CU Buffoons are back to sing, ski | SteamboatToday.com

CU Buffoons are back to sing, ski

Kari Dequine Harden/For Steamboat Today

The CU Buffoons return to Steamboat Springs for a concert at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus Saturday night.

— Back by popular demand, the CU Buffoons will perform Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Colorado Mountain College’s Allbright Auditorium in Steamboat Springs.

The talented (and funny) vocalists from University of Colorado are hailed as one of the top 10 college a capella (voice-powered instrumental accompaniment) groups in the country.

In its fifth year, the show is always well attended and a fun family affair, said Jack Dysart, chairman and CEO of the board of trustees for Emerald City Opera, the event's host. In an effort to enhance music education in the valley and "keep the music alive," the Buffoons can also bring appeal beyond opera, Dysart said.

It's also a favorite show for the group of 14 guys who will be coming, said music director and CU senior Andy Seracuse.

It's become a tradition that includes Sunday on the slopes. And it's a tradition Seracuse said he hopes will continue long into the future.

After their show, they gather at the home of Valeria Davia, Emerald City Opera education and community outreach coordinator. Davia and other local families put the students up for the night, and in the morning, they head out for a day of skiing with donated passes and gear.

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Not everyone has skied before, Seracuse said, but everyone tries. Also part of tradition is to perform several songs on the mountain — this year around noon at Gondola Square.

In addition to the skiing, Seracuse said it's a great show because it's a big crowd of about 200 people, it's always nearly sold out and they get to perform for a full hour.

The Buffoons are not just group of guys who have a lot of fun singing together (they are that, too) — they are also a business, performing about 60 shows across the state every year.

They visit a variety of venues from birthday parties to corporate events, and they’re always writing and arranging new songs, paying tribute to artists from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Eric Clapton to Cake and Kings of Leon.

But performing in Steamboat is a unique stop on the Buffoons’ tour schedule, and one that originated with a former Buffoon Peter Hassinger's initial connection to the valley.

In addition to their musical talent and diverse repertoire, the Buffoons are known for adding buffoonery into performances, and their "irresistibly corny jokes."

But with their comedy comes serious skill. They've released seven albums since 1998. In 2013, their rendition of the "The Great Debate" was selected for the prestigious Best of College A Cappella album.  

That's what sets them apart, Seracuse said, the combination of a strong musical performance along with a strong stage presence and show, featuring "our trademark goofy quality."

The Buffoons are also serious students, and only one member is majoring in music (he's also majoring electrical engineering). While their online Buffoon profiles are inventively eccentric, in real life they are college students focusing on math, science, history, film and engineering.  Seracuse is a physics major.

Their history defines them as well, Seracuse said, as the oldest a capella group at CU.

Formed in 1962, the Buffoons take great pride in traditions and from whence they came.

It all began when founder Dr. Oakleigh "Oak" Thorne, former musical director of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, moved to Boulder in 1954 to receive his doctorate in biology.

Thorne brought the storied Whiffenpoofs — the oldest a capella group in the nation — to perform at CU in the early 1960s and challenged the audience to start a group on campus. Two undergraduates approached Thorne and requested his assistance.

Today, 55 years later, Thorne, still regularly attends Buffoon practices to give his support and advice.

And, "He's as big as of a goof as anyone," Seracuse said.

The traditions — and trademark "fooniness" — are passed on to each new generation. Today, if the name originally inspired the fooniness, the decades-long ingrained fooniness inspires the Buffalo-inspired name.

About 50 people audition for the group each year, and this year's group has a total of 17 members.

As a freshman, Seracuse admits he was reticent at first to join. He didn't want to isolate himself in his first year — he wanted to remain open to and involved in different things.

But a friend convinced him to join. And now, the time he spends with the Buffoons is time spent with many of his best friends — guys he considers family. And guys who have diverse interests and pursuits — but a group with much in common who highly value the time they spend as Buffoons.

Holding their traditions and history in high esteem, Seracuse said the Buffoons end every practice with "Tribute" by JoJo David and the lyrics:

"Though the chapter shall end

when we turn the page,

let us sing a tribute to life

as friends.

My friends take pride in our years,

we’ve borne the seeds of tradition

with friends gathered here."

Tickets are available at emeraldcityopera.org, and at All That, 601 Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students with an ID and $5 for kids under 12.