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Sunday, April 14, 2024

A deep dive into Madison’s vibrant music a cappella group, Pitches & Notes

When “Pitch Perfect came out in 2012, the movie brought unprecedented attention to the real collegiate a cappella groups thriving across the nation, one of which is right here in Madison, Wis.

Pitches & Notes is the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s only competitive treble-voiced a cappella group, consisting of 17 members who all share the same love for singing and performing. What makes Pitches & Notes so special is their unique group of people whose commitment to the group is undeniable. 

“Pitches & Notes has been the most incredible experience. I joined the group last fall, simply thinking I wanted to join an a cappella group. But it’s so much more than that,” Sophie Jester, a sophomore and new member of Pitches & Note, said. “It’s my family.”

The biggest tournament the a cappella group performs in is Varsity Vocal’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). The first time Pitches & Notes participated in the ICCA competition was in 2015, making this their eighth year competing. In 2019, the group received second place at the Great Lakes Quarterfinal and advanced to compete at semifinals in Chicago. In 2020, they placed third at the 2020 Great Lakes Quarterfinal in Madison. 

ICCA took on a fully virtual format in 2021 due to COVID-19. As the pandemic continued into spring 2021, Pitches & Notes collaborated with Fundamentally Sound, UW-Madison’s competitive all-male a cappella group, to learn and record a song called “Creature.”

In a span of a few months, Pitches & Notes’ members were able to learn, record and mix an arrangement, all without being able to rehearse together in person. The group reflected on their experience of the ICCA Quarterfinals being online in 2021.

“This project kept us all connected throughout a challenging year, and we were so excited to share it,” the group announced on their website along with linked videos of their past performances. 

In February 2022, the quarterfinals took place in-person in Madison, and Pitches & Notes were one of the top two teams that were able to move onto the semifinals in Chicago. In March, Pitches & Notes won first place at the Great Lakes Semifinal in Chicago, meaning they are able to, for the first time, move onto the finals being held in New York this April. The final round will consist of nine competing teams from all over the U.S., Canada and the U.K. 

“We are beyond excited for NYC and are extremely appreciative of all of our friends, family and other supporters that are making it possible,” Jester said. “Our group is filled with talented, unique individuals that I feel so lucky to be around. Performing with them and achieving more than our dreams has made us closer and more motivated than ever.”

Winning the semifinals is an enormous deal for Pitches & Notes because this is the first time the group will advance to the final round of the ICCA. 

Pitches & Notes member and Social Media Coordinator Leah Terry spoke about how it felt after winning the semifinals. 

“The only word that I can really use to describe it is unreal,” Terry said. “We were already just so proud of ourselves to have made it to the semifinals for the second time in our group’s history…When they announced us as the winners, there were tears, laughter and just so much joy in that moment. It brought our group closer together. I'll never forget that feeling.”

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In order to be able to attend the finals in New York, Pitches & Notes had taken their own initiative to raise funds for the trip. Within the span of just four days after winning the semifinal, Pitches & Notes were able to raise the entire $12,000 they needed to send all members to New York. 

Their traveling to New York this April will mark a historic milestone, as this competition will be the first time that a UW group will attend the ICCA in person. 

“This is a historic moment for student-led music at UW-Madison and for local Madison musicians. Pitches & Notes is putting Madison’s vibrant music community on an international stage and is thrilled to compete at the highest level that competitive collegiate a cappella offers,” Terry said. 

When not participating in ICCA, Pitches & Notes performs at multiple venues around Madison and in other metropolitan areas in Wisconsin and Minnesota throughout the year. Members said they loved to be able to perform in some of their hometowns and are able to feel a deeper connection to Madison after having performed for their student body. 

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to make those connections in the Madison area. The a cappella community at Madison is a special group of people, consisting of eight groups,” Terry said. “We love being able to perform and get the word out about a cappella because it’s a fun thing to watch.”

Every member has dedicated themselves to being a part of Pitches & Notes and performing together. Terry commented about her experience in rehearsals before competitions and performances. 

“Even during 10 to 11 hour rehearsals, we think of it as something we get to do. Rehearsals never feel like a burden to us,” she told the Cardinal. “Being a part of Pitches & Notes is a large commitment, but we enjoy putting in the effort to create something special.” 

When asked about her favorite part of the group, Terry discussed the significance of Pitches & Notes being a student-led organization. 

“It’s so rewarding that we are the ones who create our show. We are the ones who put a set together, pick the music and put in the work to make our performance something special,” Terry said. “When it clicks the feeling is unparalleled to anything else; after we run the set all the way through and it just works, it's incredible.”  

Pitches & Notes has two Extended Plays (EPs), one studio album and two singles available to stream on both Spotify and Apple Music. Their most recent EP, From Embers, was released in October of 2020.

Visit their website to keep track of their progress, listen to their music and get to know the members of Pitches & Notes. 

This article was updated at 8:03 p.m. to reflect how Pitches & Notes is an RSO and not independent from the university. 

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