Aca-scuse me? Aca-believe it! While you’re obsessed with a cappella, you may not realize the hours upon hours of sweat and tears that go into hitting the perfect pitch. Humans literally learn how to make instrumental sounds with their voices so convincingly, you sometimes don’t even realize it. While the work gets hard and the tireless hours of rehearsal seem never-ending, these performers love what they do and wouldn’t trade the opportunity for the world.
Check out at these 10 collegiate groups who slay the a cappella game.
10. Note-oriety @ James Madison University
James Madison University’s premier all-female a cappella group lives by three pillars: sisterhood, dedication and empowerment. They demonstrate this mission statement by singing songs about building women up. Just listen to their covers of Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” or Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts.” Note-oriety strives to look for female basses that hit lower notes to make the competition fair when versing all-male and co-ed groups. In December 2018, these ladies performed at the White House for the holiday season. “We had to learn 12 Christmas songs, which we don’t normally do. We were competing in ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) that year so it was prime crunch mode,” Business Manager Dani Rye said. Guests came and toured the White House while enjoying the sounds of Note-oriety for entertainment. If you’re a JMU student, this girl gang always stays on the look-out for new members.
9. Melodores @ Vanderbilt University
What did Vanderbilt University need in 2009? You guessed it— an all-male a cappella group excelling in musicality. In 2014, the Meladores won season 5 of NBC’s The Sing Off. Since that big win, the group spends less time competing and more time traveling; last year they went all around the world from Dubai to Seoul to San Francisco. The most rewarding experience? A four- to five-day workshop in Dubai where the Meladores performed for a group of kids. “We could tell we really made an impact on them musically,” President Quinn McCarthy said. “No matter where you are, passion for music binds people around the world.” Fresh off of their Chicago fall tour, the group intends on ramping up their online content and updating their discography this year.
8. AcaBelles @ Florida State University
All hail the AcaBelles! All-female groups bring some girl power to the stage through their music. In past years, these ladies received recognition from Good Morning America, CNN, Buzzfeed and more, and received a Contemporary A Cappella Award in 2016 for Best Female Collegiate Arrangement. For these Florida State University ladies, performing makes them feel empowered and united. “A cappella music is our outlet as college women with various majors, backgrounds, personalities and schedules to come together and create something out of nothing,” Business Director Tess Vreeland said. “It’s the escape from our busy lives where we can express our individuality while learning more about each other to create a cohesive, unified performance group and support system of inspiring women.” The Acabelles just released their fifth studio album Wavelength. Check out their music video for Taylor Swift’s I Did Something Bad on their website and their YouTube channel.
7. BisCaydence @ University of Miami
After taking home 2nd place at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) at the PlayStation Theatre in NYC this spring, BisCaydence came back to the University of Miami with new goals in mind. Founded in 2011, the group aims to spend the year recording new music and creating a music video. “BisCaydence sets itself apart from other groups because we are so supportive of each other. We have such a different connection which reflects in our performance,” Artistic Director Lexi Pinnata said. “We’re the same people on and off the stage.” BisCaydence spent last semester bonding with each other through their trips to Orlando, North Carolina and New York City. Check out their first EP, Blue Horizon, on Spotify.
Are you in a cappella group? Looking for your next big stage? Enter to sing at The 2020 NAMM Show!
6. The N’Harmonics @ New York University
Founded in 1996, the NYU N’Harmonics produced musicians that eventually went on to Broadway, Broadway tours and TV shows. Alumnus Alex Brightman went on to play the title role in Beetlejuice and originated the role of Dewey in School of Rock on Broadway. Meanwhile, alumna Ali Stroke placed second on the Glee Project and landed a guest appearance as Betty on an episode of Glee. The N’Harmonics are most recently known for the biggest a cappella win of the year—2019 ICCA champions! The group was crowned in New York City— or to them, home base. You can hear more from these winners by checking out their new EP “The After World” on Spotify or by visiting YouTube for their award-winning competition set.
5. The Nor’easters @ Northeastern University
Bouncing off a huge turnover, stay tuned for this new generation of the Nor’easters. Only a few of the members major in music at Northeastern University, which provides a healthy mix of students and specialties. All of these students bond over their passion for music and get to use rehearsal time as a chance to unwind from the daily stresses. National A Cappella Convention (NACC) 2019 College Champions and 2017 ICCA winner, diversity doesn’t stop the group from winning big. “We all have different backgrounds and come from all over the world, but music brings us together in a way that nothing else could,” Music Director Miguel Aninon said. With 38k YouTube subscribers, the Nor’easters plan to release new music very soon. The Nor’easters released the single “Plum” on Spotify in 2019, and their discography includes three full-length albums, as well as two EPs.
4. Pitch Slapped @ Berklee
Most groups thrive off singing Top 40 hits, but not Pitch Slapped. Founded in 2006, Berklee College of Music’s premier co-ed a cappella group focuses on performing R&B and pop. “We optimize on the fact that we can do anything with our voices,” President Shakale Davis said. Known from features on America’s Got Talent and NBC’s The Sing-Off, Pitch Slapped plans to spend the year releasing new music and maximizing on their last two albums. Last year, the group traveled to San Francisco where they performed at a high school. “We were completely blown away by their support. We all looked at each other and appreciated the moment,” Davis said. Check out their newly-released album Sincerely on Spotify and iTunes.
3. Beelzebubs @ Tufts University
The Warblers from Fox’s Glee brought us two wonderful things: Klaine and beautiful music. Ever wonder who those voices are? The sounds of Tufts University’s Beelzebubs might seem familiar. With nine albums already released, stay tuned for number ten in June 2020. This album plans to contribute to the group’s motto of “fun through song.” The Beelzebubs form a special connection through their rehearsals seven times a week and the gigs they perform every weekend. “I just believe that when you take a group of males who love to sing and bring them together for an extended period of time, the result is a beautiful creation of tight-knit brotherhood and overall just amazing music,” Business Manager Matthew Chiu said. “It’s an amazingly intimate space.” 2019-2020 looks like a big year for this all-male group as they took more numbers than usual. Going from the typical 12-14 members to this year’s 15, the men believe this to be one of the best years in the Bubs’ history both in size and potential.
2. SoCal VoCals @ University of Southern California
Let’s take to the West Coast for this one — the only place we find a 5-time ICCA winning group. The University of Southern California’s SoCal VoCals became ICCA champions in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018. After about ten years of existence, the team at the time decided they wanted to take a cappella seriously and become more competitive, which they did. “Ever since then, the tone of the group in terms of achievements has been very goal-oriented. They set the bar really high,” Junior Connor Pearl said. Famous alumni include a cappella legends Ben Bram and Scott Hoying. Connectivity remains important to the SoCal VoCals, as they stay in touch with alumni through email chains and ICCA after parties. Two SoCal VoCals alum now belong to Citizen Queen, an opening act on the Pentatonix tour.
1. Hullabahoos @ University of Virginia
When someone mentions a cappella, we know the first thing to come to mind: Pitch Perfect. In 2012, the Hullabahoos made their first on-screen appearance with their version of “The Final Countdown” in the blockbuster hit. The familiarity doesn’t stop there— the Hullabahoos also appeared on The Office as Andy Bernard’s a cappella group “Here Comes Treble.” But their on-screen fame doesn’t overpower their sense of tradition. This University of Virginia all-male group prioritizes past conventions like wearing robes during their performances. “Since a college a cappella group changes every year as people graduate, and we take new guys, it is important to hold on to traditions and remember the vision of our group,” Music Director Jalon Daniels said. Through a cappella, the Hullabahoos pride themselves on the connection and unity formed among their teammates.
Ready to perform in front of music industry pros? This year college and university a cappella groups are invited to submit a performance video to be considered for one of three slots on a NAMM Show stage on Saturday, January 18, 2020. Submit your video by December 15, 2019!
This post is sponsored by The NAMM Foundation.