Baylor’s Bel Canto: Baylor’s VirtuOSO takes to center stage to show their pitch is perfect

Skye Duncan | Lariat Photographer

Skye Duncan | Lariat Photographer
Skye Duncan | Lariat Photographer
By Madi Miller

Baylor has its own version of the Barden Bellas from “Pitch Perfect” called VirtuOSO.

Like “Pitch Perfect,” VirtuOSO competes in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. This competition has been around since 1996 and continues to host an a cappella competition each year. When groups apply for a spot in the competition they submit videos to the program in November and then, if selected, compete in February in Springfield, Mo.

Each group has 12 minutes to perform three contrasting songs arranged together. They are then judged based on multiple categories separated into three sections: vocal performance, visual performance and subjective rank.

“VirtuOSO competes in the Midwest region,” Moore said. “Once you advance past that you go to the semifinals, and then you go to the finals, which are in New York at Lincoln Center, like ‘Pitch Perfect.’”

VirtuOSO began three years ago with a few students led by San Antonio senior John Brooks trying to rally others to join an a cappella group on campus. Though it was not as fruitful as hoped, the founders took the idea to the School of Music and it blossomed into a group of 14 members.

The group is similar to one seen on “The Sing Off” or “Pitch Perfect,” said Wills Point senior Caleb Moore.

“VirtuOSO is a contemporary pop a cappella group that covers all genres of music, so we are not just stuck to pop music,” Moore said. “We try to touch everything.”

Choosing and arranging the songs is usually a group effort. It depends on the drumbeats and the vocal percussionists’ ability to recreate the sound, but when they create the sound, the harmonies fill the room.

“I think a lot of us just throw out suggestions all the time,” said Flower Mound sophomore Addison Pattillo. “There’s potential in every song to be a cool arrangement. You just have to find the right ones for the group.”

The name VirtuOSO comes from the musical term virtuoso, which means a person who is very skilled in music.

“They really picked it because it had the word ‘oso’ in it,” Moore said.

Singing is not the only thing that the group practices during its rehearsal time. The performances also include choreography by Colorado Springs, Colo., junior Megan Becker.

“I am a dancer so really it is just in my mind,” Becker said. “I set aside a couple of hours and just do it.”

She keeps a large parchment paper spiral where she creates her choreography formations and writes down moves to beats of the music.

VirtuOSO will go on a tour to high schools on its way to San Antonio this month, where a teacher that is involved with the competition is going to help the group with its performance.

VirtuOSO members put in hours of rehearsal each week, which counts as part of their required ensemble course credits.

“We start off with a jam,” Moore said. “Our arranger gives us a baseline then tells the percussionist to add something to it.”

The vocal percussionists are an equal part of the group that competes. They give them the beat of the music to work with.

“A lot of a cappella music is blend more than anything,” Becker said. “It’s taking really great individual solo singers and making them a part of a band, making them like instruments.”

After warming up, the group sits down and irons out what songs they are going to rehearse for the day.

“It takes a lot more than just humming a tune and then creating some awesome arrangement,” Becker said. “It usually takes a couple people really digesting a song and then giving it to the group for them to learn.”

While the group is busy preparing for the competition, they are still performing on campus. The group showcases its talents at different places every Friday afternoon, and Moore said his favorite part of performing on campus is seeing reactions from people who don’t even know it exists.

“I think my favorite part is when we finally get a song and run though it for the first time and it is perfect,” Pattillo said. “It’s a cool feeling.”