The Beartones have sung their way to New York City.
On April 21, The Beartones will compete against nine other vocal groups in the 2018 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Finals NYC’s the Beacon Theatre.
But it’s been a long journey and tough competition getting to this point, said Luke Thomas. Thomas, a first year graduate student studying communications, president of The Beartones and resident choreographer, has been with The Beartones for four years.
“(ICCA has) been my dream for a long time,” Thomas said. “Since I made (it into) the group, that’s been the thing we wanted to do … to make it to finals. It’s fulfilling that we put in all this work and its paid off. People are going o be able to learn about MSU … (and) I think it’s gonna be awesome being able to show that we can sing in the Midwest and we aren’t sitting here playing with a cow.”
The last time The Beartones made it this far in the ICCA competition was 2009, where they placed third overall in New York. Thomas said the group has put that 2009 group “on a pedestal,” striving to make it to New York again.
“It’s exciting to actually make it there,” Thomas said.
Thomas plans choreography for every Beartones performance. It’s something he says many don’t think about when a singing competition or performance arises, but it’s an important part of the performance, and can help the group collect points in finals.
He said his process is to listen to the planned music for each performance and create formations for the 15 all-male group members to move to while belting out various tunes.
Thomas shared the song lineup the group is rehearsing for the Beacon Theatre.
“At ICCA, you have 12 minutes, and you can sing what you want the whole time,” Thomas said. “We start with ‘The Sound of Awakening’ by Walk the Moon. After ‘The Sound of Awakening,’ we go into ‘I am the Man of Constant Sorrow’ — (with) our own twist on it. (Then we sing) ‘Sirens’ by Australian songwriter Ben Abraham. Our final song is ‘Birds Set Free’ by Sia.”
These songs, though choreographed by Thomas, were programmed by Gio Hernandez. Hernandez, a senior vocal music education major and Beartones music director, has been with the group two years. He explained the extent of groups the Beartones have beat out to get to this point.
According to ICCA’s website, presented by Varsity Vocals, “This year, there are over 6,000 performers in over 400 groups representing over 250 different colleges and universities across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.”
Hernandez explained the quarterfinal level comes first, with five quarterfinals per group — 50 groups per region. The group who reach first and second at quarterfinals move onto semifinals, with the top ten eventually moving onto finals in New York.
“So here in a couple weeks, we’ll be headed to New York to compete as a top 10 collegiate group,” Hernandez said.
“It’s definitely a really special feeling, and there are so many times I don’t feel deserving to be in my position,” he continued. “I think all the guys in the group are fantastic musicians and such good singers. I think just how special our guys are it wouldn’t matter. It’s definitely humbling to be here and to know that all of our hard work really means something.”
Briar Douglas, sophomore administrative management major, has been a Beartone member for a year. He said the group has worked hard to get to finals. And he doesn’t want the group to stop here. The next step after ICCA, he said, is to get even more involved with regional and state conferences to showcase talent from MSU.
“I feel like I could talk about The Beartones all day,” Douglas said. “I love this group of guys — it’s a super positive environment. I’m excited to go to New York with them. It’s gonna be one of those things you don’t ever forget about (in) your college career.”