IST student finds creative outlet as a cappella group president

Delaney Peterman
October 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Music has been a part of Henry Pearce’s life for as long as he can remember. He played percussion in his high school concert and marching bands, but was looking for more of a challenge as he neared graduation.

During his junior year, his high school’s student-run a cappella group was in search of a beat boxer. With some experience with that musical style, Pearce joined the organization and quickly found a new passion. As graduation approached, Pearce realized he was not ready to leave his new passion behind when he left for college.

“When I graduated, I knew that when I came to Penn State, I had to absolutely do something with a cappella,” said Pearce, who is now a senior studying information sciences and technology.

At Penn State, there are seven different a capella groups that hold open auditions annually. Pearce tried out and received a call back from The Coda Conduct. He was drawn to their friendly and welcoming attitude, and when they offered him a spot in their group he immediately accepted.

It is a privilege to be asked to be a part of The Coda Conduct, Pearce explained. Over 80 people try out each year for the 11-person group. They compete in the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, and two years ago made it to semi-finals. They were also one of 10 groups selected nationwide to perform in the a cappella competition, Boston Sings, in 2018.

“I still consider it a social group and a performing arts group, but we really focus on the competitive aspect of it,” Pearce said.

After serving on the executive board as media manager and business manager, Pearce now serves as the group’s president. He helps oversee all positions and makes sure everything is running smoothly.

It was a fellow member of The Coda Conduct who introduced Pearce to the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST). He told Pearce about the classes he was taking and the career path he was on. The conversation helped Pearce realize that he wanted a major that offered the freedom and creativity he found through a capella. After taking an introductory IST class, he decided to make the switch.

“I feel like I connect with the people in IST, which is an important factor,” Pearce said. “The subject matter and structure of the classes are something I also really like. I am getting valuable professional experience out of my academic courses.”

Pearce is also involved in IST Diplomats, the college’s student ambassador organization that represents IST to prospective students, parents and guests through a variety of events and initiatives.

While the skill sets to be an IST student and engaged in a cappella don’t seem to have much in common, Pearce said that they have both helped him to develop the critical skills he needs to be successful.

“Both IST and The Coda Conduct have given me insight into how to be a leader,” he said. “IST Diplomats has helped me learn baseline leadership skills and then I had a place where I wanted to apply them. It turned into this feedback loop where I could continue learning new things and applying them simultaneously.”

He added, “I don’t think I would be comfortable being the president of The Coda Conduct if it wasn't for the things I learned from IST.”

Pearce strongly believes that students should always pursue their interests, even if they are completely different than their career path. What he loves so much about being involved in The Coda Conduct is that it gives him a creative outlet that is a counterbalance to the analytical work he does in IST. He blends these experiences together to develop unique technical skills and leadership qualities that help him excel in his executive roles.

“No matter what activity you do here, it doesn’t need to be something related to your major or intended career to be something useful,” Pearce concluded. “You can learn leadership and management skills in any organization. You just need to put in the effort and chase after those positions and opportunities.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020