Carnegie Mellon University
April 26, 2016

Championship Pitch Sends CMU Team to World Finals

The Originals

The Originals will compete in the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella on April 30 in New York City.

After classes end and faculty head home, Carnegie Mellon University's Cohon University Center becomes a hub of student activity. Halls are filled with the sounds of racquet ball games, study groups and dinner conversations.

On one Tuesday in late April, robust music makes its way to the ears of a facilities employee who stops, listens and pokes his head into The Originals rehearsal to offer a big thumbs up.

The all-male a cappella group is practicing for the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), a first for a CMU a cappella organization. In 2015, the group finished fourth in the semifinals, which at the time was the farthest The Originals had advanced.

"My freshmen year was the first time we made it to semifinals in a long time, so that was already a huge moment for us," said Gene Hua, a senior industrial design major who along with Leo Galvan stages and choreographs the performances. "Finals was this dreamy, far-off, awesome landscape that was a complete pipe dream for us. It's insane to believe that now it's actually happening."

Hua and Galvan were recognized for outstanding choreography at the central regional semifinal this year. Ramsey Pack, a freshman drama student, was named the outstanding soloist for the competition.

The team, which won the central semifinal, will compete for the international title against nine other teams from the United States, Canada and Europe on April 30 in New York City. The championship will air on season two of "Sing it On" on Pop this fall.

CMU has a strong a cappella culture. Along with The Originals, other official groups include CMU Treblemakers, CMU Soundbytes, C# Singers, Counterpoint, Dewane, Joyful Noise and Saans. Recent performances include Hillary Clinton's CMU campaign stop, Spring Carnival and No Instruments Allowed, an annual campus showcase.

The groups' membership includes students from many disciplines. The Originals have members studying everything from business to engineering, industrial design to math, all who come together through their love of singing.

"As a senior, I'm freaking out internally because I have no idea how I'm going to get this kind of musical outlet after I graduate. In a creative growth mindset, this has been invaluable for me," Hua said.

To get to this year's finals, the group added rehearsal time to improve their vocal technique and emotional connection to the songs.

"We pushed ourselves in many ways: we increased the amount of time we rehearse, we brought in colleagues and experts to watch us and give us feedback, and we worked hard to make sure our performance was honest and truthful," Galvan said.

Erik Fredriksen, a senior in math and music technology, and Nitsan Shai, a senior in electrical and computer engineering, arranged the music for the group.

"Every member of the group is putting in the time. We're each putting in at least nine hours a week in rehearsal and on top of that rehearsing on our own, watching videos and reading feedback emails," Shai said.

The biggest feedback comes on April 30 when The Originals take the stage, hoping for a big thumbs up from the judges.