Singers from UCF’s a cappella group Voicebox are hoping their Imagination catapults them to the first-of-its-kind virtual college championship beginning Sept. 21.
The group’s video of singer Labrinth’s Imagination will compete in the final 32-team head-to-head March Madness-style elimination contest, which started with 160 universities and colleges.
Their first matchup will be against FSU’s All Night Yahtzee singers. The winning video from that Sept. 21-24 round will then go up against the winning video of the other two teams in the southeast regional bracket, the University of Florida and University of Miami.
“We have competed against FSU in previous competitions and had the pleasure of taking home first place,” says Jensen Murray, executive director of the group and an exceptional student education major. “All Night Yahtzee are our close friends who we love very much, and we are thrilled to be in another competition with them.”
A combination of fan voting and celebrity judging will now determine how far each group goes in competition.
The competition was organized by UpStaged Entertainment Group and National Collegiate Performing Arts, and when the event starts will be hosted on UpstagedU.com, with teams competing for $10,000 in prize money. The sponsors say this is also the biggest a cappella competition held.
The teams still in the running were chosen for their videos’ musicality and performance by a panel of competition judges. A combination of fan voting and celebrity judging will now determine how far each group goes in competition. Fans will be able to see the videos and vote on the website.
Voicebox currently has 12 members and is one of six UCF a cappella groups.
“This group is a revolving door of incredibly talented musicians,” Murray says. “People come and go, as is the norm in college. We have been a group for seven years now and have a large number of amazing alumni.
She says that with the constant change, the group works hard to maintain its signature sound, which Murray describes as “nightmare pop.”
“Our songs range from electro to pop to experimental R&B, with just a little bit of Latin chanting thrown in,” Murray says. “We listen to old performances and have alumni come in to critique and give feedback to ensure we’re on the right track before a competition. Our amazing arranger [and music student Harrison Acosta] is the founder of our group, which helps keep our sound consistent through the years.”
In addition to Murray, the group is led by music director JM Ortiz, creative marketing director Halle Swygert and artistic director Beka Benton.
The competition also has a charity component, says Caitlin Eck, spokeswoman for UpStaged. Each group is competing not only for their own prize money but also for donations to a social justice charity of their choice.
Murray says Voicebox is competing for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention of LGBTQ+ youths.
Voicebox is more than just a collegiate a cappella group, she says, adding that the group has been a stepping stone for many members’ careers, helping them transform into the individual artists they aim to be.
“Every member in our group has such a passion for music individually, so when we are all together it truly is magic,” she says. “We are constantly trying to break the boundaries of how people view a cappella music and singing/performing in general. I can say from personal experience, Voicebox changes lives. It became my home, and did the same for so many others.”