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UNC a cappella groups sweep quarterfinal competition, head to the Southeast semifinals

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Two co-ed UNC a cappella groups, The Tarpeggios and Tar Heel Voices, placed first and second, respectively, at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella South Region quarterfinals on Feb. 1. Photo courtesy of Lauren Gornto.

Two UNC a cappella groups swept a major competition’s awards and are headed to the semifinals. 

The co-ed groups, The Tarpeggios and Tar Heel Voices, placed first and second, respectively, at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella South Region quarterfinal on Feb. 1. 

The competition was held at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Tar Heel Voices music arranger and soloist Faith Jones said that only the top two performers at the quarterfinals are advancing to the semifinals. 

The Tarpeggios and Tar Heel Voices’ big wins at the competition were a long time coming. Each group put in hours of strenuous work in the months preceding the ICCA quarterfinals. 

Lauren Gornto, music director of Tar Heel Voices, said she doubles as an ICCA coordinator for competition preparation. 

“I’m in charge of scheduling the agenda for each day and making sure that we have an overall good sound, a clean blend and really polished music,” Gornto said. 

Gornto said she and a few other members selected the four-song set for the ICCA quarterfinals back in October. They arranged the music in November and December. 

Gornto also asked the Tar Heel Voices ensemble to learn the music over the holiday break. She said the group learned this lesson from past years where they felt crunched for time leading up to the competition. 

“That way we could spend any time we did have together, which is precious as a group, just cleaning that music and polishing and learning choreography,” Gornto said.

Gayathri Raghavendra, president of The Tarpeggios, said their group practiced an average of 16 hours per week in the month of January. She said the group had only three days off before the competition, and the rehearsals were anywhere from two to six hours daily. 

“It really helped refine the process, and everyone was very committed to putting in all the work,” Raghavendra said. 

Both groups were awarded with special awards at the competition. Tar Heel Voices won best choreography and best soloist awards, and The Tarpeggios won best vocal percussion and best arrangement for their set. 

UNC junior and Tar Heel Voices member, Nicholas Batman, said winning the choreography award alongside fellow member Sarah Beck was a pleasant surprise.

“I actually have no dancing experience at all,” Batman said. “I just like to watch a cappella videos and other sets, so I was chosen to be on the committee that decides (choreography) because I thought I could be good at it.”

Batman said this was his third time participating in the competition with Tar Heel Voices. 

“For the past few years it’s been met with disappointment, but it’s really been a journey and the group has changed so much,” Batman said. 

Raghavendra echoed Batman’s sentiment, saying that The Tarpeggios’ advancement to the semifinals felt like their hard work has paid off in a rewarding way. 

“It feels like this finally, it’s not necessarily a climax, but people are noticing that we’re putting in the work and realize this is something we really all care about,” Raghavendra said.

Both groups accredited their high performance this year to group cohesion and synergy. Jones said performing an authentic music set that is true to Tar Heel Voices’ group closeness was a key factor in their success at the ICCA quarterfinals.

“This is the best iteration of this group that I’ve ever been in,” Batman said, “and it feels like a genuine family where I can trust everybody in the group to be there for me on stage.” 

The semifinal competition will be held in Durham on March 7. Other competing teams will come from states around the Southeast. Jones said the ability to stay close to home and have friends and family in attendance will be encouraging. 

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Raghavendra said The Tarpeggios and Tar Heel Voices have a strong relationship, and many of the groups’ members are friends. She said their camaraderie will make the competition fun and exciting.

The groups have shared social events, and Raghavendra said members of both groups will sit together in the dining hall and library when they see each other.

“We are so happy that THV is coming along with us on this crazy ride,” Raghavendra said. 

Tar Heel Voices and The Tarpeggios both said they are eager to get extra practice time during February to refine their sets before the semifinals. 

Abby McNaughton, assistant music director and treasurer of the Tarpeggios, said she’s looking forward to seeing the other competing groups sing. She said that performing one cohesive 12-minute set is difficult, and she is looking forward to see what other groups bring to the stage.

Raghavendra said the Tarpeggios are keeping their set as is from the quarterfinals, and they only plan to make minor tweaks. However, Gornto said Tar Heel Voices may change the first song of their set to something that even more closely matches the group's personalities. 

Additionally, Tar Heel Voices and the Tarpeggios are excited to support one another at the competition. 

“I wasn’t aware of how interconnected the UNC a cappella groups are a year or two ago, but now we’re all really close friends,” Raghavendra said.