting dinner or boba. The group’s alumni are also involved in the group’s activities, preparing care packages for new members and auditions.

Zhang recalled a moment after a Treblemakers show when an alum began beatboxing into a microphone and the rest of the group joined in to improvise. 

“Joining this group means you’re joining a family, joining a group that really cares about each other.” Chen said. “Something great about us (is) the feeling of unity within the group, and being able to not just sing with them, but also hang out.”

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