The Daily Gamecock

USC all-female a cappella group fuses music, friendship to build supportive singing community

<p>Members of The Cocktails pose outside of the Koger Center for the Arts after their winter recital on Dec. 2, 2022. The all-female a capella group is organized and ran by students who perform live events around Columbia and release their content online.</p>
Members of The Cocktails pose outside of the Koger Center for the Arts after their winter recital on Dec. 2, 2022. The all-female a capella group is organized and ran by students who perform live events around Columbia and release their content online.

For fourth-year human resources and marketing student Caroline Watkins, USC's all-female a cappella group allows her to make music in a supportive environment. 

The student-led group, named "The Cocktails," routinely performs pop, R&B and country tunes around the USC community, while also arranging its own music, leading productive rehearsals and finding performance opportunities without the help of a faculty advisor.

Watkins, the group's music director and vice president, originally got involved as a freshman. Throughout her time with The Cocktails, she said she has been able to participate in notable musical opportunities. However, Watkins said the friendships she has made with her fellow singers are some of the things she will remember most about her time with The Cocktails. 

“That (community) was one of the things that — my freshman year, when I first joined — really stuck out to me,” Watkins said. “It’s great, because this group has just allowed, I think, almost everyone in the group to have a support system or a place to go to whenever they have things going on in their lives.

When The Cocktails' members are not hanging out for fun, they are busy rehearsing for their biannual recitals and other pop-up performances across USC. Megan Gallagher, a second-year music industry studies student and the group’s business manager, said the Cocktails often perform the national anthem at sporting events, such as basketball, soccer and baseball. 

Last year, the group performed at former USC President Harris Pastides’ conferences and dinner parties, which they've continued with current President Michael Amiridis. Gallagher said she is grateful that university faculty provides opportunities for the group to get their voices heard. 

“We’re very lucky to have that backing and that support from past and current presidents of the university, who really take this pretty small female a cappella group and put us out so more people can see us and show off the stuff that we do here at USC,” Gallagher said. 

However, Watkins said a balance between work and play is essential to uphold the group’s reputation while also prioritizing the fun aspects of being a Cocktail. 

“We all care about each other so much, and because of that, we want to make sure that we can all accomplish the organization’s goals together," Watkins said. "It’s important that we keep that friendly atmosphere while also being able to get our music done and learn, so that way we can all be able to share our successes together."

In order to promote a productive but cordial group dynamic, Cocktails' President and third-year biology student Kaitlin Hall said she strives to use her figurehead position to promote team growth. All members pitch in to help maintain this positive environment, according to Hall.

“Our core value is just friendship and mentorship and also growing together, growing through music, growing as people," Hall said. 

Aside from live performances, the group has been making a name for itself in the digital music space since 2011 by professionally recording and releasing covers of popular songs, such as “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna and “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. In 2022, the group also released an EP titled “With a Twist” that contained five upbeat jams. 

Since its initial online debut, the group has amassed close to 6,300 monthly listeners on streaming platforms such as Spotify. For members like Hall, recording music is one of the best parts of The Cocktail experience.

“That whole process — preparing the songs and then actually getting to record them and then be excited about them getting released on all the streaming services — that was just really cool because we were like, ‘Wow, this isn't something that everyone gets to do,'” Hall said. 

In the coming months, The Cocktails will add “Electric Love” by Børns to its online repertoire. Gallagher, who will be spearheading the recording process, said she is eager to apply her audio engineering coursework to help create the new single. 

“My professor, who is an amazing audio engineer and mixer, is going to be kind of helping with perfecting (recording the single), so that is a little, kind of fun thing that I get to do that myself,” Gallagher said. 

Watkins, who will be graduating in May, said her impending end with the group is "bittersweet." While she has enjoyed getting to make music with some of her good friends, she is confident that the group will continue to flourish for years to come. 

“It just has been such an integral part of my college experience, but I know that the group is going to be in such great hands when I leave in terms of leadership and just that all the members that we have are so talented," Watkins said. "I just know they’re going to be able to accomplish so much."