MU a cappella groups prepare for ICCA quarterfinals

Mizzou Forte and The Naturelles have conquered a spot in the quarterfinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

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The Varsity Vocals International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella is the only global competition for college a cappella groups. This year’s Midwest quarterfinals will take place on Feb. 9 at Missouri State University. Both The Naturelles and Mizzou Forte, MU’s a cappella teams, have qualified.

“The way you get to the quarterfinals is by sending in an audition tape of the group performing three songs,” Alexandra Kickert said, a senior in Mizzou Forte. “Then we hear back about a month later.”

ICCA divides the country in regions, each region with three to five quarterfinals. Mizzou Forte and The Naturelles are competing separately against each other and eight other a cappella teams in the Midwest quarterfinal at Missouri State University. The first and second places will move on to the Midwest semifinal at Washington University in St. Louis in March.

“Mizzou Forte has made the quarterfinal almost every time,” Kickert said. “It is easy to make it to the quarterfinal, but really hard to pass that point.”

The Midwest semifinal winner then moves on to the final phase in New York City, where they face semifinalists from other regions and champions from other countries’ a cappella competitions.

The Naturelles and Mizzou Forte compete and work separately, but right now both groups are rehearsing with the same goal: the ICCA.

“Our main focus right now is ICCA and doing the best we can at that competition,” Taylor Gion said, a senior who also sings in Mizzou Forte. “Multiple members of our group have also been working over winter break to put together new arrangements of music for us to perform at the competition.”

Participants also have the chance to win special awards such as Outstanding Soloist, Outstanding Arrangement, Outstanding Vocal Percussion and Outstanding Choreography. Although the judges can choose to not give out these awards. However, the groups are mainly focused on the ICCA Champion title.

“Our constant goals are to create captivating music, and to be inspired by and for each other,” Anna Yannessa said, a junior and component of The Naturelles. “We want the best for each other and I think one of our biggest goals is just being a unified group of women in music. And we’ll always continue to grow that bond.”

The judges look at creativity, professionalism and energy in each group. Participants receive scores from a judging panel in three different categories: vocal performance, visual performance and subjective rank. In total, teams can score a total of 155 points.

“One of the main components for us has been putting in a lot of extra time on our own for learning our music, and just trying to focus on putting the parts together when we get to rehearsal,” Yannessa said. “In these upcoming couple weeks we have a lot of work to do. We’ll mainly be focusing on choreography and expression to make our set come to life.”

Mizzou Forte and The Naturelles have qualified to the ICCA quarterfinals before, but both of the groups have new members who have never participated in the international championship before, such as Mizzou Forte’s Gion. For that, they can turn to teammates to share their previous tournaments knowledge.

Watching other groups perform with completely different styles can be amazing according to the Naturelle’s Yanessa, adding to a weekend of new experiences for almost half of her group.

“It’s always a once in a lifetime experience performing your set on stage in front of hundreds of people,” Yanessa said. “The adrenaline starts going, and honestly the whole thing becomes a beautiful blur, but you know you’ve done your best when you step off stage, and that’s the best feeling.”

As MU a cappella teams prepare for “the real-life ‘Pitch Perfect,’” as the ICCA website describes the tournament, students can also plan to go watch the competition and the school’s participants.

“We are always super proud to be quarterfinalists and we are so excited to perform and hear some amazing groups at ICCA this year,” Kickert said. “There is always so much talent!”

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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