The ICCA Bracket of Champions: What Was the Best ICCA Set of the Last Eight Years?

Since Mike Scalise and I launched The A Cappella Blog in 2007, we have attended every International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Final, live in New York. Today, one week before the launch of the 2015 tournament, and as I hope all of you have completed your entries to the 2015 ACB ICCA Bracket Contest, I’d like to take a look back at the last eight years of ICCA Champions—and what more fun way to do that than with a bracket all its own?

The Ten Can’t-Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2013

2013 was a sensational year for a collegiate a cappella. As we reflect on the time past, it is time to salute ten truly extraordinary groups.

A few notes that I urge you to read before you start slamming this list on Facebook or Twitter (if you still want to slam the list with these notes in mind, be my guest):
• Groups included in The Ten Can’t-Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2012, and The Top 10 American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2011 list were not eligible for inclusion in this year’s list. It’s not that those groups are any less exceptional this year, but I wanted to give ten different groups recognition. So, the following groups were not considered this time around:

The AcaBelles
The Accidentals
The Beelzebubs
The Dartmouth Aires
The Melodores
The Nor’easters
On the Rocks
Out of the Blue
The Pennharmonics
Pitch Slapped
The Scattertones
The SoCal Vocals
The Stereotypes
Vocal Point
Voices in Your Head
The Yellow Jackets

• This list does not necessarily denote the best groups, so much as the ones that were most successful and noteworthy in 2013. The criteria for the list included (but was not necessarily limited to) accomplishments, public recognition, innovation, and quality of performance (live and recorded). Two other pieces of criteria that are least scientific, but unavoidable: my personal preferences and what I’ve been exposed to. I’m only one critic, and if I haven’t heard your group, I welcome you to send me some YouTube links or a CD to help bring me up to speed.
• This list only considers groups based in the United States of America. I simply don’t have enough exposure to international groups at this time to fairly consider them in this context.
• I opted to limit this list to ten groups. Which meant that many groups worthy of superlatives could not make it. I did want to acknowledge a handful of them with honorable mentions: University of Wisconsin Fundamentally Sound, The Fordham University Ramblers, The University of Virginia Sil’hooettes, The Penn State University Statesmen, James Madison University Exit 245, Northwestern University Purple Haze, The Duke University Pitchforks, and Northeastern University Pitch Please.

Newsline: Acappellooza and Kickstarter Project out of University of Delaware

-On Saturday, October 19, 7:30 p.m. the University of Delaware will play host to Acappellooza, featuring Vocal Point and The Deltones from UD, Rutgers Casual Harmony, and Salisbury University Squawkappella. Organizers are looking for one more group from the Mid-Atlantic to perform. Interested parties may contact Jon Smith at jonsmith at udel dot edu.

-University of Delaware Vocal Point is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its new album. Get all of the details here.

These Are the Glory Days of A Cappella

When we started The A Cappella Blog in 2007, the a cappella world was different.

No major studio motion pictures (though Pitch Perfect, the book felt like a milestone). There were no a cappella TV shows. You could go to an ICCA quarterfinal and see as few as five groups compete. And while a handful of a cappella videos had achieved some notoriety, very, very few had achieved viral status.

What a difference six years can make.

Newsline: The Sing-Off Season Four Auditions

The Sing-Off is back, slated to air this winter during the holiday season on NBC. Before we all get to enjoy the show again, Sony Pictures Television, Outlaw Productions, and McNulty casting are looking for a cappella groups to compete on the show. The official casting website is now live here. Interested parties can register via the site, call 1-877-529-9995 or email

Check out more information about auditions below:

The 2013 ACB ICCA Power Rankings

ICCA quarterfinals are done. Over the next three weekends, a cappella fans across the US are going to be treated to a series of six ICCA semifinals, the winners of which will progress to the ICCA Finals in New York City. But which semifinalists are the best? Which groups have the best shot at Finals? Of winning the entire tournament? In this special feature, I’m taking my shot at predicting the top 35 groups remaining in the ICCA tournament.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are many groups in the tournament I have not seen live this year, and there are some I have not even seen video of. The rankings are based on a combination of my experiences with the groups, the groups’ past track records, word of mouth, quarterfinal scores, and a healthy dose my personal opinion and intuition. This is not a scientific process, and is intended for entertainment purposes. Please feel free to chime in with your own rankings on Facebook and Twitter (@acappellablog).

1. The Northeastern University Nor’easters The Nor’easters are quite arguably the most accomplished group not to appear at ICCA Finals in recent years. Persistence just might pay. Fresh off a huge victory in the collegiate competition at SoJam X, The Nor’easters and their diverse, at time monstrous sound, look poised to emerge from a revamped Northeast region for their first run at Finals. With so few recent finalists left in the tournament, they have every chance of going all the way.
2. The UCLA ScatterTones Look at the facts: 1) in the past six years, only one group has topped The SoCal VoCals in ICCA competition—The Scattertones, and 2) the only group that could top The Scattertones in competition last year was… The SoCal VoCals, who entered Finals through the backdoor and became the first Wild Card group to win it all. With The ScatterTones’ top LA rivals not competing this year, after finishing first among college groups at the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival scholastic competition this February, and winning their ICCA quarterfinal, The ScatterTones are making a serious claim to being the most dangerous group in the tournament right now.
3. The Florida State University AcaBelles The AcaBelles and their hard-hitting, seamless sets have become a veritable institution in the ICCA South, and a perennial threat for Finals. The group aims for its third Finals berth in six years, after narrowly missing the cut last year. Could this mark the first time since 2007 that an all-female group wins the whole tournament? This is not a group to sleep on.
4. University of Oregon Divisi Speaking of all-female powerhouses, how about (arguably) the original one of the modern era in ICCA? Not to get overly sentimental about it, but how cool would it be for the group that indirectly inspired Pitch Perfect’s Bellas to win its first ICCA championship in the same year their fictional counterparts brought a cappella to the silver screen? Stranger things have happened. After winning their quarterfinal, Divisi may have just enough momentum on their side to carry them all the way back to New York this April.
5. Emory University Dooley Noted Dooley Noted edged out The AcaBelles at the Clemson University quarterfinal this year in a set rich with complex arrangements and killer soloists. A new force may be rising in the ICCA South.