Big Bing Theory (BBT), Gonzaga University’s co-ed a cappella group, will compete March 5 in the West Quarterfinals of the International Collegiate A Cappella Championship (ICCA).
The group, made up of 16 students, will face nine other universities located in the western region of the United States. Among these universities are the University of Washington and Western Washington University.
This will be BBT’s first time at ICCAs since the competition was canceled in 2019 due to COVID-19. Natalie Marssdorf, Music Director of BBT and third year at GU, is thrilled to be able to perform again.
“[Advancing to the quarterfinal] is really exciting, especially after COVID because we couldn’t compete last year,” Marssdorf said.
Hailey Hughes, co-manager of BBT and senior at GU, echoes that sentiment and said there’s nothing more special than playing with this band. Hughes is also excited to make the quarter-finals, where she thinks the stakes are raised.
“It’s not that difficult to advance to the quarter-finals, [but] the quarter-final is like the start of real competition,” Hughes said.
Although the group reached the quarter-finals competition a few times before COVID-19, they are yet to go past the quarter-finals. Therefore, BBT’s goal for this year is to qualify for the semi-finals.
To advance, BBT must place in the top two groups of their region’s quarter-finals. Being able to go to the semi-finals would be a major achievement for the group, said Hughes.
“If we were to move on, I think I’d like to cry.” said Hugh. “I would be so proud because we’ve never done that.”
In lieu of a live performance, a compilation of the universities’ pre-recorded performance videos will be streamed live on varsityvocals.com. This livestream will also include a real-time announcement of the contest results.
Marssdorf finds that while a virtual competition isn’t ideal, it has its own benefits.
“Nothing can beat performing live in an environment where you’re surrounded by other bands on a stage,” Marssdorf said. “But I think it’s actually an advantage because we have the opportunity to really tweak [and] solidify what we want.
The group, which is made up of 16 students, submitted a virtual audition to the ICCA in November and found out that same month that they had reached the quarter-finals. According to Marssdorf, they had to put together their performance in four weeks following confusion over the deadline for their virtual audition.
Despite the challenges BBT has faced this year, the directors believe the group has what it takes to make it to the semi-finals.
“In my four years doing this, that’s the only year I’ve seen myself progress,” Hughes said.
A stipulation of the ICCAs is that members of each group must be full-time students at their respective universities. Much of the work is done in-house by students, from music to student-produced choreography.
Marssdorf says the student aspect of BBT improves group cohesion.
“It’s such a personal bond and it really adds to the family aspect of [the group]“, said Marssdorf.
As directors, Hughes and Marssdorf take on additional responsibilities to keep the group running smoothly. Hughes leads the group in learning the music, while Marssdorf oversees the music arrangement. Two of the three songs the band will perform were arranged by Marssdorf herself.
However, the hard work is not done by the directors alone. This year’s band, according to Hughes and Marssdorf, was one of the hardest working and most dedicated bands BBT has had. They both attribute this increased dedication and involvement to the advancement of the band and their ability to learn music quickly.
“Each of [the people in the group] just put so much time out of our rehearsals working on [the music]“, said Hughes.
It is for this reason that they both say they will be immensely proud of the band and the work they have done, regardless of the outcome of the contest. Plus, Marssdorf and Hughes say that even if they want to make the semifinals, they’re just happy to play with a group that always gives their all.
“I think they’re one of the best bands we’ve had,” Marssdorf said. “And every single person in this band believes in the band, gives their all to the band, and really goes above and beyond.”