On the Rox A Cappella: A Glimpse into ICCA

On the Rox A Cappella, Central Michigan University’s all-female a cappella group has been rehearsing for upwards of nine hours per week for the last month to prepare for the International Collegiate Championship of A Cappella, better known as ICCA.

This year, On the Rox competed at the quarter final in Grand Ledge on Feb. 9 alongside Fish n’ Chips, CMU’s all-male a cappella group, the Acafellas and State of Fifths from Michigan State University, and five other groups from Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Oakland University.

I know what you’re thinking; a real life “Pitch Perfect!” As a member of the group, I can tell you that we don’t do mandatory cardio, but we definitely get a workout in.

Every a cappella group that competes in ICCA around the globe has to put together a 12 minute, cohesive set of songs with choreography set to it. In On the Rox, we have a choreography committee who spends countless hours thinking up formations, gestures and storylines to make sure everyone in the group looks good. In rehearsals, our president, Coryn, takes the lead on teaching the choreography.

Last Sunday, On the Rox held an ICCA showcase on campus alongside Fish ‘n Chips. It was open to the public, and audience members, especially members of both respective a cappella groups, were encouraged to give feedback on how to take the sets to the next level.

“The showcase was such a great chance to create a space for people of different skills levels, be it performers or kind of non-experts, to safely give feedback; our sets were worlds better afterwards,” said Fish n’ Chips tenor Elijah Stinson.

ICCA is by far the biggest competition/gig the a cappella groups at CMU participate in all year, and a showcase is only one of the important stepping stones for becoming ICCA-ready.

Making sure everyone is on the same page with the emotional arc of the set, and within the individual songs, is vital to ensuring the group looks cohesive and powerful. This can often mean tedious work in rehearsals and a seemingly long process.

“Rehearsals are vigorous, and the nerves are definitely there. But once we walk into the venue, have our soundcheck and go onstage, all of that is washed away and replaced with a feeling you can’t get anywhere else. That’s what keeps me going when it gets hard,” said On the Rox alto Lauren Hendrick.

At our quarter final this year, On the Rox performed a set that included a mashup of “Girl Power” by the Cheetah Girls and “Confident” by Demi Lovato, “Shake it Out” by Florence + The Machine, and “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera. Each song had a different soloist, and the arrangement of “Shake it Out” was performed as a duet.

Thankfully, the set was very well-received, especially by other groups. Fish n’ Chips bass Jordan Lagestee said watching his sister a cappella group was an honor. 

"The girls killed it out there. Their set just oozed female empowerment; there was no ignoring how powerful they are,” said Lagestee. 

I think I can speak for the group as a whole when I say that competing at ICCA is a privilege. Those 12 minutes onstage really are worth hours and hours of hard work. The 15 members of On the Rox gave the best performance of their life.  Allison Taylor, soprano and vice president of On the Rox, said, “When we did our final bow and left the stage, we had nothing left, and that’s what I’m most proud about.”

Weren’t able to attend the quarterfinal  in Grand Ledge? No sweat! On the Rox will perform its ICCA set again at its spring concert. An official date is TBD, but follow On the Rox on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay updated!