Binghamton University a cappella and community service group, Note to Self, punched their ticket to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semifinals for the first time in the group’s history.
Using the song “Ribs” by Lorde, Note to Self, one of the 10 a cappella groups on campus, has advanced in the virtual ICCA competition. This is the first time the group has advanced this far in the two years they have been competing in the ICCA competition. The semifinal livestream was held on April 9, where a newly revised and edited version of their original rendition of “Ribs” was presented for competition. On top of their musical success, the group participates in community service both on and off campus.
Liam Coen, Note to Self’s media manager, a cappella council president and a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, said he was proud to advance in the competition, but the road to success has not always been an easy path for the group.
“I’m just immensely proud of this group,” Coen said. “Four years ago, we rebranded to the community service a cappella group, essentially starting as a new group when I joined in fall 2017. We had barely enough to pay for Binghamton Sound, Staging and Lighting (BSSL) to do the sound for our semester show. Each semester since then, our musical performance has improved rapidly due to the hard work of each person in the group. I never imagined winning any personal or group awards as we did in the quarterfinal, but that’s just the cherry on top of the unforgettable experience of being in Note to Self.”
This year’s competition was held completely virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this new performance format, challenges arose for the a cappella group who were used to performing together. Instead of singing live on stage, groups were tasked with creating a four-minute video, encouraged to be as creative as possible. Rebecca Colao, Note to Self’s community service coordinator and a senior double-majoring in French and art and design, spoke of the difficulties of performing in the virtual realm.
“Logistically, it was challenging to coordinate the recording of our video,” Colao said. “We ended up recording and filming with a small group during winter break so that we could each quarantine for 10 days and get tested twice before meeting in Binghamton to work. We took about a week and a half to record our audio and film each shot.”
Although the lack of in-person rehearsals stopped Note to Self from singing alongside their fellow members, Jillian Morley, music director of Note to Self and a senior double-majoring in sociology and anthropological perspectives, said the group’s process was “entirely different” this year and that new opportunities were now available to the group due to the restrictions on physical distancing.
“We also were able to arrange with a different end result in mind, as we wrote our arrangement to be recorded line by line into a microphone rather than performed live as usual,” Morley said. “This actually expanded what we were able to write into the arrangement in some ways, as we could include recording techniques that we could never do in a live performance. It allowed us to experiment and play around with new ideas too.”
With less rehearsal time, Note to Self was able to shift their focus to their other mission of community service. According to Morley, members participated in park cleanups in their respective hometowns and hosted a virtual fundraiser for local food insecurity. Now with their success in the ICCA competition, the group is hoping to raise awareness for their new fundraising and community service campaign.
Through their new publicity, Note to Self is promoting a fundraising campaign for End Rape On Campus (EROC), an organization dedicated to connecting survivors and preventing sexual assault on campuses, in honor of sexual assault awareness month. Morley, who pitched the idea, said that the group voted “almost unanimously” in support of choosing EROC as the organization to fundraise for as it pertains to the campus community and their musical work.
“When we decided that the video was going to mainly focus on all of the positive things that college students are missing out on during the pandemic, I thought it would also be important to acknowledge that for many students, ‘the full college experience’ has been one that is marked by the trauma of sexual assault,” Morley wrote. “For many students, the decision to come to, or stay in, college is one that requires accepting that this decision means increasing their chances of being sexually assaulted, and that should never be a barrier to education.”
Note to Self did not advance to the finals but are currently accepting donations for their fundraiser. Donations to EROC are being accepted here [insert link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ntseroc] and will be accepted until Note to Self hosts an advocacy event with EROC in early May — the date is yet to be determined. To watch Note to Self’s competition videos, visit their YouTube channel here.