Virginia Gentlemen

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The Virginia Gentlemen
Virginia Gentlemen, January 2015.jpg
Group photo, taken January 2015.
Background information
Also known as The VGs
Origin University of Virginia
Genres A Cappella
Years active 1953–present
Labels Collegiate
Website Official Site
Members Class of 2017
Chris Cortner
Taylor Head
Nate Oberholtzer
Ian Yanusko

Class of 2018
Joey Michel
Alex Rigby
Sam Roller

Class of 2019
Zach Balcomb
Jack Gereski
Alex Gromadzki
Mark Mora
Griffin Smith
Ethan Zell

Class of 2020
Tristan Johnson-Hodges
Benjamin Oberholtzer
The Virginia Gentlemen logo.

The Virginia Gentlemen (VGs) is a men's collegiate a cappella group and the oldest a cappella group at the University of Virginia.[1] The group was founded in 1953 as an elite octet of the Virginia Glee Club.[2] Since establishing independence from the Virginia Glee Club in 1987, the group has continued to perform a mix of contemporary pop and classic vocal music.[1]

Recognizable by the signature navy blue blazers and orange-and-blue bow ties worn during performances, the VGs offer regular performances across the Charlottesville area and the United States, and conduct annual international tours, having most recently travelled to Southeast Asia, South America, and North Africa. Additionally, the group has performed in recent years at the Sydney Opera House, the Forbidden City, the Grand Palace of Thailand, and at the White House for the Bush and Obama administrations.


Glee Club era and independence[edit]

The original 1953 octet of the Virginia Gentlemen.

The Virginia Gentlemen were founded in 1953 and as such are the oldest a cappella group at the University of Virginia. The group was conceived as an elite octet of the Virginia Glee Club and would perform regularly at their concerts, eventually building enough of a reputation to attract its own audiences and perform its own shows. The group existed for over three decades as a subsidiary of the Glee Club until establishing itself as an contracted independent organization in 1987, under the leadership of then-music director Michael Butterman.

Modern group[edit]

Since the VGs' independence from the Virginia Glee Club, much changed with the group, the least of which being the group's membership size. From the Glee Club era size of 8 to 12 members, the group now stands regularly between 15 and 19 members per year. The group's musical tastes changed as well, diverging from the classical and barbershop chorus pieces of the Glee Club era to arrangements of modern pop singles and rock ballads that it performs and records today.

The VGs maintain a close relationship with the University of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville, performing regularly on campus in concerts and for special occasions and memorials, including the vigil for Yeardley Love after her death.[3]

The VGs performing at their 60th Anniversary Concert in April 2013.

The group recorded its first album in 1988 with Live From the Studio and has since released 21 studio albums. The VGs most recent album release was in 2014 with Full Attire. Several Virginia Gentlemen arrangements have been featured on Best of College A Cappella compilations, including their renowned a cappella arrangement of the song "Insomniac" by Billy Pilgrim.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]




The Virginia Gentlemen annually perform four concerts throughout the year, typically in Old Cabell Hall. The first of these concerts is the Family Weekend Concert held as part of the events organized for the University's Family Weekend in the middle of the Fall semester. The second is the Holiday Concert held in conjunction with the Virginia Sil'hooettes in December. The third of these is the Winter Classic held in February, which at times has also been held in conjunction with the Hullabahoos and the Academical Village People. The fourth concert of the year is the Spring Concert, held in April. The proceeds from one or more of these concerts is annually donated to charity.

The VGs also perform annually at the Annual Christmas Concert of the Virginia Glee Club in honor of the two groups' long-standing relationship. Traditionally, when the Glee Club performs "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the eighth day is sung by the VGs, an homage to the original octet which formed out of the Glee Club.

At the White House[edit]

The group has received requests to perform in several prestigious venues, including the White House, at which the group performed in 1991 for George H. W. Bush, in 2008 for George W. Bush,[11] and in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for Barack Obama,[12] including for the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.

Annual international tours[edit]

The group has travelled extensively since its independence, beginning with regular tours around the country and to the Caribbean in the early years of independence. For the last decade and a half, the group has travelled on an annual international tour, most recently visiting Argentina and Antarctica in January 2016. The Virginia Gentlemen have now traveled to all 7 continents, a feat that has been accomplished by very few performing groups.


Image and attire[edit]

The Virginia Gentlemen's standard performance attire consists of khakis, blue blazers, and blue and orange bow ties (the UVA colors), for which members of the group are widely recognized around campus.[13] Indeed, several of the a cappella groups founded at the University of Virginia after the Virginia Gentlemen established their identities in response to the formal look taken by the Virginia Gentlemen at concerts.[14] However, the group does not perform exclusively in "VG attire" but has performed more informally as suited by the occasion.

Signature songs[edit]

Over six decades, the Virginia Gentlemen have arranged and performed hundreds of songs, several of which have become group classics. These songs, performed many times annually and recognized by students at the University of Virginia as VG signatures, include "Insomniac," by Billy Pilgrim, the group's most celebrated and acclaimed arrangement;[15] "On the Turning Away," by Pink Floyd, performed during some of the University's most difficult times;[3][16] and "Shenandoah," a Glee Club standard carried over from the groups' long history together.

"Lonesome Road"[edit]

The first and last song that each Virginia Gentleman sings during his time in the group is "Lonesome Road", by James Taylor. At the close of each concert, the Virginia Gentlemen invite all past VGs onstage to join in its singing, and it serves as the final song on Gold, the group's 50th Anniversary Album, released in 2003. Though the song is younger than the group, past members of the Virginia Gentlemen have since learned the arrangement and all members past and present perform the song together whenever the occasion arises.[17]


Studio Albums
  • Upside Down (2016)
  • Full Attire (2014)
  • Guys In Ties (2012)
  • Rugby Road (2010)
  • Holiday Album (2008)
  • Poker Face (2006)
  • Based On A True Story (2004)
  • Gold: 50th Anniversary Compilation Album (2003)
  • Turning (2002)
  • Bizarro World (2000)
  • Last Call (1999)
  • Retrospective (1998)
  • Out On The Street (1997)
  • Void Where Prohibited (1996)
  • Seven and Seven (1995)
  • Undone (1994)
  • XL (1993)
  • High Tied (1992)
  • Prairie Fire (1991)
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll (1990)
  • Live From The Studio (1988)


Virginia Gentlemen awards and nominations
Awards and nominations
Award Wins Nominations
1 6
5 -
Voices Only
1 -
Awards won 7
Nominations 6

Musical awards[edit]

Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (CARAs)

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2015 Full Attire Best Male Collegiate Album Nominated
"Demons" by Imagine Dragons Best Male Collegiate Song Nominated
2013 "Colder Weather" by Zac Brown Band Best Male Collegiate Solo—Andrew Fish Nominated
1996 Seven and Seven Best Male Collegiate Album Nominated
"Insomniac" by Billy Pilgrim Best Male Collegiate Song Nominated
1992 Prairie Fire Best Male Collegiate Album (Runner-Up) Won

Selection for "best of" compilation albums[edit]

Best of College A Cappella (BOCA)

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2015 "Problem" by Ariana Grande BOCA 2015: Best of College A Cappella Won
2014 "Insomniac" by Billy Pilgrim Best of BOCA: The First 20 Years Won
2013 "Without You" by David Guetta ft. Usher BOCA 2013: Best of College A Cappella Won
1996 "Insomniac" by Billy Pilgrim BOCA Vol. 2: Best of College A Cappella Won
1995 "Ship of Fools" by Robert Plant BOCA Vol. 1: Best of College A Cappella Won

Voices Only

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2013 "Holocene" by Bon Iver Voices Only 2013 Won

Notable alumni[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Virginia Gentlemen Official Site". The Virginia Gentlemen. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Friedman, Leah (1996-05-03), "Doo Wop Ditty", The Virginian-Pilot, pp. E1, retrieved 2007-08-22 
  3. ^ a b Staples, Andy (2010-05-06). "As Virginia deals with tragedy, one has to wonder if red flags missed". Sports Illustrated. 
  4. ^ Sears, Jonathan, RARB Review of Madhatters and Tangled Up in Blue State Street, retrieved 2008-01-03 
  5. ^ Christie, Rebecca, RARB Review of Straight, No Chaser's "Last Call", retrieved 2008-01-03 
  6. ^ Harris, Trey, RARB Review of Buffoons (University of Colorado)'s "So They Say", retrieved 2008-01-03 
  7. ^ Soo, Jevan, RARB Review of The Amateurs' "Pieces of Flair", retrieved 2008-01-03 
  8. ^ King, Thomas, RARB Review of Nine's "Miles to Go", retrieved 2008-01-03 
  9. ^ Christie, Rebecca, RARB Review of the Xtension Chords' Creative Outlet, retrieved 2008-01-03 
  10. ^ Kolko, Valerie, RARB Review of Out of the Dawg House's "On Track", retrieved 2008-01-03 
  11. ^ "Thomas Jefferson's 265th Birthday". C-SPAN. 2008-04-14. 
  12. ^ Arrington, Rebecca (2013-01-02). "Virginia Gentlemen perform at White House". UVA Today. 
  13. ^ Simon, Scott. "Perfect Pitch: the Drama of Collegiate A Cappella". NPR Weekend Edition. 
  14. ^ Rapkin, Mickey (2008), Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory, Penguin Group, pp. 89–90, ISBN 978-1-59240-376-9 
  15. ^ Sears, Jonathan, RARB Review of the Xtension Chords' XAppeal, retrieved 2008-01-03 
  16. ^ Quinn, Kaelyn (2014-09-19), Community holds vigil for Graham 
  17. ^ Lonesome Road – The Virginia Gentlemen, 2014 
  18. ^ a b "Parachutes Will Anderson college a cappella videos discovered". 2010-01-11. 
  19. ^ "William R. Bruce". Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Michael Butterman Home Page". Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Justin Rosolino". Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Moraski, Lauren (15 February 2013). "Norman Vladimir: A pop-soul artist with "depressingly hopeful" lyrics". Retrieved 23 April 2013.