It’s been ‘an unbelievable year’ for WA Cappella

WA Cappella, Western Alamance High School's a cappella group, has had an incredible year. / Photo submitted

Commentary by Eric Long
Special to the Times-News

   For Western Alamance High School’s WA Cappella, performing for unknown faces has become somewhat normal. During the past two years, WA Cappella has had the opportunity to perform in Dayton, Ohio, La Plata, Md., and most recently, New York City. Performing in unfamiliar places in front of unfamiliar faces may sound terrifying to some, but we take comfort in the fact that we always leave our performances with more fans than when we started.
The reason behind all of WA Cappella’s recent travels is our involvement in the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA). When I first joined WA Cappella three years ago as a freshman, we were a laidback, nonchalant group of singers. We performed in a few different venues throughout Burlington, but our biggest performance was at the Western Alamance homecoming show. We never dreamed that one day the group would be in the national spotlight.
   Last year was WA Cappella’s first year auditioning for ICHSA. Our director, Sean Lucier, competed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella with his college group, the UNCG Spartones. However, none of us students knew what the competition was all about. In hindsight, we had no idea what we were getting into. That year we traveled to Dayton to compete in the Ohio Valley semifinal round. We placed fifth in our region, and our senior, Blake Brown, won the Ohio Valley best soloist award. Also, Aaron Rodriquez won an award for the best arrangement. We were thrilled with our debut in the competition world of a cappella, and we were excited to make a return this year. At the end of the year, we were ranked 40th in the nation.
This year, we were determined to improve in our return to ICHSA. As soon as the school year started, we began rehearsing and perfecting our set. With only 10 minutes to show the judges what we could do, we felt an immense amount of pressure to have the perfect set. On March 6, WA Cappella set out for La Plata to compete in the Mid-Atlantic semifinal round. The pressure was high, as two groups in the region held high rankings. Vocal Forte, ranked 21st in the nation had gone to ICHSA finals in 2010. Also in the Mid-Atlantic region were the reigning Northeast champions, Unplugged. Not only were they ranked 7th in the nation, but the semi-final was being held at their high school.
On the night of March 7, WA Cappella took the stage as the final performance of the night. When it was all said and done, we took home first place, along with Katie Utley winning the best soloist award for our region. We were in awe at the amazing improvement we had shown in only one year. And the dream was only beginning.
Throughout the next month, WA Cappella rushed to raise enough money to travel to ICHSA finals on Broadway. All the while, we were also busy perfecting our set in preparation for the biggest performance of our lives.
On April 16, WA Cappella packed our bags and set out for New York. Our dream of performing on the biggest stage in high school a cappella was finally becoming a reality. We had spent ridiculous amounts of time together in the past few months, and we were feeling a lot of pressure to represent our school, county and state. Needless to say, tensions were high. But as soon as we stepped on stage, all of that went away. Singing is a thrill in and of itself, but being on stage, the spotlight changes everything. We performed with incredible energy from start to finish and left all that we had on the stage. It was a rush, and a feeling that I’ll never forget.
To be one of the best in the nation at something we love so much, it’s something that most people don’t get to experience in their entire life. We didn’t win at finals or place in the top three. But we’re proud of our group, our family, rather, for going from a local group to the national spotlight. One of our members, Lauren Gornto, said it perfectly.
“The best thing about ICHSA is that, win or lose, WA Cappella gets closer and closer every time. (I) Wouldn’t trade the family for anything else.”
WA Cappella has had an amazing year, and we have high hopes for the future. Next year, we hope to return to ICHSA finals to take a shot at placing in the top three. Additionally, we plan to release our first album in the fall of 2015, so keep an eye out for that. Most of all we plan to keep doing what we love, and that’s singing together as a family — on stage is where we all love and are meant to be.
Thank you to everyone who has helped to make our dreams come true. This year has been unbelievable for us.

 You can watch their performance at “WA Cappella-ICHSA Finals 2015″ on YouTube.

Eric Long is a junior at Western Alamance High School and president of WA Cappella.


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