The Nor’easters, the university’s renowned student a cappella group, to perform White House concert on Sunday

Nor'easters singing group performs on stage
Northeastern’s renowned student a cappella group accepted the White House offer even though some members will be taking finals the next morning. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Nor’easters have starred everywhere from Fenway Park to a packed London club to a festival in the Bay Area. But Northeastern’s renowned student a cappella group will be striking its highest note on Sunday when it performs at the White House.

“It’s crazy, I’m not going to lie,” says Tim Van Bloem, a senior in the co-ed group. “We’ve done some awesome gigs. But performing at the White House, it feels like we’re representing the music program and the students overall at Northeastern. It is just such an incredible honor and it’s something I never thought I would be doing—but here we are.”

It promises to be a busy weekend for the Nor’easters, who will be performing at “Bundled Up in Blackman” at 7 p.m. Friday at Blackman Auditorium on Northeastern’s Boston campus. That a cappella concert will also feature the Harvard Opportunes and the BU Treblemakers.

On Sunday morning, the Nor’easters will fly to Washington, D.C. They are scheduled to perform at 3 p.m. for one hour, though as of Thursday they had yet to be told who will be attending the performance.

There are currently 16 student members of the group. A 17th performer, currently on co-op in the Bay Area, will be joining them in Washington to participate in the White House concert.

The Nor’easters decided to accept the White House offer even though some of the group members will be taking finals on the Boston campus the next morning, according to Van Bloem.

“It is a 100% student-run organization,” says Jason Nolen-Doerr, who serves as primary faculty and staff adviser to the Nor’easters. “They come to me with the options that we’ve got, and they take my guidance. But they ultimately make the decision themselves, which I think is incredibly important in the student development process.

“They were evaluating whether or not it made sense to do [the trip to Washington]—despite the status associated with performing at the White House—because it does fall right in the middle of finals,” Nolen-Doerr says. “So they were actively contemplating not doing that, because of the academic components and balancing it all, but figured out they could all make it work.”

Van Bloem anticipates he may be anxious.

“That’s one of the great things about performing with a group like the Nor’easters,” says Van Bloem, who is majoring in music with a concentration in music industry. “All of your friends are up there on stage with you. So if you do get nervous, you can look over at someone, give them a little smile, take a breath, and you’re good to go. 

“Especially at a performance like this, I think some of us will be a little bit nervous,” he adds. “But the good thing is I’m traveling with my best friends in the world.”

Van Bloem says the Nor’easters will be focusing on holiday songs at the White House event.

“We have a list of eight or nine songs that we’re planning for right now,” he says. “And then we’ll add and remove songs in the moment as needed.”

The White House opportunity has helped Van Bloem put his Nor’easters career into perspective. Since his freshman year, he has joined the group at a packed nightclub in London “where we felt like celebrities” and in front of more than 20,000 people at Fenway Park commencement. In 2019, the Nor’easters were champions of the National A Cappella Convention in Memphis.

“We’re rehearsing a minimum of three times a week for two hours leading up to gigs like this,” says Van Bloem, who plans to move to Los Angeles to continue his singing career after he graduates in spring. “There’s so much to music that has not only expanded my singing ability, but just sort of the way I approach life.

“It’s given me respect for the fact that there are so many people with so much knowledge out there in the world,” he says. “Being part of this group has shown me that there’s so much depth to everything in music—so of course there’s so much depth to everything in the world.”

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