Welcome to Varsity Vocals’ 24th season! Our enthusiasm for the art of a cappella is greater than ever after almost a quarter century of presenting the best student groups on stage and in the studio.

Our tournaments have grown from a handful of events to the massive showcase they are today, featuring more than 660 groups and more than 10,000 singers at 90 events across North America and the United Kingdom.

Our original tournament inspired the hit movie "Pitch Perfect," based on the nonfiction book documenting the true story of rival groups competing against each other in our very own ICCA. The "Pitch Perfectfranchise remains the highest-grossing musical series of all time.

The stories of our real ICCA competitors were also the subject of the TV docu-series "Sing It On," which followed competing groups on their journey to ICCA Finals. "Sing It On" aired in 80 million homes on POP TV and enjoyed a long stay on Netflix.

Despite the incredible growth and mainstream popularity we’ve enjoyed, our focus remains sharply on the promotion and development of the talent that crosses our stage. We believe competition fosters growth, as groups work together toward a specific goal and cultivate lifelong friendships. 

We provide top-notch feedback from our highly qualified judges – but more importantly, our singers get to connect with a larger audience from across the country, learning from their peers and finding inspiration in other groups.

With those same goals in mind, we were thrilled to launch the International Championship of A Cappella Open three years ago. “The Open” (#AcaOpen) is an all-access a cappella tournament that brings together singers of all ages, regardless of student status, to compete on an international stage for a chance at $25,000. Its fourth season will kick off this summer.

We hope that over the years, The Open will encourage the growth of professional a cappella, much in the way the ICCA helped catapult competitive a cappella into the mainstream in "Pitch Perfect" and "Sing It On," or how the development of the ICHSA contributed to the rapid growth of high school a cappella programs across the country. 

This is the biggest program extension in our long history, and we think it’s a natural one. After all, our founding goal was “to inspire young people to sing their entire lives.” If we want people to keep singing past the age of 22, well, they’re going to need a stage, right? 

We have seen a cappella make great strides from where it began on our stage 24 years ago, and we can’t wait to see where our 2020 season will take us. Committed to promoting our singers and energized by the great music they create, we look forward to another memorable season. Thank you for joining us!


Amanda Newman
Executive Director



Illinois State University
Saturday, February 15th, 2020



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Since 1996, we have encouraged students worldwide to sing a cappella throughout their lives. Our programs include the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA), and the International Championship of A Cappella Open (The Open). We also annually produce The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) and The Best of High School A Cappella (BOHSA) compilation albums.

Our a cappella competitions give top-notch a cappella groups the opportunity to showcase their talents for an international audience and to take home valuable feedback from our qualified judges. This year, competing groups will appear in venues all around the world, offering their energetic musical performances for your enjoyment.

The college tournament takes place from January through April in nine regions across the country and around the world. Each region holds anywhere from four to five Quarterfinals, and the top groups from each Quarterfinal advance to the Semifinal. The winning group at each Semifinal is named Regional Champion and advances to the ICCA Finals at The Town Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 18th.

The high school tournament is now in its 15th year and continues to grow every year. We are now holding Quarterfinal rounds in all of our regions, and the 2020 season will feature the largest high school tournament field in our history. The winners of each of seven Semifinal rounds will advance to the ICHSA Finals at The Town Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 17th.

The Open Tournament celebrated its third year in summer 2019 and featured six Semifinals that lead to the Open Finals featuring those six Regional Champions, two Wild Card Champions, and our 2019 ICHSA and ICCA Champions. Those 10 groups competed in October 2019 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

 For a full tournament schedule, visit us at



The performance order was determined by random draw this afternoon and will be announced from stage.        

Tonight’s performers will be evaluated on elements of their vocal and visual performance, which carry numerical weight. The highest and lowest score from the individual judges will be dropped for each group. Our judges may recognize exceptional performances with special awards as they see fit.

There will be a 15-minute intermission. After the final group has performed, a guest performer will entertain you while the scores are tabulated.

Because each group only has 12 minutes to perform, we ask you to keep your applause to an enthusiastic minimum between songs. Please feel welcome to applaud as much as you want after each group has finished its set.

Videotaping and non-flash photography for personal use is permitted during the concert, so long as you do not disrupt our performers or other patrons. Due to licensing regulations, we do not provide a video or audio recording of this performance.



Clef Hangers is the first mixed-vocal group at Illinois State University, founded in August 2008 by a small group of ambitious students who shared a passion for a cappella music. Since its formation, the group has lost and gained various members, each of whom has helped make the group what it is today. 

Fundamentally Sound is the only all-male competitive a cappella group from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year, they will be celebrating their 15th year as a group since their founding in 2005! Fundamentally Sound seeks to imbue a cappella with their eclectic mix of lively personalities, genre-bending arrangements, and engaging performances. They hope you enjoy the hard work and emotion they have put into the music you are about to hear. Please welcome the suspender-clad men of Fundamentally Sound! 

No Strings Attached is one of eight a cappella groups at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the only one to specialize in jazz. Currently an 18-member group of undergraduate students, No Strings was founded in 1994 by students from a campus theatre group. Throughout the year, they perform for a wide variety of events, including private parties, a winter high school tour, and of course, ICCA. Although they love jazz, they’re no strangers to pop music, indie rock, country hits, and everything in between. The group members hail from all across the country, from California to North Carolina, and study everything from computer science to music education. The only thing they love more than singing is spending time together. They hope you enjoy what you hear! 

On the Brink of Normal is a mixed a cappella group from Illinois State University. They started as a jazz combo in 2011, and have since done away with the upright bass and picked up a variety of genres that they have since coined "jukebox a cappella.” On the Brink of Normal loves to come together each week to make awesome music with awesome people. 

Secondary Dominance is ISU’s first and only treble-voices a cappella group. Established in 2004, they have been delighting audiences with their instrument-free performances on campus and around the Bloomington-Normal area ever since. These women strive to share their love of music and reach for the highest levels of musicality, all while pushing the boundaries of all-treble a cappella. 

Silence Interrupted is Illinois Wesleyan University's premier co-ed a cappella group. Founded in 2012, the group aims to achieve high musical standards and to create a supportive environment for students to learn, practice, and experiment with their voices. Silence Interrupted regularly competes at ICCA, frequently performs as a representative of Illinois Wesleyan University, and even opened a show for the professional a cappella group, Musae, in the fall of 2018. The group is entirely student-run and includes a diverse group of people from a variety of majors and backgrounds. They have a continually growing repertoire from a number of different genres, including pop, indie, classics, jazz, and showtunes, and the vast majority of their music is arranged by their talented student composers. In addition to their goals of making beautiful music and improving as musicians, this ensemble strives to have fun, make friends, and build a family to support them throughout their college careers and beyond. Silence Interrupted means lifelong friendship, community, and support. The group name comes from the Leopold Stokowski quote, “A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” They provide the music, and you provide the silence. 

Founded in 1992, The Illinois Rip Chords is a 14-member all-female a cappella group at the University of Illinois. With their edgy sound, kickin' choreo, and unyielding love of music, these multi-talented girls are sure to entertain! 

Hailing from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, The Xtension Chords is composed of 15 strapping young gentlemen. For the past  27 years, the group has provided audiences with tight harmonies, smooth choreography, and, last, but not least, good looks. The Xtension Chords compete annually in the ICCA and have advanced for several years in a row. They also perform for events around campus, including bid day, philanthropy events, and moms’ weekend, as well as throughout the Midwest. In addition to their busy schedule of live performances, The Xtension Chords have released seven studio albums, dating back to the early 1990s. Their most recent EP, X-Static, was released in summer 2018 and is available for purchase on iTunes. The album features hits such as "Burning Up," "Colder Weather," "Castle on the Hill," and more, so be sure to check them out on iTunes and Spotify! 

Touch of Class is Illinois Wesleyan University's premier all-female a capella group. Since 2004, Touch of Class has performed at a variety of campus events, concerts, and local gigs within McClean County. This ensemble is an auditioned group of 16 members of various ages and majors. The members of Touch of Class take pride in representing female empowerment at IWU and in theor community. This group features a whole lot of talent, some good ole harmony, and just a touch class.

Voices (formally known as Voices in Your Head), from the University of Chicago, consists of undergraduate students whose areas of study span as far as their musical tastes. Voices competes regularly in the ICCA, having won 2nd and 3rd place at Finals in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The group strives to push the bounds of contemporary a cappella through their reinterpretation of popular music and new, innovative ways of working with the human voice. Voices's last album, titled Begin Again, has been critically acclaimed by the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) and Voices Only, gaining national recognition. Voices can't wait to share their music with you tonight and hope you enjoy their performance.


The Acafellaz, a bass a cappella group hailing from Illinois State University, was founded in 1999. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary by establishing a scholarship at ISU, granted to a music student who works to bring music to the Bloomington-Normal community. The 'Fellaz travel around the state of Illinois and throughout the Midwest, performing and interacting with audiences of all ages. They have recorded and released one studio album and are currently recording a second, due for release in spring 2020.



Leah Alrutz is a music educator from the suburbs of St. Louis, Mo. She fell in love with a cappella in high school where she started and student-directed Parkway South's Bella Voce. She later went on to become a member of A Cub Bella at Missouri State University, serving as the group’s music director while earning her bachelor’s degree in vocal music education. Leah also holds a master’s degree in educational technology from Lindenwood University and is currently the director for Viva Voce (@VivavoceLHS), Ladue Horton Watkins High School’s award-winning a cappella group. In her spare time, she loves participating in Varsity Vocals events, skiing, and spending time with her three year old daughter, Ellie. 

Tony Benda has been a performer and musician for about 20 years. In high school, Tony was a part of the All-State Honors Chorus in 2010 and 2011, and has also performed with the ACDA Men's Chorus. In college, he studied film composition and music education, and sang and directed The Northern Illinois University Huskie Hunks. In the last five years, Tony has had an extensive a cappella career, co-founding the ICHSA competitive group, Off the Record (Lockport Township High School), and consulting for multiple groups in the Chicagoland area. In addition, Tony arranges extensively and has produced EPs for multiple groups. 

Kaleem McGill's musical background has gone through many turns, all of which have shaped him into a dedicated member of a cappella world. He has participated in local and regional choirs throughout the Midwest, touring and singing in places such as Lincoln Square, numerous venues in Mainland China, and The Vatican. Although he did not participate in college a cappella, he found his way back to music with the group Impromptu. His group has placed in two Varsity Vocals competitions and was the 2018 VoiceJam National Champion. They have also performed with groups like DCappella, The Real Group, and many other amazing performers. Kaleem is very excited to participate in this very special genre of music and for tonight's groups to share their gifts. 

Edric Mitchell, a 2014 and 2016 graduate from Ball State University, studied musical theatre and executive development for public services. During his time at Ball State, he got his start in a cappella with the all-male group, Charlie's Angels. He quickly became a founding member of the all-male a cappella group, Note to Self, with whom he spent four years as a member, coordinator, and music director. In addition, Edric was a founding member and music director of Sedoctave, and founder of the Association of Collegiate A Cappella (ACA) at Ball State. ACA is an umbrella organization that unites all collegiate a cappella groups on the BSU Campus, and hopes to eventually expand to other college campuses. When Edric was a competitor in the ICCA, he received two Outstanding Arrangement awards for "Can You Stand The Rain" and "Recovery Stitches," as well as an Outstanding Soloist award with Walter Edwards for "Smash Your Apology." He is currently the vocal music director at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, Ind. 

Luke Thomas has a B.S and a M.A. from Missouri State University. During his time at Missouri State, he sang in the Missouri State University Chorale, touring the United States, South Africa, Scandinavia, China, and more. Luke was also a part of the all-male a cappella group, The Beartones, from 2014-2018, and served as the group’s business director, brand manager, choreographer, and president. During his time with The Beartones, Luke received three separate awards for Outstanding Choreography, and led the group to ICCA Finals in 2018. Most recently, Luke served as a production assistant with Varsity Vocals where he aided in producing shows, working social media, and running the current website. Currently, he works full-time at Missouri State University as an instructor and advisor. He is very happy to stay connected with the ICCA and be back as a judge. 



Varsity Vocals would like to recognize and thank Nick Benson, Illinois State University, The Acafellaz, Moira Rose, Joseph Aquino, and Elise Hackl; our judges, hosts, competitors, volunteers, partners, and producers; and you, the audience, for supporting Varsity Vocals programming.

Amanda Newman
 Executive Director

Dave Rabizadeh
 ICCA Director

Andrea Poole
 ICHSA Director

Lucy Jacobs
The Open Director
 ICCA West Producer

Andrew Poole
 Director of Digital Media

Erica Tackett
 Director of Marketing & Social Strategy

Emily Flanders
Director of Adjudication
 ICCA Great Lakes Producer

Emily Sucher
 Director of Publications

Patty Floyd

Virginia DeMoss
 Album Production Coordinator

Sara Yood
Senior Producer

Courtney Jensen
 Associate Producer

Holli Kitching
ICCA Mid-Atlantic Producer

Lindsay Howerton-Hastings
 ICCA South Producer

Leah Alrutz
 ICCA Midwest Producer

Bronwyn Jensen
 ICCA Southwest Producer

Gemma Davies
 ICCA United Kingdom Producer

Christopher Witham
 ICCA United Kingdom Producer

Holly Hayes
 ICCA Northeast Producer

Arvin Zabalerio
ICCA Central Producer

Elise Hackl
PA/MA Program Coordinator  
ICHSA Great Lakes, Midwest, & Southwest Producer

Matt Shirer
 ICHSA West Producer

Jillian Kimberlin
 ICHSA Mid-Atlantic Producer

Evan Powers
 ICHSA South Producer

Nicole Kohlweiss
 ICHSA Northeast Producer



We have an amazing team of people who work tirelessly to make our programs so valuable for our singers and audiences alike — and they all do it while holding down full-time day jobs, too! 


The top two placing groups will advance to the 2020 ICCA Great Lakes Semifinal.



Find your favorite groups on The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) and The Best of High School A Cappella (BOHSA), available for purchase on Apple Music and Amazon Music!





The International Championship
of A Cappella Open


FALL 2020