WAVE took nine members and three of their best songs to the competition
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Wellsville Area Vocal Ensemble (WAVE) traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich. to compete in the International Championship of High School A cappella (ICHSA) at Skyline High School on Feb. 7.
ICHSA is an annual competition with regional quarter finals, semifinals, and a final competition in New York City. The top two groups move on to the semi-finals to compete for a spot in the finals. Groups are allowed up to 12 minutes of time and typically sing three songs. There aren’t many restrictions, but one rule is made clear: no instruments. All sounds have to be made from the group’s voices; a cappella. Armed with a pitch pipe and microphones, each group takes the stage in hopes to impress the judges and the audience full of a cappella fans.
With the smallest group in the competition, WAVE took nine members and three of their best songs to the competition Friday night. The group is comprised of Seniors Isaiah Scott, Robert Shuryn, Wyatt Hyer; Juniors Shailynn Childs, Lindsey Slocum, Kiersten Koval, Liz Murray; Sophomores Alex Perkins and Anita Germain-Tardieu and led by acting Director Josie Virkus.
The group opened up with Queen’s rock anthem, We Will Rock You. Following up with Robert Shuryn singing Colbie Caillat’s emotional narrative on the importance of accepting yourself, Try. To wrap up their 9 minute set, Shuryn led the group in an upbeat and fun version of On My Way Home by famed a cappella group, Pentatonix.
Groups are scored on vocal performance and visual performance, with a heavier weight on vocal performance. Although WAVE didn’t place, they put up a strong showing. The groups that ranked first and second traveled from Grand Rapids, Mich. and Ann Arbor, Mich., respectively.
"Performing in this venue is a big adrenaline rush, you are excited about getting outside of your comfort zone and pushing the limits of the group. Walking on stage can be nerve racking the first time you do it, but for me, at this point, it’s exciting. I like to sing for the larger crowd that is solely interested in a cappella music," senior Isaiah Scott said.
Senior Robert Shuryn echoed Scott’s sentiments, saying, "Competition is always exciting, but nerve racking because we are trying to win. In the end it was just fun because I was with people that I cared about. Just before we start the set it feels like you are falling from a tall building. You have that pit in your stomach and when you start singing you suddenly have the gift of flight."
"It’s a surreal feeling, all the effort culminating into that moment right before we start. Once the set starts, I can’t remember a single thing I did. I just trusted the process and the training and let the emotions run free," senior Wyatt Hyer added.
Alex Perkins, a sophomore, had a slightly different take on the experience being that it was his first time.
"I walked on stage with confidence, but I was really nervous inside, but I didn’t let it show. Leading up to the performance choreography was a challenge for me," he said. "In addition to learning the steps we had to also keep in mind what would score the most points."
Josie Virkus stepped in to take direction of the group just before Thanksgiving when Director Kelly Suzano went out on maternity leave.
"We typically rehearsed 4-5 times per week preparing choreography and music, ultimately working to get the two to gel. It was a challenge to step in for Suzano and try to continue what she had started. There is a pressure to live up to the successes of the past and put our best foot forward. The performance at ICHSA is a culmination of all their hard work and the struggles they have overcome as a group," Virkus said.
WAVE has been competing at ICHSA for seven years with a first place finish at regional quarter finals in 2016 at Guilderland High School in Guilderland, NY.
For the seniors this will be their last ICHSA and one of their final times singing with WAVE.
"I had a great time, it was amazing, finishing the culmination of your hard work is surreal. When I think back on the experience I think about the amazing friendships I have made with the members of the group," senior Wyatt Hyer said.
Senior Robert Shuryn added, "Walking off stage knowing that was my last time was a sense of relief, but also a realization that it’s over and that I won’t get a chance to compete with this group of people or with WAVE anymore. It’s a mix of emotions, it’s sad, but it’s happy too."
The experience with music and WAVE has certainly impacted Senior Isaiah Scott who plans to pursue music education or music production.
"All four years of WAVE have been a fun experience. It’s a lot of fun to see the new people experience the competition for the first time; it can be overwhelming at first, but once you get through the set you realize how much fun it was getting to this moment," Scott added.
WAVE performs at local venues in and around the Wellsville area.