The singing swells in the arch, reaching a crescendo of harmonies, claps, and rhythmic beats, only beaten out by thundering applause from the audience. After the cheering clears away, a member shouts: “We’re Shere Khan, Princeton’s premier co-ed acapella group!”
Although this is the tagline of every one of their arch sings, Shere Khan encompasses a lot more. Formed in 1993 as a Disney a capella group, Shere Khan now covers a range of contemporary and pop music as one of the most established a capella groups on campus. Gabby Veciana ’24, who previously served as music director, described Shere Khan as having a more youthful feel compared to other a capella groups on campus.
“We’re way younger than everybody else [and] we have less establishment but I think that’s also kind of the spirit. It’s the spunky young, pop music, new music,” she said.
John Slaughter ’25, the group’s current president, emphasizes how “we really pride ourselves on being one of the most open minded and one of the most fun” a capella groups on campus. Reflecting on why he decided to audition for Shere Khan, he recalled an email that was sent to him with “some guy in a Shrek costume, and it said: ‘do you like Shrek?’ Shere Khan had something a little bit weird that I really liked.”
Similarly, George Tidmore ’26, the current vice-president, reflected on how after he went to Tiger’s Roar during orientation, he was “just struck by how fun it seemed … they attracted the biggest crowd of friends. I just felt such an energy in the arch that made me want to audition.”
Shere Khan’s reputation for being an a capella group that emphasizes its members’ social experiences is reflected in the set arches that they perform every semester. Notable events mentioned by Slaughter and Veciana include the Christmas Arch, where Shere Khan performs Christmas songs and gives out hot chocolate to the audience, and Reunions, where Shere Khan alumni meet current members over a barbeque.
Beyond arches, Allison Jiang ’26, the current music director, added that “some of my favorite memories from the group honestly are just moments in the Shere Khan room, which we call ‘The Womb,’ in Bloomberg. We [rehearse] for a while, and then it just kind of devolves into laughter, but it’s the kind of laughter you can’t recover from and then you’re just standing there, everybody’s in on the joke.”
Shere Khan’s close-knit nature is evident in their semesterly “newb” (new members) arch sing where the newbs don large hats and wigs, perform solos, and are cheered on by current members.
Though the newbs sing their audition songs during this arch, Shere Khan has a set collection of songs for other arches. The process of choosing new songs is through senior solos, which are performed during Shere Khan’s senior arch — typically the last arch of the school year.
“During the spring, all the seniors will choose the song they want to sing … that means that there’s always a fresh source of repertoire coming in every single year,” Jiang said. “I feel a trend that people can fall into a capella groups is [that] they were founded decades before. And the songs that they sing also feel like they were from decades before. But because of this system that we have, we’re always having new songs come in.”
Shere Khan’s flexibility in music selection is also due to the fact that it is not affiliated with Acaprez, a coalition of a capella groups on campus. Groups that are part of Acaprez are not allowed to sing the same song as another Acaprez group. “We don’t have those certain confinements … we’re singing what we want to sing,” Jiang said.
Despite this formal separation, Shere Khan is still very much connected to Princeton’s a capella scene. Recently, they collaborated with Old Nassoul in a joint arch sing. Slaughter similarly mentioned how “most of my friends are in other a capella groups. My roommate is in [the] Footnotes … so it’s very interconnected.”
As far as off-campus connections, Shere Khan boasts a close-knit alumni network. This year, Shere Khan celebrated its 30th anniversary with a show involving alumni. Jiang noted that they sang “Running to Stand Still” by U2 in “honor of an alum [who passed away quite young]. Everybody who was an alum in the audience was able to come on stage at the end of the performance and sing that song.”
Tidmore, however, offered a slightly different perspective on Shere Khan’s alumni community. “I think it’s tough to say because the height of COVID and its disruption of student groups was right before I joined Shere Khan. There were a lot of changes that happened to the group and how it’s run. So I think there’s kind of a natural break in the alumni post- and pre-COVID, because there was less happening during that time.”
However, Tidmore added that “I think that as we return to a more normal life, more people will be able to strengthen our alumni community.” Similarly, Veciana mentioned how, when she was a sophomore, her friend in Shere Khan was “really afraid that it was going to die out because of COVID.” She worked hard to recruit people to ensure its survival, demonstrating how past and present members have dedicated themselves to keeping Shere Khan strong and alive.
When discussing the audition process for recruiting new members, Veciana said that “we try to make the audition process fun; we try to make it reflective of who we are as a group. We ask people as soon as they come into the room if they would rather perc or twerk for us, although they are not required to do either … we want to just like people and build community.”
Slaughter shared this piece of advice: “Just audition. I think auditions can be super intimidating. I was rejected for Shere Khan the first semester and other a capella groups that I tried to audition for, but then the second semester, I just felt more confident. I think rejection is just a part of a lot of things at Princeton. And it just kind of sucks, but it shouldn’t let you be scared.”
Just knowing members of Shere Khan makes you feel like a part of its community. Going to arch sings transforms into not just appreciating good music, but laughing, having fun, and getting a taste of Shere Khan’s unique energy.
As George reflected, “I think the core of our group is enjoying each other while singing and making music, and the music is just a conduit for our joy.”
Laura Zhang is a contributing writer for The Prospect from Sydney, Australia. She can be reached at email@example.com.