New Chords on the Block and Section 8 are working toward perfecting their ICCA performances. 

The Athens a cappella scene is making its way to St. Louis, Missouri.

The coed group New Chords on the Block and the all-male group associated with the School of Music, Section 8, are performing at the quarterfinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella on Feb. 20.  Ten a cappella groups will perform at the event, which has been described as the "real life Pitch Perfect," according to the ICCAs website.

“It’s interesting to me that on this campus, a cappella groups haven’t been going until New Chords did it last year,” Grant Johnson, a member of Section 8, said. “We’ve had a cappella groups on campus for 25 years now, … but it wasn’t in the culture.”

New Chords on the Block traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan last year for the competition but did not place high enough to move on to the semi-finals, according to Teddy Thieken, a member of the coed group. He added that this year, the group began working on its ICCA set sooner.

“I think we’re a lot more prepared right now than we were at this time last year because (last year) we just moseyed on in and said ‘Let’s, uh, do some choreography, get in a circle and snap our fingers and stuff,’ ” Thieken, a senior studying middle childhood education, said. “Now, it’s a lot more focused, and we really know what to focus on this year.”

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Kelly Schlabach, a senior studying social work and a member of New Chords on the Block, said the group is nearly done learning the music and is looking at the big picture as the group ties in choreography.

Schlabach, who has a minor in dance, used her class experience to find inner themes within each song and create choreography reflecting the songs.

“One of them is exploring human relationships and the other one is looking at dolls and also exploring the difference between sharp and really loose, like tensions and not tension,” she said.

Prior to the group’s first ICCA visit, members moved around on stage and did movement on a smaller scale, but Thieken said now, there is more of a focus on filling up the entire stage and doing choreography.

With the competition getting closer, Thieken said there can be some nerves during rehearsal, but it reminds the members to take a step back and think about why they are singing.

“We stop and say, ‘We’re doing this because we enjoy it. We love what we’re doing, so we don’t need to get worked up about it. Whatever happens up on stage is going to happen, but the main purpose of this is so we can have fun and do what we love,’ ” he said.

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Johnson, a senior studying vocal music and audio production recording industry, said Section 8 is in the process of picking out songs and learning them for the competition.

Cody Pomeroy, a freshman studying integrated media and a member of the group, said it will be good for the group to see a cappella off-campus and perform in a new place. He added that although the group has to consider what the judges will be looking for, it’s also important to put on an entertaining concert.

“You want to look like you’re loving what you do rather than that you just prepared this for two months and are trying to get it right,” he said.

Schlabach said New Chords on the Block is looking to place in the top five this year, and if not, at least make an impact and gain exposure in St. Louis. 

“Every time it’s just a learning process, and we’re only going to get better and better at the process,” she said. “Then, hopefully, if it’s not top five this year, it will be in the years to come, and we’ll just learn from it and have a lot of fun while we do it.”