By Julia Guest
How often does the last day of a science class culminate with an a capella performance?
Professor Ralph Quinn ended his fall quarter “Psychology and Religion” course with a performance by Acquire, UC Santa Cruz’s third and newest a capella group on campus.
Following shouts of thanks and praise and a full standing ovation from the 491-person class, Acquire students rushed to the front of the lecture hall and began to snap and sing.
Three of the singers were or had previously been students from Quinn’s “Psychology and Religion” course. He asked the group to sing for his “Humanistic Psychology” course last year and invited them again for the largely popular course “Psychology and Religion.”
Acquire was founded early last year and usually performs once a month at on and off-campus venues. The group hosted “Acquirefest” last spring, which stands as the largest a capella event ever seen on campus. Six a capella groups from colleges in Northern California attended, attracting a total of 450 audience members. The group chooses songs from all different musical genres, and for Quinn’s class decided on Bill Wither’s R&B/soul song “Lean on Me.”
Shan Gupta, a fourth-year community studies major and soloist for Acquire’s performance, said the song is reserved for occasions where people feel like a community. “There is a sense of togetherness in the song, a feeling that we’ve gone through something together and that we’re acknowledging it,” he said. Gupta said the course followed a similar theme.
“Music provides us an opportunity to celebrate life,” he said. “The class is all about celebrating life. It’s about an internal journey. Quinn is an embodiment of all this. When I come to class, I know that the students love being there and I work off that energy when I perform.”
Alyssa Winn, a soprano and Concert Committee member in Acquire, comments further on her experience performing for the class. “People in the class were more open and accepting,” Winn said. “They were pumped for spiritual things to happen and they were ready to be moved.”
The course covers topics of spiritual and religious experience, myth and the unconscious, transpersonal experience, and the role of authority, to name a few.
This year the psychology department asked Quinn to enlarge the class and had the lecture moved to Classroom Unit 2, one of the largest lecture halls on campus.
Each year, the number of students in the course increases, according to fifth-year teaching assistant Christin Izett. “This quarter there were 132 people on the waiting list and we added approximately 50 people,” she said. “When I ask my students each year why they decided to take the course, 90 percent say it’s because Ralph Quinn is an amazing professor.”
Izett added that most psychology courses are strictly academic. “Professor Quinn’s class is unique because it gives psychology back to human emotion and experience,” she said.
Rarely does one see such an enormous turnout for a well-liked professor, not to mention an a capella group who sings on his behalf.
“Even though there was an academic core of the lecture, he always brought the information back to your life and spiritual well-being,” second-year student Alex Smith said. “He was vibrant and energetic, and ultimately very inspirational to me.”
As Acquire sang, nearly 500 students stood and sang along.
“Quinn gave me insight into how to reach peak experiences in this thing called life,” Gupta said. “We can talk about it, but what about when we actually do it?” That’s why he invites Acquire.”