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Penn State A Cappella Groups ‘Pitch Perfect’ In First-Ever Competition

The Penn State Performing Arts Council (PAC) held its first-ever a cappella competition on Tuesday, November 14, in Schwab Auditorium. 

In years past, the performing a cappella groups on campus spent all semester preparing for their “A Cappella Sampler,” but this year, the groups turned the event into a friendly competition. Each a cappella group performed two songs of their choice and were graded on tone, pitch, stage presence, and more.

The competition had three judges, Director of the School of Theatre and Artistic Director of Centre Stage Rick Lombardo, Audience and Program Development Director for the Centre for Performing Arts Amy Vashaw, and Homecoming Talent Relations Director Jeremy Bell.

The competition featured all nine a cappella groups on campus, including Shades of Blue, the Penn Harmonics, Fanaa, The Coda Conduct, Savoir Faire, The Statesmen, None of the Above, Blue in the Face, and the Singing Lions. Every group showed up and showed out, putting their all into their performances and enjoying every second.

The third place prize of $250 went to The Coda Conduct and the second place prize of $500 went to the Singing Lions. In the end, the first-place prize of $1000 was awarded to Shades of Blue.

Known for its TikTok virality and genuine friendship dynamic, Shades of Blue earned an excited eruption of applause after being announced the victor by Vice President of Production for the Performing Arts Council Maggie Fechtman.

Shades of Blue put on an electric performance of “Stayaway” by MUNA, with soloist Perry Drugan hitting every note with precision and emotion. Between synchronized head movements and seamless harmonies, the group’s energy washed over the crowd.

Their second song, a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” brought a lighthearted energy to the audience after its prior dramatic performance. Soloist Shayna Kaypour’s powerful vocals brought life and a feminine twist to the performance, only enhanced by the musical chops of the rest of the group. All this and more contributed to the group’s eventual first-place win.

The Singing Lions were also on their A-game, earning second place for their stellar performances of Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over” and Kesha’s “Praying.” The group replicated the intense ambiance of Eilish’s song, with full, dynamic harmonies and an effective grasp of the best sections of the song to highlight. For “Praying,” the group featured multiple talented soloists including tenor James Lai, who shocked the crowd by hitting Kesha’s famously high F6 note flawlessly.

The Coda Conduct opened the show with performances of “Greedy” by Ariana Grande and “I’m Not In Love” by Kelsey Lu. Emma McQuinn, the talented soloist for “Greedy,” was supported by the confident and cohesive vocals of her fellow musicians. The Coda Conduct, who had previously attended the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), displayed its knack for precision in its third-place-winning performance.

Each of the remaining six groups put on entertaining performances and exemplified the musical talent Penn State has to offer. Fanaa, Penn State’s premier co-ed South Asian fusion a cappella team combined Taylor Swift’s “Don’t Blame Me” with an ethereal rendition of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” a Hindi song. Penn State’s only all-female a cappella group, Savoir Faire, performed an ABBA mashup that emanated the essence of girlhood and 70s music.

Across the board, the first-ever Penn State A Cappella Competition was just like “Pitch Perfect,” if not better. More information about Penn State Performing Arts and future concerts can be found here.

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About the Author

Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is a senior majoring in English and an associate editor at Onward State. She loves making music, consuming the maximum daily amount of coffee recommended by the FDA, and overanalyzing Taylor Swift lyrics. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @meganedougherty and forward any (free) The Eras Tour tickets to her email, [email protected]

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