The Mantiphondrakes: Colgate’s Gender and Identity-Inclusive A Cappella Group

Out of Colgate’s five student a cappella groups, and the Mantiphondrakes is the newest on the scene. Founded in 2011, the Mantiphondrakes is one of three co-ed groups on campus, aiming to be both gender and identity-inclusive. The Mantiphondrakes currently includes 16 members — four members for each vocal range.

Sophomore Emily D’Alessandro, who serves as the club’s publicity chair, emphasized the importance of inclusivity to the group, particularly when it comes to advertising to prospective members.

“I wanted to make sure that it was known that this group is absolutely a safe space for people with all kinds of backgrounds and identities,” said D’Alessandro. “[The Mantiphondrakes is] a really cool group of people to be around. We like to put out in all of our [advertising] materials that we are an identity-inclusive group. That means opening the door to a safe space for a lot of really cool people.”

Sophomore Lili Izzo, president of the Mantiphondrakes, agrees that the group’s primary goal is to make its members feel comfortable and accepted.

“I am constantly striving to create an inclusive and safe space for everyone involved,” Izzo said. “That is my first priority at all times with my group, and I think that it’s going well so far this year. The [first-years] that we have seemed to really enjoy it, and I just want to keep making it a fun and welcoming space where we can all come together and make music and have fun. I usually try to encourage everybody to come to Frank [Dining Hall] after we finish singing, and we’ve been having dinners together after rehearsals, which has been really nice to get to know the new members.”

Along with striving for inclusivity, the Mantiphondrakes also has a rich history associated with their name. The name “Mantiphondrakes” is derived from the mythical mandrake plant. The plant’s human-like roots scream when removed from the ground and is most well known for its feature in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

“There’s a plant theme that we have—a tradition,” Izzo said. “New members are called seedlings. [At] the first concert, we have all the seedlings do a solo and after they’re done with their solo, they’re saplings. It’s a little bit nerdy. It’s very fun.”

The tradition of giving new members the opportunity to sing a solo part at their first performance of the year is unique. Senior and music director Saniya Dalvi remarked that this practice exists to encourage new members to develop their confidence.

“I think that when you’re a new member, sometimes people come in with the idea that there’s a hierarchy established because of class years,” Dalvi said. “We dissipate that by coming straight in and saying, ‘No, you get the solo.’ We’re looking to help people develop as individual musicians, and so things like stage fright or being nervous about trying out for solos go away in the first semester.”

Dalvi also explained that the Mantiphondrakes’ traditions expand further into the plant theme to solidify the group as a family of sorts. 

“There’s a book with everyone’s signatures and the first person who started [the Mantiphondrakes] is the common ancestor,” Dalvi said, “and they have their ‘kids,’ and those two members have their own kids, which are another two members. It’s like a tree. Everyone has signed that book since [the Mantiphondrakes was] created, and that book has continued on to this day.”

The Mantiphondrakes will be performing at the Family Weekend a cappella concert on Friday, Oct. 21 along with Colgate’s other a cappella groups.