For senior Eric Braceland, the experience of performing in OwlCappella actually prompted him to change his major from biology to voice performance.
“It was the best decision I had ever made,” Braceland said. “It’s just been a constant source of enjoyment and love.”
On Saturday, OwlCappella performed at the Beacon Theatre in New York City for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Finals for the first time.
OwlCappella, Temple’s first co-ed a capella group, competed against nine collegiate a cappella groups from the United States and the United Kingdom.
This year, the 15-member group competed in the ICCA. Before performing at finals last weekend, they won the ICCA’s Mid-Atlantic Semifinal in March at the Kimmel Center on Broad Street near Spruce.
At the finals, The SoCal VoCals from the University of California won first place, the Upper Structure group from the Berklee College of Music won second place and Voices in Your Head, a group from the University of Chicago, placed third. Although Temple did not place in the competition, members said it was still a great experience to perform.
“It was just an honor for all of us to be there so it was just a really exciting day,” said Corinne Landes, a junior music therapy major. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but we were just all really excited to get out there and have fun.”
Last month, the members of the group were shocked when OwlCappella was announced the first place winner at the semifinals.
“We shattered our own expectations and that feels really good,” said Nick Goodyear, a junior physics major and the group’s assistant music director. “There’s something really special about getting on stage and doing your best. It’s not something that I’ve felt before.”
The group sang four songs at the final competition, including “All We Got” by Chance the Rapper, “Beautiful Creatures” by Illenium, “Pay My Rent” by DNCE and “Coloring Outside the Lines” by MisterWives.
Landes said she was humbled to even perform in the ICCA finals.
“The entire group is just so unbelievably…proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Landes said. “None of us thought that we would’ve made it to finals our first year doing the competition, so it was just so surreal to be in NYC.”
In just one year of competition, OwlCappella has garnered four ICCA Special Awards, including one quarterfinal award for Outstanding Choreography and three semifinal awards for Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Vocal Percussion.
In addition to organizing the group’s music arrangements, sophomore neuroscience and psychology major Emily Ballentine and senior political science major Nick Van Meter choreographed their performances.
While some non-competitive college a cappella groups focus exclusively on performing music, Ballentine said competition judges assess teams on their choreography and visual performances, too, including tiny details like facial expressions. For a first-time competitor like OwlCappella, she said this meant intense rehearsals of choreography on top of their standard vocal practices.
“We would have a boot camp to do hours upon hours of learning this movement and performance to go along with the music,” Ballentine said. “But it’s paid off.”
Now having traveled to New York City to perform at an international level, many OwlCappella members said they still cannot believe what they’ve accomplished.
“We’re very lucky and very humbled to be representing Temple University at a competition like this at such high stakes,” Ballentine said. “We’re among these huge names, and it feels really great to be the reason why Temple is among those names.”
For OwlCappella’s graduating seniors, the group has been a source of community for several years. Audrey Bristol-Evans, a senior linguistics major, said she plans to continue arranging music for the group even after graduation.
“OwlCappella has been the most important part of my college career,” Bristol-Evans said. “This is my family. This is where I have gotten the most joy out of my life in the past four years.”
“We always just keep going up another peg, another rung up the ladder and there is no end in sight,” Braceland added.