A cappella music is no stranger to UCLA. A handful of groups roam the hills of Westwood, each with its own unique dedication to the craft. Two of the most popular groups on campus, Awaken A Cappella and Bruin Harmony, keep a cappella at the forefront of campus culture, whether through end-of-quarter concerts, appearances at UCLA-USC basketball games or visits to the Greek chapter houses. But while they may be high-profile organizations on campus that have earned respect throughout the years, they all have humble roots.

“After an inspiring Sproul Cafeteria lunch conversation with Joyce Yim, Olimpio Wen and Keith Ogden, [they] went directly up to Keith’s dorm room where they wrote a one-page manifesto that established Awaken on the principals of passion for music and people,” Katie Boeck, the current Awaken president, explains about the dorm-meal between friends that transformed into the most prominent and arguably the most talented a cappella group on campus today. “The mission of the group was succinctly stated at the end of the diatribe - Awaken would forge the a cappella revolution at UCLA!”

This idealistic group of friends got it right while sitting in that cramped dorm room. Presently, Awaken boasts full-length albums, a never-ending repertoire of music complete with professional level arrangements and alumni the likes of Lady Danville and Sarah Bareilles.

But if Awaken is that popular group of friends who sits in the center of the lunch room, Bruin Harmony is that group of bad-asses who eats lunch on the back steps in their leather jackets and decides to take matters into their own hands and show those preppies what’s up. Okay, so maybe the a cappella culture at UCLA isn’t exactly a 1980’s John Hughes movie, but it does paint a nice little metaphor. Awaken started out wanting to make a cappella known on campus, and they accomplished just that, but Bruin Harmony wants to take that a step further – they want to make a cappella cool.

Bruin Harmony, like Awaken, started with a couple of friends who just wanted to get some guys together to sing. Their goal was to create an all-male a cappella group that could show UCLA that a cappella was fun. Loved for their comical nature and amusing performances, Bruin Harmony makes it their job to put on a show for its audience. They want to stand out from the rest and pave the way for the next generation of a cappella.

“If you’ve ever been to an a cappella festival,” Jackson McNeill, a senior member of the group, starts, “a cappella is usually filled with, no offense to anyone, but, kind of nerdy, kind of unattractive, like not very fun, not very interesting people.”

This may not be the most polite thing to say, but it holds truth, and a bit of inspiration. McNeill credits this stereotype with why he wanted to join Bruin Harmony.

“They had the direction of kind of fun, kind of attractive, have a good time type crew.”

They rap OutKast’s “Roses,” they serenade sorority girls with impromptu renditions of “Happy Birthday” and they bounce around like, well, like they just don’t care.

“We like being known as the fun group,” McNeill admits. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Nonetheless, this group of not-so-serious guys spends the time and effort to show UCLA and the greater Los Angeles area that while they may not take themselves too seriously, they think differently about the music. Between rehearsals two to three times a week, incorporating three to six new songs into their repertoire each quarter (all of which are hand selected and arranged by members of the group) and performing at various school and community events, there’s no denying that these guys are dedicated to establishing a great musical organization and legacy, much like Awaken has successfully created for itself.

One group is not better than the other – quite the opposite, really. They complement each other, and both serve as integral reasons for a cappella regaining attention and a following in Westwood. Both groups have their accomplishments, from Awaken opening for Ben Folds to Bruin Harmony performing at a private party for the cast of “The Office.” But to the members, the best memories don’t stem from these obvious benchmarks. It’s the time spent with each other, just making music, that the members will cherish long after their days at UCLA have ended.

Boeck articulates the sentiment better than anything I could come up with, so I won’t even try: “Our enjoyment of the music, and our experience as friends and music-makers always comes first.”

For Bruins, it’s about the experience, not simply the destination.

For more information, visit awakenacappellamusic.com and bruinharmony.com.