Vocal Point hits a high note
Stepping on the stage at the 2015 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) competition semifinals, sophomore music director Natalie Cardillo tried to calm her nerves. Leading her fellow Vocal Point members in their three-song a cappella set, all while remembering the choreography and lyrics, was a task she faced many times at rehearsals. But this time, final rounds were within reach and the pressure was on.
“Leaving the stage, we felt really confident and really happy though,” Cardillo says. “It was a great crowd. So we were really happy with how it went and wouldn’t have changed anything about it.”
Vocal Point has competed in the ICCA’s since 2007 and placed third in the 2014 final round. Although they did not advance to finals this year, placing second in the semifinal wild-card round, second-year president and senior Matt Pisciotta says he is proud of their accomplishments.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter,” Pisciotta says. “Obviously you want to go to finals, but that’s not the end all be all. If I go out into the audience after our performance and at least one person comes up to me and says that was amazing, you really moved me—that’s all I need.”
While the group practices throughout the year for their biannual concerts as well as smaller off and on-campus gigs with other student organizations, their main focus from December through February is perfecting their three-song routine for the ICCA’s. The competition requires each group to perform their set in under 12 minutes utilizing musicality, choreography and professionalism throughout.
Wanting to move the audience with storylines and intensity, the group kicked off their performance with Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” sung by Colin Daingerfield. Pisciotta followed with a slower, raw version of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” while Julie Peacock ended with a more upbeat solo of “Break Free” by Ariana Grande.
“We all strive to have our arrangements be interesting and dynamic each year, and I think our new arrangements did a really good job of that,” Cardillo says.
Although many of the arrangements are from current Top 40 hits, Vocal Point originally performed ’80s cover songs. They have since transformed their music styles to reach the targeted college audience and include complex arrangements like that of “Stay With Me.”
Arranged by alumnus Jon Smith, “Stay With Me” was nominated for this year’s Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, a recognition Pisciotta referenced as the “Grammy’s of a cappella.”
Smith has also helped the group record their albums, including “Momentum” last April as well as their EP to be released at the end of this semester. The CD will feature eight of their songs that revolve around acceptance and self-love.
Pisciotta says that while the current members of Vocal Point are like family to each other, alumni like Smith play an integral role in their musical decisions as well as provide support at concerts and competitions.
Pisciotta also says over the past four years since his initial membership in 2011, the group has focused on increasing their level of professionalism at concerts as well as in rehearsals while maintaining a fun atmosphere. The group always strives to do better, practicing for three hours every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night.
“I remember my freshman year I never in a million years thought that we’d even come close what we do now,” senior and performance director Ashley Foster says. “Now we have people in professional a cappella groups when they graduate and collaborating with these people that are huge in the industry. It’s just incredible.”
As the spring semester enters its last leg and seniors prepare for graduation, Cardillo admits it will be sad to see her best friends and mentors like Pisciotta and Foster leave, but she is confident that the group will continue to thrive and perform to the best of their abilities.
“I really hope to see us reach out to other a cappella groups and do more collaborations and concerts,” Cardillo says of the future. “There’s so many other events besides the ICCA’s, competitions and workshops that we should do to broaden our horizons.”
For Pisciotta, he too wants the group to flourish and pursue their goals.
“And I just want to make sure that when we leave the group we’re leaving them the same positivity and dedication and hard work ethic that we’ve carried out the last four years and hope that they carry that on,” he says.
The group will close out this year with their spring concert on Saturday, May 16 at 7 p.m. in Pearson Hall, incorporating a “Coachella” theme through their music and attire.
“Everyone says you have to find your family away from home and Vocal Point has become that,” Pisciotta says. “It’s 15 of my best friends that no matter what I’m doing no matter what they’re doing, in the middle of the day, I know I can call them and they’ll be there to help me out.”