ICCA Finalist: The University of Delaware Vocal Point

With the ICCA Finals right around the corner, I thought I would spend the next posts as profiles for each of the 8 finalists. Therefore, I’m going to begin in as close to chronological order as the announcements. Therefore, up first is the group from the south region, The University of Delaware Vocal Point.

Now, I’m sure somebody’s asking the same question: Why is a group from Delaware competing in the south region? Good question. To be honest, I have no idea, but Delaware seems to bounce around a lot. Generally, the south region goes as far as North Carolina, but there are so many groups coming from some regions that they need to bleed over into another. Since schools like the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware are the schools furthest away from the center of the next closest region, the heavily packed Mid-Atlantic region (which usually covers most of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, which have an almost unnatural number of competing groups between those states), they are forced to travel a rather long way to compete, while still allowing Varsity Vocals to have as many competing groups as possible. What does this mean? It simply means that they don’t have to travel nearly as far to get to finals as they did to get to semi-finals.

Now, on to the group. Vocal Point has been slowly building over the past few years. The general group trend began in about 2012, where they first made their mark by taking third in a quarterfinal competition. Fast forward a year, and they won a quarterfinal and were competitive at the semifinal level, although they didn’t place. Fast forward another year, and they are itching to go to finals for the first time.

However, Vocal Point has been somewhat the secondary group at the University of Delaware. In 2012, while Vocal Point was just beginning to get a bit of recognition outside of Delaware, another co-ed group, the Deltones, was competing as contestants on the NBC television show “The Sing-Off”. However, as the nature of collegiate a cappella works, when one group does well, it forces the rest of the groups at that school to improve and match the other groups. This is why entire schools tend to have multiple good groups, rather than just one. Is that to say that the Deltones were better than Vocal Point? No. Did Vocal Point rise to the challenge that the Deltones issued? Absolutely. Check out what Vocal Point sounds like today.

Group rivalries aside, let’s look at what Vocal Point has going for them:

1) Their director is phenomenal. I had to do some digging to make sure that he actually was the director and I wasn’t making a fool of myself, But Jon Smith is a fantastic music arranger and vocalist. The video at the top is his arrangement. He also sang the closer for their competition set (I don’t want to give any unfair “advantages” to any of the competitors, if knowing the other groups’ sets is an advantage). I did some further digging, and it turns out that he’s written a very large chunk of their current repertoire. While it all seems to have the same little stylistic flairs (there are a few chords he seems to favor slightly), his use of them is something I absolutely love. The sound is slightly edgy at points, which just makes the resolutions that much better. I really want to see some of the sheet music this group is currently performing, just to check out what he wrote on the paper.

2) Soloists galore! Remember how I said the director sang the solo for the closer? He kills it. However, the soloist for the opening song won the award at semifinals for outstanding soloist. Combine these facts with the knowledge that the ballad generally features one of the best soloists in the group as well, and that song won outstanding arrangement at quarterfinals, it means that Vocal Point is chock full of some very strong soloists. Don’t believe me? Pick a random video of theirs that’s recent, and listen to the soloist. They’re all fantastic.

3) They have a new CD coming out. While this is slightly a shameless plug for a group I don’t know (though I would always love to meet), this is also me stating that creating an album does wonders for a group’s sound. By forcing each group member to isolate themselves, they have to learn the music in a very in-depth manner, such that they can sing their part perfectly into a microphone. This forces each member to really think about their part, as well as how it applies. While it may be costly and time-consuming, it actually does help the group’s sound. Furthermore, one of the tracks from this album recently made Voices Only 2014, a compilation album that acts as a yearbook for some of the best in collegiate a cappella recordings. I know this album is going to be good, and I’ve only heard one song. It gets released April 27th, and I can’t wait to buy it.

4) The south region is a very competitive region. Simply making semifinals in the south is noteworthy, since many of the quarterfinals have had at least 3-4 very solid competitors. When you move to the semifinal level, it means that the winner made an extremely strong showing. The competitor(s) at finals often win superlative awards or win. Even further, the south has also had multiple groups win the wild card round. Meaning that even the second place group is still worthy of going to finals. Never look down upon the group from the south. They are never a group to mess with. Vocal Point is no exception.

5) That hair. There is a member with some absolutely glorious hair. I’m pretty sure everybody knows EXACTLY who I’m talking about. I’m fairly certain that the hair is a good luck charm. While this remains to be proven, I’m still considering it as one.

As finals edges closer, and every group is making their final preparations, Vocal Point is almost on double duty. Their album is being released on April 27th. In true a cappella fashion, they are having a release concert that day. However, finals are the 26th. They’re going to be working on a competition set, as well as an album concert. Personally, I’m looking forward to both. Best of luck to them, and I can’t wait to get my hands on an album.

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