The emcee barely breathed “Brig—” and the audience in New York’s Lincoln Center erupted. No less enthusiastic were the nine blue-clad guys, standing—now celebrating—onstage at the 2006 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).
For years BYU’s Vocal Point has been known as the a cappella group to beat in the Mountain West, but this was their first trip to the ICCA finals. And nobody came close. With a song set that included the THX and 20th Century Fox sound promos, the Spiderman theme, “He Is Born” (a gospel ballad), and “Sing, Sing, Sing,” Vocal Point swept the championship by a margin of 60 points. The group was ranked first by four out of five judges.
“We all just started jumping up and down, screaming, and making this huge mosh pit on the stage,” recalls Jordan D. Keith (BA ’06), a Vocal Point member.
“The ICCA is the most prestigious competition for collegiate a cappella groups,” says James L. Stevens (BA ’03), director of Vocal Point and part-time faculty at BYU. “It was a great competition with a lot of really talented groups.”
“A lot” means more than 150 groups from around the world. Vocal Point made the finals twice before but chose not to compete because both times it was scheduled for Sunday. They were ready for this year’s Saturday competition.
“When we went out there we just brought it,” says Keith. “We had a standing ovation by the end of our first song.”
Vocal Point’s journey to international acclaim began 15 years ago with J. Bob Ahlander (BA ’94) and David J. Boyce (BA ’93). Wanting to found a contemporary a cappella group with more than four people—an idea new to BYU and much of the West—Ahlander and Boyce advertised with handwritten flyers and sample cassette tapes (it was 1991, remember?). In a near-tragedy the group was almost named If Rocks Could Sing.
The grassroots student group was adopted by the School of Music in 1994, and its popularity has continued to grow. Vocal Point has released five CDs and performs an average of two concerts each week.
But the group has maintained its original mission to further BYU and the Church. Two weeks before the ICCA semifinals, Stevens realized the last two songs weren’t “wowy-zowy.” As the group discussed replacing “He Is Born” with a snappier number, a Vocal Point alumnus pointed out the group’s responsibility to testify of Christ. Members unanimously decided to keep the set, creating instead new choreography for the last two pieces.
“He Is Born” won both best solo and best arrangement at the semifinals, allowing the group to go to New York.
“We needed that experience to help us understand what we’re about,” Stevens says. “We have something special to take to the world, and it would have been a shame if we didn’t share that.”