Photography by Jason Hunter
The Potsdam Pitches just returned from a life-changing experience, when they performed on stage at the Beacon Theatre in New York City during the 2018 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Finals. After taking first place in the ICCA Semifinals in Buffalo, they became the first a cappella group in SUNY Potsdam’s history to advance to the finals to compete against other vocalists from around the world!
11 Questions for The Potsdam Pitches:
What appeals to you about singing a cappella?
Brandon Burgess ’18, President, tenor, music performance graduate student
“Personally, a cappella is my only outlet for singing. As a clarinet performance major, I don’t have much opportunity to sing through my studies. I’ve loved singing since a young age and expressing that through a cappella music is so rewarding. Being able to sing tight-knit harmonies, improving my vocal percussion throughout my years in the group, getting a few solos, recording CDs, going on tours (and of course to ICCA) and meeting so many people has made my time in Pitches memorable and exciting!”
Why did you choose to join The Potsdam Pitches?
Mike Worshoufsky ’19, Music Director, vocal percussion, music education major
“I joined the Potsdam Pitches in Spring 2016, and it has been one of the greatest decisions I have made in my entire life. I chose the Pitches because their sound was so unique, and every member of the group was so nice to everyone around them. The people who were in that group really inspired me to become a Pitch. Every day I am so thankful to be a Potsdam Pitch and to be able to call these goons my family!”
What was your reaction when you heard that you had won the ICCA Semifinals and that you were headed to NYC for the finals?
Shelby Gillespie ’18, soprano, music business major
“The entire semester I had been telling the group, if we actually make it to finals, I will be staying to perform with the Crane Opera Ensemble (which has a production the same weekend), no question. I knew deep down that if we did win Semis it would be a hard decision to make. But the second they said our name I jumped in the air and down to my knees. I got up, and half in tears, said to Brandon, ‘I have to quit the Opera.’ Nothing can compare to sharing the stage with my family, and as a graduating senior, I was not going to give up my last chance at this opportunity. The pride and love I feel for this family of mine is immeasurable compared to anything else I could have been doing finals weekend. I would not trade that moment for anything.”
Can you talk about your special recording for AcaVille Radio while you were in the city?
Ryan Blunt ’19, tenor, music education major
“Recording with AcaVille Radio the day of ICCA Finals was an incredible experience. Getting off of the subway and walking past the Beacon Theatre and going into the Beacon Hotel to record with AcaVille was such a surreal experience. The recording we made was incredible because we just got to focus on our sound, musicality and expression, which was a great way to begin our day at ICCA Finals!”
Who were you competing against in the ICCA Finals?
Holden Maiorana ’18, Arranger, baritone, music education major
“At the ICCA Finals, we were competing against the top 10 collegiate a cappella groups in the world! Each group at Finals placed first or second at their Quarterfinal, then first at their Semifinal, just like the Pitches did. One of the most surreal parts of our Finals experience was meeting some of our favorite a cappella groups, like SoCal VoCals and All Night Yahtzee, because we are legitimately fans of their work and we actually got to compete side by side with them!”
Can you talk about your warm-up routine for the performance?
Taylor Prosper ’18, Vice President, bass, music education major
Our warm-ups are where we really create and refine our sound. We spend much of the semester developing a sound and working around the colors that our set requires. Often, we include some physical warm-up where we get loose and limber for choreography. For the start of our vocal warm-ups, we work through our lower voices to really set that foundation. From there, we work our light, head voice/falsetto with an assortment of blend exercises. We then, starting with the bass voices, build our “wall of sound.” This is my personal favorite, because it really allows our full voices to be heard. It, by far, takes the most concentration to balance out the ensemble with this one. Finally, we work our articulators with a tongue twister song in a round. The aural capacity required to do these warm-ups takes so much concentration, as most of us are on our own parts in the set. It’s really remarkable what colors we can create when we’re on our A-game!”
What was it like to sing on stage at the Beacon theatre during the finals?
Tanner Wilson ’20, baritone, mathematics major
“It's incredibly humbling to perform on a stage that has seen such talent, while also so rewarding to know we've earned a spot on that stage with our countless hours of hard work.”
Can you describe how you dealt with your nerves while performing on such a big stage?
Brittany DeLuca ’20, soprano, music major
“When it comes to dealing with nerves we each have our individual ways of overcoming them. As for me, I was told some time ago by someone that I truly look up to that ‘nerves and excitement come from the same place in your brain, you have the ability to manipulate them how you choose.’ I’m not sure if that’s true, but t definitely left an impact on me. Whenever I get nervous, I try to focus on getting excited rather than scared. It definitely took a lot of concentration at the Finals to put myself into that mindset but had nothing but excitement when we all walked onto the stage. We also have some rituals that we do backstage before gigs that help us to laugh and calm down a bit, but they’re pretty top secret!”
You are the first a cappella group in SUNY Potsdam’s history to ever advance to the ICCA Finals. How does that make you feel?
Kristen Grajek ’20, Treasurer, alto, music education major
“We feel so incredibly honored to be the first group on campus that has made it to Finals! It’s still so surreal to think about that weekend and all of the amazing memories we made. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the constant love and support of the other groups on campus.”
When your friends ask you about performing at the ICCA Finals, what do you tell them?
Michaela Valentino ’19, soprano, community health major
“It was absolutely incredible. Every single group who performed was amazing. It was an honor just to be there with so many beautiful and talented individuals sharing our passion for a capella.”
Can you describe the bond that you have formed with the Potsdam Pitches this semester?
Molly Magee ’21, Events Manager, alto, early childhood/childhood education major
“Throughout this semester, Pitches has truly been a family. We were all working towards the same goal and we had so much love and support for each other. Before any of our ICCA performances we would always say, ‘No matter what happens, I love you all.’ Now that competition is over and we have a lot of graduating members, I think that still stands true. No matter what happens in any of our lives, we love each other.”