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The ACB Cool 100: 80-71

Newsline

The a cappella world is full of cool people, but those individual identities are so often lost in the broader scheme of a cappella groups or institutions. In this 10-part feature we are listing 100 of the coolest people in a cappella.

I based this list on many and varied rationale including overall impact on a cappella and the degree to which people have innovated. There’s a “lifetime achievement” element of it, but also a healthy dose of “what have you done for me lately?” This isn’t just about the greatest a cappella performers (though that certainly plays a role) but equally, if not more so about how much a person has given to the a cappella world, and how cool those contributions have been.

On a side note, if you get too bent out of shape about where someone ranks, or if someone’s omitted, please also keep in mind that you have a guy who voluntarily writes a blog about a cappella evaluating how cool 100 people are—there is some dissonance up in here.

Did we forget some people? Almost certainly. In brainstorming for this countdown, the initial list ran well over 150 names long. Tough decisions had to be made, and besides that, there’s little doubt that we forgot some very cool people. Please feel free to let us hear about it and give your favorite folks their just desserts in the comments section, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As much as it pains us, and surely invalidates the list to an extent, we have opted to not to include anyone on the regular A Cappella Blog staff on this list.

Here’s the list so far:
100. Heather Newkirk
99. John Baunach
98. DW Routte
97. Laura Long
96. Angela Ugolini
95. Marc Silverberg
94. Warren Bloom
93. Kari Francis
92. Ben Spalding
91. Corey Slutsky
90. Nate Tao
89. Tom Keyes
88. Mark Torres
87. Connaitre Miller
86. Meredith Strang
85. Selame Scarlett
84. Emily Flanders
83. Matt Caruso
82. Seth Johnson
81. Glynn Rankin and Michael Dyck

With out further ado, we present 80-71.

80. Sarah Vela Vocal Rush, out of The Oakland School for the Arts, headed into the 2012 ICHSA Finals with relatively little fanfare, as a Wild Card winner without the national reputation of groups like PFC and Limited Edition. The group took the stage with only its seven female members and proceeded to rock show like no high school group on earth should be able to. The group grooved and harmonized, peaking on its last song, “Let Us Be Loving.” At this point, a stellar group unleashed its superstar soloist. I don’t know that Outstanding Soloist honors have ever been in less doubt than when Vela had wrapped up her tour de force, showing a combination of restraint, intonation, and sheer power that women with twice her experience and training are lucky to broach. Women’s a cappella, Vela is putting y’all notice—the future is now.

79. Katie Gillis In 2012, a fledgling quartet made up of three young women at Towson University and one recent graduate entered its first a cappella competition—the Mid-Atlantic Harmony Sweepstakes. Competing against far more experienced pro, semi-pro and collegiate groups, the ladies didn’t do so bad—you know, they won. From there they headed on to the annual Aca-Idol contest at SingStrong. They won that, too. Building momentum, the group, Girls Quartet (GQ, as they're more commonly known), traveled to the west coast Harmony Sweepstakes Nationals where they finished in second place. Second place in the country. Gillis stands tall as an arranger and organizational force behind the group, bringing together some of the most unique and innovative harmonies a cappella fans have heard in years and drumming up a fan base for what just might be the most unexpected and irresistible aca-sensation of the next decade.

78. Noah Berg A cappella group members who not only sing, but arrange contribute not only to the present sound, but the legacy of their groups. Berg has contributed over 50 a cappella arrangements to his college group, and not to just any college group, but the world-renowned University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers. Prolific and uber-talented, Berg has since extended his reach to Liquid 5th where he arranges (even more) and works as an editing engineer. And what did Berg do after he completed his undergraduate career? He joined the all-male post-collegiate elite, singing for a summer with Hyannis Sound. While we don’t know just yet where Berg will head next, the smart money says he’ll be doing very cool things in the a cappella world.

77. Dave Longo Longo got his start singing with RIT Eight Beat Measure. Since then, he earned a masters certificate in music production at Berklee College of Music and went on to found Sled Dog Studios—a company with live and recorded a cappella productions services that synergizes the best tools with a cappella-specific knowledge--pairing state of the art equipment and an impressive team of his fellow collegiate a cappella alumni. Longo was also a co-founder, key organizer, and audio engineer for the 2011 Social Media and A Cappella Conference at Syracuse University in 2011.

76. Danielle Withers Withers was one of the most distinctive voices at the fore of one of the most distinctive groups in Sing-Off history, Afro-Blue. Taking the lead on songs ranging from the iconic “American Boy” to “American Girl” became a poster child for jazz-pop-aca-fusion. Since the group’s time on NBC came to a close, Withers has kept busy performing across the country with Afro Blue, in addition to serving a judge for the Aca-Idol competition at SingStrong 2012.

75. Oluwasegun Oluwadele When you take a seat at the ICCA Finals, you come to expect musical excellence—marvelous blend and intonation, killer dynamics, visual shows. And solos. You expect really good solos. Well, there are good solos, there are great solos, and then there’s the apotheosis of Oluwadele on “Tightrope” at the 2012 ICCA Finals—a performance that completely won over the crowd and, helped catapult The SoCal VoCals to the ICCA Championship. Between his killer vocals, unparalleled charisma, and energy Oluwadele was a force on the Town Hall stage, and brought the evening to a fitting close by singing lead on the group’s encore as well, “Best Thing I Never Had.” Going into his junior year at USC, he’s the music director for what’s quite arguably the highest profile college a cappella group in the world. Keep an eye out for even bigger things in the years ahead.

74. Therry Thomas In 2010, a group of six young men out of Huntsville, Alabama shocked the a cappella world when their star shone brighter than that of The Backbeats, Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town, and other vaunted acts for them to be crowned the champions of season two of The Sing-Off. More often than not, Thomas stood front and center and embodied everything the group was all about—humble, earnest, and truly vocally gifted. Committed have gone on to sing on stages across the country, in addition to which Thomas was part of a truly remarkable piece of modern recording, collaborating with fellow Sing-Off alumni Peter Hollens and Courtney Jensen for a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Pray” to benefit victims of the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

73. Sara Yood Following her undergraduate career with The Washington University of St. Louis Amateurs, Yood started a lengthy partnership with Varsity Vocals, which today sees her serving as the producer for the ICCA Finals. This year saw her orchestrate a seamless transition from Lincoln Center to Town Hall for the big night. In addition to organizing the biggest collegiate a cappella show of the year, Yood has sung with NYC post-collegiate group Treble, and her law school group,The Fordaham University Tortfeasors.

72. Tom Anderson Anderson’s accomplishments speak for themselves—the first director of University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Fifth Element, a winner of ICCA and Chicago Harmony Sweepstakes honors for his original songs, an alum of Ball in the House, and the current mastermind behind Random Notes—a website through which Anderson has arranged a cappella pieces for a multitude of collegiate, semi-pro, and professional groups. Tracks with his signature have shown up on Best of Collegiate A Cappella, Sing!, and Voices Only compilations. In addition to arranging work, Anderson serves as Director of Professional Relations for CASA.

71. Josh Chopak One of the fastest rising stars in a cappella, Chopak works in public relations and recording for Liquid 5th and was a big part of organizing the Acapocalypse and Amplify a cappella festivals. He got his start in a cappella in a notable incarnation of The Weston High School Town Criers that landed itself on the Best of High School A Cappella compilation and placed at the International Championship of High School A Cappella Finals. With his prominent work with Liquid 5th over the last two years, it’s hard to remember that he’s only now starting his junior year at Franklin & Marshall; one has to believe that Chopak and his current group, The Chessmen, have nothing but upside in the aca-world for the years ahead.

The ACB Cool 100: 90-81

Newsline

The a cappella world is full of cool people, but those individual identities are so often lost in the broader scheme of a cappella groups or institutions. In this 10-part feature we are listing 100 of the coolest people in a cappella.

I based this list on many and varied rationale including overall impact on a cappella and the degree to which people have innovated. There’s a “lifetime achievement” element of it, but also a healthy dose of “what have you done for me lately?” This isn’t just about the greatest a cappella performers (though that certainly plays a role) but equally, if not more so about how much a person has given to the a cappella world, and how cool those contributions have been.

On a side note, if you get too bent out of shape about where someone ranks, or if someone’s omitted, please also keep in mind that you have a guy who voluntarily writes a blog about a cappella evaluating how cool 100 people are—there is some dissonance up in here.

Did we forget some people? Almost certainly. In brainstorming for this countdown, the initial list ran well over 150 names long. Tough decisions had to be made, and besides that, there’s little doubt that we forgot some very cool people. Please feel free to let us hear about it and give your favorite folks their just desserts in the comments section, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As much as it pains us, and surely invalidates the list to an extent, we have opted to not to include anyone on the regular A Cappella Blog staff on this list.

Here’s the list so far:
100. Heather Newkirk
99. John Baunach
98. DW Routte
97. Laura Long
96. Angela Ugolini
95. Marc Silverberg
94. Warren Bloom
93. Kari Francis
92. Ben Spalding
91. Corey Slutsky

With out further ado, we present 90-81.

90. Nate Tao After a distinguished collegiate a cappella career, singing memorable leads on sings like “Isn’t She Lovely” and “I Want You Back” for Ithacappella, Tao has shown no signs of slowing down, rocking show with Hyannis Sound, and now lighting up stages as a solo artist in LA. Tao is the sort of special vocal talent who transcends the a cappella genre; while I doubt he’ll ever leave the form behind entirely, he’s also quite likely to be an excellent ambassador for the form in the broader music world for years to come.

89. Tom Keyes Some major players in the a cappella community lead from the stage, others from planning rooms. Keyes is among those multi-talented individuals who can do both, lighting up stages with his Contemporary A Cappella League group Frequency in addition to serving as the director of The Contemporary A Cappella League and the CAL program manager for CASA. While scholastic a cappella groups may represent the future of the form, more and more, semi-pro groups are becoming the here and now, and folks like Keyes are at the fore of that movement.

88. Mark Torres In an increasingly visual culture, in which social networking is king, Torres's pet project, SIN3G took the a cappella community by storm last fall, offering a site dedicated to a cappella videos with a sampling of blog posts to boot. An alum of the Yale a cappella scene, Torres is passionate about a cappella and well connected to new media--as such, definitely a player in pushing the broader a cappella community forward.

87. Connaitre Miller Can jazz a cappella be cool? For years, plenty of folks thought not, balking at the groups who brought their jazz stylings to ICCAs or dared to even try and lure a general audience to their shows. The perception shifted with Groove for Thought's run on The Sing-Off, and fell flat on its behind with the rise of season three's surprise audience favorite, Afro-Blue. The group's take on songs like "American Boy" set the show on its head, challenging the contemporary paradigm with a jazz-pop fusion that darn-near set the show on fire early in the group's run. The mastermind behind the group concept was faculty director Miller who has clearly trained and rehearsed her proteges with an ear toward musical precision. It's yet to be seen if the group will spawn a wide body of imitators or disciples, but for the time being, Miller's vision has at minimum carved a very cool niche for a crew of promising young singers.

86. Meredith Strang NYC's Treble is quite arguably the coolest post-collegiate all-female a cappella group in quite arguably the coolest city in the world. Strang serves as co-musical director for the group, in addition to appearing as a very regular face on Varsity Vocals judging panels throughout the Mid-Atlantic, as well as a judge for the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. On top of all of this, she's an alum of the Sing-Off-featured Deltones and arranges at NYC A Cappella. A part of what's so impressive about Strang's contributions to the a cappella world is not just what she has accomplished, but what she has empowered and paved the way for others to do.

85. Selame Scarlett Scarlett performed with Capital Green in her undergraduate career and has gone on to serve as an arranger for hire, ICCA judge, ICHSA producer and more. A presence at just about every major aca-gathering you can think of, Scarlett has made some of her most profound and unsung (no pun intended) contributions to the a cappella world as a videographer. To date, she has captured over 100 major aca-moments for YouTube—clips that will only become more valuable to a cappella historians as more time goes by, and that are tremendous fodder for all of us looking to tell a buddy about the amazing act we caught at the ICCA Finals, SoJam, or elsewhere.

84. Emily Flanders After cutting her aca-teeth with The Washington University of St. Louis Amateurs, Flanders has served as director of promotions for Varsity Vocals, the producer for the ICCA Midwest Region, and as an organizer for events like Boston Sings (BOSS). Always opinionated, and boasting a mean set of pipes herself, Flanders is a collegiate a cappella alum who just keeps giving back and helping the community evolve for the benefit of future generations.

83. Matt Caruso The mastermind behind ACappellaPsych, Caruso has more than just a nifty blog to his name--after graduating from The Ursinus College Bearitones, he has served as director his CAL group, Stay Tuned, worked with the CARAs, and offers arranging, production, live sound production services and more through his website. Caruso is a budding jack of all trades who is sure to develop an increasingly pronounced impact on the a cappella world in the years to come.

82. Seth Johnson When The Vanderbilt University Melodores ascended to the ICCA Finals in 2011, they arrived as, quite arguably, the single coolest college a cappella group on the planet. Sure, they had a cool range from hip hop to alt-rock, and, sure, their slick dance moves helped sell them to a general audience, but quite possibly the coolest part of their act was the chipmunk-stylings of the one and only Seth Johnson. Johnson was the star of The Melodore’s set in 2012 as well, riffing on “Sexyback” and more. Besides appearing on stage as the group’s most recognizable star, Johnson also functions as the president and general manager for the group. As he enters his senior year, expect big things from Johnson and company in the months ahead.

81. Glynn Rankin and Michael Dyck OK, I’m cheating a little on this one, but both of these guys earn placement for the same reasons, so they get to share a spot on the list. Rankin and Dyck sang together as part of Effusion at McGill University. Based on their experience competing and networking with other groups in the ICCAs the two decided to launch Canada’s biggest a cappella show to date, a festival infused with the musical tradition of Montreal—Montreacappella. The first-time event this past April featured 18 groups performing in a cappella marathon throughout the day. The success of the event provides plenty of hope that it will continue for years to come, spreading the a cappella love north of the border.

The ACB Cool 100: 100-91

Newsline

The a cappella world is full of cool people, but those individual identities are so often lost in the broader scheme of a cappella groups or institutions. In this 10-part feature we are listing 100 of the coolest people in a cappella.

I based this list on many and varied rationale including overall impact on a cappella and the degree to which people have innovated. There’s a “lifetime achievement” element of it, but also a healthy dose of “what have you done for me lately?” This isn’t just about the greatest a cappella performers (though that certainly plays a role) but equally, if not more so about how much a person has given to the a cappella world, and how cool those contributions have been.

On a side note, if you get too bent out of shape about where someone ranks, or if someone’s omitted, please also keep in mind that you have a guy who voluntarily writes a blog about a cappella evaluating how cool 100 people are—there is some dissonance up in here.

Did we forget some people? Almost certainly. In brainstorming for this countdown, the initial list ran well over 150 names long. Tough decisions had to be made, and besides that, there’s little doubt that we forgot some very cool people. Please feel free to let us hear about it and give your favorite folks their just desserts in the comments section, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As much as it pains us, and surely invalidates the list to an extent, we have opted to not to include anyone on the regular A Cappella Blog staff on this list.

With out further ado, we present 100-91.

100. Heather Newkirk Now more than ever, a cappella is all about social networking, and in a field full of people Tweeting, blogging, and beating the cyber bushes to stir excitement and enlightenment among the a cappella universe, Newkirk has emerged a fresh, heavily-involved face, eager to ask questions, raise ideas, and interact. Besides that, Newkirk was a major player in the rise of her collegiate group, Syracuse University Main Squeeze, which has evolved into a perennial ICCA contender in the Mid-Atlantic.

99. John Baunach In 2009, Baunach co-founded The Vanderbilt University Melodores. The collegiate a cappella world has never been quite the same since. While ‘90s R&B act TLC may have trademarked the album title CrazySexyCool no a cappella group has better embodied the mantra through a mix of high attitude, high octane choreography, and positively slick, innovative vocals. Baunach earns extra cool points for continuing his work in a cappella post-graduation, doing a phenomenal job as the organizer for The ICCA South Semifinals in 2012, and deftly emceeing a show that made smart use of social media by encouraging the crowd to Tweet under a common hashtag for the duration of the event.

98. DW Routte When Routte, an alum of American University On a Sensual Note transferred “home” to Ohio State, few could have predicted the aca-ripples that would follow, ultimately changing the landscape of Midwestern collegiate a cappella. Routte ended up founding Buck That!, the first all-male group at Ohio State. Now a graduate student, Routte led the group to the ICCA Semifinals in 2012, as well as a big win at Wooster Jam’s Voicefest. The group represents a high-octane, movement-driven style of a cappella that’s sure to bring big things to the group in the years ahead.

97. Laura Long After Divisi and Noteworthy had back-to-back tour-de-force showings in the ICCA Finals in the mid-2000s, all-female a cappella seemed enter a slump. However, in early 2010s we’ve seen a resurgence, with folks like Delilah, The Boxettes, Musae, The AcaBelles, and GQ at the fore. We’ll discuss people from each of these groups more later in the countdown, but for now, it’s worth noting one of the hardest working arrangers in all-female a cappella, Laura Long. Following up on her own collegiate career with Clemson TakeNote, Long launched L’s Arrangements, a site dedicated to providing top-notch all-female arrangements at reasonable prices. Folks like Long ensure that all-female a cappella isn’t only blossoming today but will enjoy a bright future as well.

96. Angela Ugolini Speaking of notable names in all-female a cappella, we arrive at our first AcaBelle alum of the countdown. After leading The ‘Belles to the ICCA Finals in 2009, Ugolini has gone on to sing with Musae and The Red States, and serve as musical director for post-collegiate, all-female ensemble Empire in New York City. On top of all of this, Ugolini has emerged as a stellar engineer with The Vocal Company. Multi-talented, multi-group stars like Ugolini demonstrate the fullest potential for a collegiate group alum to have a monster impact on the a cappella world.

95. Marc Silverberg Many a cappella enthusiasts have thought with wonder about a day when a cappella is considered more “legit”—a time when it’s accepted as a part of mainstream music, treated as a serious art form, and considered a viable form for study and analysis. As a Westminster Choir College Deaftones alum, Silverberg has taken these interests to a new level in his quest to develop an a cappella major for college students. His thoughts on a cappella and this objective are chronicled on his blog, and just as impressive as his written thoughts is the way in which Silverberg carries himself in person— humble, kind, and 100 percent dedicated to a cappella as a way of life. While it may be some time before an a cappella major takes off, don’t doubt that Silverberg may be just the person to make it happen.

94. Warren Bloom Bloom boasts an incredible a cappella resume that includes founding a group at Brandeis University (Spur of the Moment), singing with another at University of Miami, singing with and directing the vaunted summer crew, Hyannis Sound, and getting involved with numerous a cappella projects in the New York area since. Aside from his life on stage, Bloom has years of experience as an ICCA judge and a career as a music educator to back him, not to mention a pretty compelling TV review blog that has covered The Sing-Off and several non-a cappella competition shows, over at 5th Judge.

93. Kari Francis Kinfolk 9 didn't get much love for its abbreviated run on season three of The Sing-Off, but the ensemble included an unsung uber-talent in Francis. A former director of The UC San Diego Daughters of Triton, alum of The Tritones, and a part of post-collegiate group Frequency, Francis has made waves on multiple levels of the a cappella world. She may be best known for her current work with female star quad Musae, through which she's performed across the country and spoken on all-female a cappella panels at events like SoJam and The Los Angeles A Cappella Festival.

92.Ben Spalding Between strong showings on The Sing-Off from groups like Eleventh Hour and Soul'd Out, to the increasingly stellar overall shows at ICHSA Finals, there's no question that high school a cappella is on the rise. The next evolution of the form is on the cusp of realization courtesy of Centreville High School Forte, the 2012 ICHSA finalists whose Kickstarter campaign funded a CD of all original music. An all-original a cappella album is a daunting prospect for groups at any level, much less a group of pre-collegiate teenagers. Their guiding force? The one and only Spalding. An alum of The University of Kentucky AcoUstiKats and CASA's program manager for high school outreach, Spalding represents some of what's best about scholastic a cappella--empowering the young a cappella stars of tomorrow to achieve greater heights than the generation that preceded it. Spalding is all about that mission, and that's pretty cool.

91. Corey Slutsky What has Corey Slutsky done in the a cappella world? Better question: what hasn’t he done? Whether he was simultaneously starring with The G-Men and Kol HaKavod at Michigan, performing with Canadian pro group STREETNix or California crew Voxel Rox, beatboxing for The SoCal VoCals as a grad student, founding Voices Only, reviewing albums for the RARB, leading workshops at SoJam, judging ICCAs, or recording one-man band a cappella videos for YouTube, Slutsky has truly been there and done that for countless major a cappella projects.

Open Positions at Varsity Vocals and CASA

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-Varsity Vocals is currently hiring for ICCA producers for the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. Interested parties can check out all of the details here.

-The Contemporary A cappella Society (CASA) has announced openings for two leadership positions: Events PR/Social Media Manager and Talent Manager. CASA requests that interested parties get in touch by September 3, 2012.

The A Cappella Blog launches a Sporcle page

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The A Cappella Blog is pleased to announce the launch of our Sporcle page. For those unfamiliar with Sporcle, it is an online center for games and quizzes. The A Cappella Blog's contributions will, naturally, focus on the a cappella world. We have six games posted now and plan to post many more in the months ahead. Current selections include quizzes on a cappella alumni and artists covered on The Sing-Off, plus an A-Z a cappella trivia game. Check it all out here!

The A Cappella Blog launches a Sporcle page

Newsline

The A Cappella Blog is pleased to announce the launch of our Sporcle page. For those unfamiliar with Sporcle, it is an online center for games and quizzes. The A Cappella Blog's contributions will, naturally, focus on the a cappella world. We have six games posted now and plan to post many more in the months ahead. Current selections include quizzes on a cappella alumni and artists covered on The Sing-Off, plus an A-Z a cappella trivia game. Check it all out here!

Next Page
The ACB Cool 100: 80-71
The ACB Cool 100: 90-81
The ACB Cool 100: 100-91
Open Positions at Varsity Vocals and CASA
The A Cappella Blog launches a Sporcle page
The A Cappella Blog launches a Sporcle page
2012 ACB ICCA Bracket Contest Results, 2012 Harmony Sweepstakes Results, and the “New” Straight No Chaser
The Dear Abbeys Celebrate 20 Years, The Blend Commemorates 10 with a CD, New Group Shakes Things Up at Columbia, Reviews of A Cappella Palooza and the ICCA Finals
NBA Team Hosts A Cappella Competition, Sh*t A Cappella Kids Say Video, New Kickstarter Campaign for Detroit High School Group
CARAs Announced, New Honor for Voices in Your Head, New Collaboration from Pentatonix and Ithaca College Groups, A Cappella Streaming Radio
New A Cappella Competitions in Wooster, OH and Denver, CO
Thank You to Everyone Who Has Supported The A Cappella Book
ICCA Wildcard Champions Crowned, ICCA and ICHSA Finals Lineups, South Asian A Cappella Group Partners with Indian Film Company, ACB Clarifier
The Sing-Off Renewed! Celebrity A Cappella Super Group Announced as First Contestants!
ICCA Finals Picture Takes Shape, ACB Event Reviews Update, A Cappella Book Update
Second Group Announced for ICCA Finals, A Cappella Book Update, A Post-Collegiate Group Seeks Members, RFL Performance Opportuinty
Your ICCA Bracket: An Everyman's Analysis
ACB ICCA Power Rankings
A Cappella for College Athletes, Late Night TV A Cappella, and a Unique Recruiting Video
ICCA Semifinals Update, New Website for DC-Area A Cappella, An In-Depth Look at Buck That!
High School Group Recording All-Original Album; SingStrong 2012 Update; News on the Inaugural Montreacappella; Video of the Percussion Battle from Cornell
Kickstarter Campaigns, King's Men Blog, A Cappella Motivational Poster
So You Want To Start A Professional A Cappella Group?
Festivals, Kickstarter Campaigns, Blogs, The Latest from Peter Hollens, and More
The A Cappella Book
The ACB ICCA Drinking Game - Updated for 2012
The 2012 ICCA Bracket Contest is Live, Plus Introducing the Amplify Providence A Cappella Festival
Our RSS Feed is Working Again
NPR's A Cappella Playlist; Sony and The House Jacks; An A Cappella Benefit in the Midwest; New Music from Pentatonix
Welcome to a New Season & the Celebration of our 5 Year Anniversary!