By Heather Fiore
Many students already find it hard to juggle homework and extracurricular activities. Try being a member of Westminster Choir College’s renowned a cappella ensemble, Deaftones. Solely run by the group’s 14 members from a variety of majors and classes, Deaftones not only arranges its own music but also administers its own rehearsals as well, and has been an active pop a cappella group at Westminster for four years now.
With its recent win at the Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) at Rutgers University on March 6, Deaftones advanced to the semifinals but didn’t place.
The ICCA competition is put together by Varsity Vocals and takes place from January through April each year. There are six regions the competition takes place in: West, Midwest, South, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Europe. In order to qualify for the quarterfinals, each group has to submit a recording of three or four songs to the organization. Six to eight groups get to compete in each quarterfinal round, and the groups that place first and second proceed to the semifinals.
Jessi Franko, adviser to the Deaftones, makes sure to give ample credit to the group for its hard work and dedication.
“When you consider all of the other obligations and responsibilities that our students have, the fact that they can devote time and attention to an extracurricular activity like the Deaftones is really remarkable,” Franko said. “[The quarterfinals] is a huge win for the Deaftones.”
This is the third year that the Deaftones has competed in the ICCA competition. Senior Erina Pearlstein, the ensemble’s student director and a current member, is well versed on the Deaftones’ involvement with the competition, as well as the group as a whole.
“Groups are scored on blend, articulation, overall presentation, presence, vocal percussion, choreography and many other aspects,” Pearlstein said. “It really was a great group effort. Everybody deserved the win we got because we all worked together.”
Although Pearlstein doles out credit to each member of Deaftones for their recent success, she will be particularly sad to depart the group, as it is her last year at Westminster.
“I am the last remaining member of the group who has been in it since its inception, and it will be very bittersweet to leave the group after the many years I have been a part of it,” Pearlstein said. “A cappella is really just getting started on our campus, and I think the Deaftones and the original director, Patrick Dillon, are the people to thank for that.”
With 14 members, there’s always room for improvement, right? Considering the Deaftones’ track record, one wouldn’t think so; but Pearlstein and senior Billy Mattison, business manager of the Deaftones and another member, seem to have found an outlet for growth.
“It is evident that our preparation is backed by a great background of knowledge in music appreciation, technique and talent that has brought us to the height of the college a cappella world once again,” Mattison said. “This is heightened by the fact that our lives revolve around the musical world.”
Mattison and Pearlstein want to invite people to critique rehearsals and give the group advice on how to help a capella at Westminster.
“One of the biggest critiques from our judges were intonation issues, which could probably be fixed much easier if another musical ear was in the room evaluating our sound,” Mattison said.