Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are Pitch Perfect

N'Harmonics are just one of six groups competing at the ICCA Finals on April 26 at Town Hall in NYC. For more info, visit
N’Harmonics are just one of six groups competing at the ICCA Finals on April 26 at Town Hall in NYC. For more info, visit

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

“It’s all the people who have seen ‘Pitch Perfect’ or ‘The Sing-Off’ and they’re excited to see a cappella,” says Amanda Newman, executive director of Varsity Vocals, the organization that produces the show. “They didn’t even know anyone who was competing [at the time of purchase]!”

But now it’s clear which six undergraduate teams are competing: Pitch Slapped from Berklee College of Music hopes to crush it with their mix of pop and indie to fill their 12-minute set, says sophomore and business manager Nathan Hartono. The tenor points out instead of performing “just top 40,” they’ll “mix it up like crazy” with selections that range from Justin Timberlake to Lauren Mvula.

Another competitor, NYU’s N’Harmonics, plans to rock their eclectic mix in urban chic attire. President Francesca Federico describes their group as free sound. “I associate college a cappella with Taylor Swift songs, but we’re into all sorts like classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers that wouldn’t necessarily be considered a cappella.”

Competition is tight on Saturday — the season began with 300 groups — but competition is also fierce to even join a group. Federico recalls being “super nervous” competing against 199 other women her freshman year to land one of the three coveted spots.

And while she plans to pursue an opera career after graduation, other members have less vocally inclined career paths. Their beat boxer (vocal percussionist) is following his neuroscience major path.

Hartono and his fellow Pitch Slapped members are all music majors so it’s “one of the many” musical projects they’re pursuing. Many of the groups perform on campus and at various venues, which lends itself to built-in friendships and relationships as highlighted in “Pitch Perfect.”

“We’re the real life version of ‘Pitch Perfect,’” says Newman. “The non-fiction book is based on our tournament and two groups that competed in our tournament.”

Newman, who went to the University of Illinois, where she sang with the group No Strings Attached, ended up marrying her musical director. “I loved it and didn’t have any other friends,” she recalls.

Federico seconds the notion of forming a deep connection with a cappella pals. Pointing out they “absolutely love each other,” she says they hang outside the group, too. “There’s this really mutual admiration for people’s power.”


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