USC’s newest a cappella group, the Trogons, are bringing Chinese pop music to campus in fresh new ways. As a part of East Asian Languages and Culture department, the Trogons strive to give the opportunity to international and Asian-American students to express themselves and explore the culture of East Asia through music.
Formed in spring 2013 by Andrew Liu, Sharon Hu, Gary Wu, Kaiti Liu and Ekkawat Sae-Jee, the Trogons were inspired by USC’s South Asian a cappella group Asli Baat to create a singing group for East Asian students. The group was named by mixing the words “dragon” and “Trojan” to form “Trogon,” as a symbol of their heritage and their collegiate pride. Their repertoire includes Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese pop songs, as well as mashups of Chinese and English songs that appeal to non-Chinese speakers as well.
The group has already made a splash in USC’s a cappella community as a part of All Hail A Capella earlier this year. The Trogons hosted their auditions with the other groups on campus.
“Our president, Andrew Liu, has also been working closely with Troy Tones on acapella traditions in welcoming newbies,” said Anna Wong, director of internal affairs for the Trogons. “In general, we really feel welcomed in this community and we look forward to many more collaborations and performances in the future.”
In the spirit of collaboration, the Trogons have also performed with UCLA’s Mandarin music a capella group, TAU.
Trogon members are a diverse group of mostly international Asian students. Most members have had some music experience in either singing or instrumental performance, but very few are music majors or minors. The group is open to singers of all backgrounds who love to perform East Asian pop songs and share the passion they have for the culture and music.
The audition process takes into account the social dynamic of the group as well. In addition to singing, sight reading and blending auditions, potential new members have a social mixer to see how they fit into the group. Trogons are not only looking for new voices but also new friends and can be found bonding over group jam sessions and karaoke in their free time.
The technical vocal aspect of the audition is competitive — after preliminary auditions only a third of singers go on to callbacks and fewer will make it into the group. The Trogons, however, are open to all students and welcome any performer who is passionate about East Asian music and wants to be a part of this fast-growing group of singers. They provide family, community and cultural pride and expression that is especially important to international students as well as Asian American singers.
Beyond just performing, members of the Trogons also serve as ambassadors for music in the East Asian community of USC. They work closely with partner organizations, including the International Student Assembly, Chinese Students Association, Hong Kong Students’ Association, Taiwanese Student Association, Chinese American Student Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Taiwanese American Organization. The Trogons are asked to perform at events including the iVoice singing competition hosted by ISA in which two Trogon members also served as judges.
“We really believe that we represent the passion for music of the East Asian Community,” Wong said.
Through last year the Trogons were focused on kickstarting the group and making a name for themselves, this year they are expanding through their new social media effort. In addition to performances on campus, the group is set to release several music videos and other YouTube content. Their second annual spring concert will take place in 2015.
“As most of our members are international students with an asian background, I felt that our connection is much stronger than singers in other groups. It is more than music to us, it is also about where we come from and the music we grew up liking. Wong said, “That is what makes us special.”