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By Rose Gause
Frostburg State University Belle Tones had the chance to compete in the semifinals at the International Championship Collegiate of A Cappella (ICCA) on February 25 in Baltimore, Maryland. ICCA serves as a competition that hundreds of a groups from across the state audition to compete in each year.
Belle Tones is the only all women’s a group on campus. The group considers themselves a family and is focused on uplifting one another while helping each other reach their full potential in music and dance.
This was the first year the Belle Tones competed in ICCA. This competition is a significant event for any a group, but being chosen to compete was a great achievement especially for the Belle Tones considering the group started just two years ago. Senior Danielle Smith, director and founder of Belle Tones, started the a group her sophomore year after Geoffrey Westbrook, director of Zen Harmonics, expressed the idea of a women’s a group to her. The fairly new group on campus has auditions around the second week of every fall semester and individual auditions in the spring.
As director of Belle Tones, Smith says, "It’s a unique challenge because I’m very close with all these girls…. I trust them to trust me. It’s a fine line between director and friend... I set high standards and they hold me to them. I’m the director, but I’m also a member of the group… It’s really fun because I have experience working with my friends, it’s not just hanging out we are working together to create something awesome.”
At ICCA the group performed the songs “Time Machine,” “Say Something,” and “Chandelier.” This year they had the chance to incorporate different cultures into their dances thanks to their new freshman choreographer . is familiar and experienced in ballet, classical Indian, Jazz, African, and Bollywood dance.
As a freshman has already been pulled out of her comfort zone to try something new she says, “I want to thank Danielle because I have never done choreography before, but she saw it in me to choreograph when I didn’t even see it in myself.”
Although the group did not place in finals at ICCA Smith says, “the goal was for us to go and do our absolute best and we definitely did.”
Performing at ICCA was about more than just singing, it was also about empowering women.
Assistant director of Belle Tones Jacqueline Wiley says, “I think there were over eight-hundred people in the audience so getting up and doing what we been doing for months, but this time, in front of that many people, was super nerve racking, but really exciting and very empowering.”
Smith says, “It is a very intense experience… We were the first group to perform and the feeling we got when we strut out on stage for our first song which was a very girl power rock anthem, felt like, 'Yes we are representing women!' ”
The Belle Tones had prepared all school year to compete in ICCA. They began practicing for the competition in the first semester of school and were required to learn their parts of the songs over winter break. The group came back a week early from winter break and had what they call A Cappella Boot Camp for five days straight. A Cappella Boot Camp would start at 10 a.m. with cardio and continue on until 9 p.m. with minimal breaks. Typical rehearsals are two days/week for two hours/day if there are no upcoming performances.
As a women’s a cappella group, the Belle Tones are not trying to live up to anyone’s stereotypical expectations, Wiley says, "there is sort of a stereotype that women’s a is all cutesy and doesn’t really get intense like the men’s group or the co-ed groups and we are just trying totally trying to break that stereotype everywhere we can.”
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