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A capella group UNC Walk-Ons advance in competition at Duke

Photo courtesy of David Holoman.

Photo courtesy of David Holoman.

Assistant music director Turner Davis led a series of stretches and exercises. Choreographer Kyle Conroy gave a short pump-up speech, and they ran through the show.

“We don’t really go into it with the mentality to win; we just go into it to do our best and impress the people coming there to support us,” Conroy said.

The next night, in front of a packed auditorium at Duke University, the group took second place, qualifying them to move on to the ICCA South regional semifinal next month at the University of Florida in Gainesville along with Grains of Time, a group from N.C. State.

“I never thought (this) was going to happen in a million years,” UNC senior and Walk-Ons business manager Madeline Hurley said. “We’re all pretty shocked.”

The group has been rehearsing for this competition all semester and sent in an audition tape in October. They competed in ICCA for the first time in 2014.

The Walk-Ons were the only group to compete from UNC and one of eight groups from North Carolina and Virginia universities. Hurley said when the group walked off the stage, they knew they had given it their all.

“It felt like the best performance we ever did as a group,” she said.

Music director and sophomore Claire Cooper said she felt the group channeled its nervous energy into good energy, allowing them to be calm once they got on stage.

The group of 17 sang “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons, a mashup of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “I Will Never Die” by Delta Rae.

Cooper said though the songs aren’t particularly well-known, the audience seemed to like them, cheering after a solo in “Sigh No More” and standing up in applause when the performance ended.

The Walk-Ons will perform these songs again March 21, competing against the top two groups from each of the South quarterfinals.

Unlike its usual performances at private events or charity functions, this one involved dancing and a score sheet.

“It’s so different than the way most a cappella is,” Conroy said. “We have to dance, and we’re not dancers, so it was a learning curve. So many times in the arts, it’s just performative, and you go out and do your best, but I like the competitive atmosphere.”

For Hurley — one of two seniors who has been with the Walk-Ons since freshman year — the win is especially sweet.

“Me and Sarah (Stewart) were talking about how amazing it’s been to go through four years with the group and see how it’s changed,” she said. “It’s so great to see how far we’ve come.”

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