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



University of Chicago
Saturday, January 25th, 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.



Central Harmony A Cappella is Central Michigan University’s only co-ed a cappella group. Formed in the fall of 2005, student-run Central Harmony has worked hard and grown over the years to develop their musical abilities. Nearly all of the music in their current repertoire has been arranged in house by its very talented members! A loving group of individuals, these students support on another in and out of rehearsal, forming one big musical family. Bringing onstage enthusiasm, personality, and originality, the men and women of Central Harmony captivate audiences with strong harmonies and incredible vocal percussion. Using a blend of musical genres with an added CH twist, this a cappella group is sure to put on a great show for any audience! 

Counterpoint Acapella is a co-ed a cappella group from Loyola University Chicago. As a small, tight-knit group, they personally arrange and energetically perform a diverse set of music to feature at concerts and competitions around the Chicago area. They typically brand themselves as “alternative,” arranging songs that are not typically considered for a cappella music. They like to explore how each of their personalities resonates within a song, creating an awesome mix of style and sound. Counterpoint was founded in 2014 on the beliefs of hard work, originality, and musical excellence. They provide a creative musical outlet for members and listeners and take pride in sharing themselves with Chicago. 

Gold Vibrations is Oakland University's premier co-ed a cappella group. It was a dark and stormy evening (probably) in the fall of 2009. Skinny scarves and low rise jeans were all the rage. In a dark, muggy building, now known as Varner Hall, a rag-tag group of kids who all just happened to love singing got together for the first time. It was there, on that possibly dark and stormy evening, in the deep dark corners of Varner Hall, that Gold Vibrations A Cappella was born. Through 10 years of concerts, gigs, and competitions, GV has flourished into something much bigger than anyone had originally anticipated. They are always looking for ways to grow, striving to nurture their shared passion for creating and performing music, while supporting and inspiring their surrounding communities. When Gold Vibrations is not rehearsing or performing, you can find the group at the corner booth getting half-off apps at Applebee’s. 

As the award-winning, only all-treble a cappella group at Michigan State University, Ladies First is a force to be reckoned with. The group was founded in 1985 and has evolved greatly over the years. The group is composed of 15 dedicated individuals (all non-music majors) and rehearses three times a week for six and a half hours total. Ladies First is proud to take risks, from tackling a techno Calvin Harris piece to adding complex physical percussion to a Masego song and much more. This bold nature has encouraged each member to expand their skillset and the group currently has six arrangers and nine capable vocal percussionists. When they aren’t rehearsing, you can find the Ladies eating the Union’s famous macaroni and cheese or watching a scary movie with their fellow MSU a cappella friends. Ladies First performs at on-campus gigs and various events throughout the Midwest. Above all, Ladies First strives to be an extraordinary a cappella group that prioritizes incredible sound. Their authentic love for one another is heard in their chords and felt in their impactful stage presence. Ladies First hopes their performance will inspire, provoke emotion, and impress. 

Formed in 1996, Purple Haze from Northwestern University has been singin', dancin', and lovin' for almost 25 years! Completely student-run, they rehearse on a weekly basis and put on a killer show every quarter. In the fall, they host groups from nearby colleges to perform in their Best of the Midwest concert. In the winter, they combine a cappella with games and improv for Too Much A Cappella Makes the Baby Go Deaf, based on the Neo-Futurists' popular show. In the spring, they devise a new script to go with their songs and a theme. Additionally, Purple Haze performs throughout the Chicagoland area at events and workshops, has released nine studio albums (all available on iTunes and Spotify), and is in the process of recording their tenth! The a cappella podcast “Mouth Off” called them "the best you're going to hear out of the whole Midwestern United States" and "the group that everyone wants to party with!" Purple Haze tours every year, with past trips including Montreal, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Dublin, Cuba, and Washington, D.C. They compete biennially in the ICCA and won their 2018 Quarterfinal! Most importantly, Purple Haze is a group of friends who love singing together. 

State of Fifths is a co-ed a cappella group all the way from Michigan State University! The Fifths have been nominated for multiple awards and exclusively perform material arranged by members of the group. Their newest album, titled Legacy, was released this past fall. The Fifths have always strived to create music with meaning, and they hope to continue sharing their love of music with the rest of the world! 

The Expressions from Macomb Community College is a long-established elite ensemble on campus, originally designed to perform a variety of jazz music, either accompanied or a cappella. Since 2017, the group transitioned to an a cappella pops ensemble. Members are selected through auditions at the start of the school year and include students in the music program at the community college. The ensemble performs at the college Extravaganza Shows, as pre-show entertainment in the lobby of the college PAC, and throughout the community. 

The Ransom Notes is an all-gender a cappella group from the University of Chicago! The Notes have been a vocal presence for the past 22 years, most recently releasing their sixth studio album, Blueprint, in 2017. They can be found performing all over the UChicago campus, at local venues in Hyde Park and around Chicago, and biannually in venues all across America on their Spring Tour. They are a fun-loving group of musicians that love one another as much as they love to sing. The Notes most enjoy performing in informal arch sings, teaching music workshops to high school students around the South Side during their annual Chicago Winter Tour, and singing carols at seasonal Holiday Markets. 

Founded in 1989, Unaccompanied Women is the oldest a cappella group at the University of Chicago. They are an extremely close-knit group of students who study everything from theatre to molecular engineering and are brought together by a shared love of singing. They recently released an EP, Let Me, featuring their 2018 ICCA set, which is available on all streaming platforms. They pride themsleves on telling stories through their music and spreading “UDub” love every chance they get. 

Z minor at Illinois Tech is first and foremost a family brought together by a shared passion for vocal music and performing. At a school so focused on entrepreneurship and technology, the importance of music and the arts is often overlooked. Apart from high school music programs, none of the group members come with much formal music training. The group includes architects, biomedical engineers, aerospace engineers, and mechanical engineers. For each of them, music is an escape and means of self-expression that technology just can't provide. Z minor is founded on the idea that they can perform the music they love with the people they love, all while continuously honing their skills, both individually and collectively.



Travis Erikson is in his 15th year as choral director and music theory instructor at DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Ill. He founded the DeKalb High School a cappella ensembles in 2004, and they have competed in the ICHSA since 2006. They have won awards for Best Soloist, Best Choreography, Best Arrangement, Best Vocal Percussion, and advanced to ICHSA Finals in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2015. He holds a B.A., M.M., and Performer's Certificate in music, and has studied piano, voice, choral music, and music theory at Whitman College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Northern Illinois University under the instruction of Leonard Richter, Donald Walker, Ed Klonoski, Brian Hyer, Susan Pickett, Eric Johnson, Timothy Stalter, Joe Miller, Robert Bode, Christine Janis, and Orna Arania. 

Elise Hackl is a music educator in the suburbs of Chicago who fell in love with a cappella during undergrad as a member of Secondary Dominance. Holding bachelor's degrees in music education and special education and master’s degrees in music education and educational technology leadership, Elise is currently working towards her Principal Certification. In 2018, Elise was awarded the Illinois State Board of Education’s Teacher of the Year “Those Who Excel” award of merit for her work in music curriculum development. In addition to her full-time job, Elise serves as the director for Modern Melodies and Treble Threat a cappella groups, director of Big Deal Productions’ Broadway and Choral Buddies programs, and conductor of the Crescendo Barbershop Chorus through the Metropolis Performing Arts Center. A freelance arranger and clinician, Elise also teaches private voice lessons, presents on inclusivity and adaptive music at music education conferences, and clinics solo and ensemble contests throughout the state of Illinois. In her spare time, she loves judging Varsity Vocals events and writing raps for adaptive musical theatre groups. 

Heather Newkirk is a proud alumna of Syracuse University's Main Squeeze, for whom she sang, arranged, choreographed, and did vocal percussion. Since graduating, Heather has remained active in the a cappella world as social media coordinator for Boston Sings A Cappella Festival (BOSS), Program Manager of Social Media for the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (CASA), associate producer of Voices Only, and an instructor for workshops and masterclasses at a cappella festivals nationwide. She has won ICCA awards for Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Vocal Percussion as a college student, and Varsity Vocals has held a special place in her heart ever since. 

Antonio Rodriguez graduated in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in music from Washington University in St. Louis, where he sang with The Amateurs for four years. He also served as arranger and music director of the group. He spent the next five years performing as a stage actor in St. Louis before gaining his union card and moving to Chicago in 2014. Favorite past musical credits include “The Who’s Tommy” (Tommy Walker), “Urinetown” (Bobby Strong), and “Altar Boyz” (Matthew). He was a member of the St. Louis Theatre Circle Award-winning ensemble of the a cappella musical “All is Calm” for three years, and is a four-time nominee and two-time Theatre Circle Award winner for his individual acting work in both musicals and straight plays. In addition to performing in full-length stage works, he has conceived and performed two solo cabarets in both St. Louis and Chicago. Antonio is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. 

Lee Stovall currently teaches choir for the South Milwaukee school district, where he directs the award-winning a cappella groups, Delta V and The Poprockets, who recently released their debut album, Keep Myself. A founding member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison a cappella group, Fundamentally Sound, he has been interested in promoting contemporary a cappella education since college, and keeps busy arranging and coaching for groups around the world. He recently arranged for "Broadway Goes A Cappella 3" at Feinstein's/54 Below in New York City to rave reviews. Lee's work has earned ICCA awards and Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (CARAs), as well as spots on BOCA and BOHSA compilations. He has attended seminars with The Vocal Company and Vocomotion studios, volunteered for SingStrong Chicago and A Cappella Fest, and judged for Varsity Vocals, CARAs, and the A Cappella Video Awards (AVAs). Lee has also worked with Camp A Cappella, directing ensembles from the middle school to collegiate levels, and is a board member of A Cappella University. Outside of the contemporary a cappella world, Lee sings with two professional classical ensembles, The Madison Choral Project and Present Music Milwaukee. 



Varsity Vocals would like to recognize and thank Voices in Your Head 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