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A group of a cappella performers kneel on stage. One member holds a certificate while the other holds a flower bouquet.
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On That Note to represent Canada at ICCA semi-finals 

By Nalyn Tindall

Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) very own On That Note a cappella group, comprised of women and queer performers, will be competing in the International Championship Of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semi-finals in Buffalo, N.Y. next week. 

Following their win at the ICCA central quarter-finals in Waterloo, Ont., on Jan. 22, the group will represent Canada on the international stage on March 25, alongside the University of Toronto’s group Surround Sound, who placed second at the competition. 

The quarter-final marked the group’s first in-person competition since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the opportunity all the more exciting for the vocalists. 

“We didn’t really know where we stand, compared to the other groups. It was just about just giving our best,” said Susanna Lee Lee, a fifth-year psychology student and executive director of On That Note. 

On That Note is one of three a cappella groups at TMU under the Toronto Metropolitan A Cappella Collective. The group shines a light on women and queer performers with specific arrangements that prioritize voices with higher vocal ranges, such as sopranos and altos. 

Co-founders Susanna Lee and Lyara Malvar, formed the group in 2020 after seeing a demand for increased opportunity for performers with these voices on campus.

 “I noticed that there were a lot of really great upper voice singers and they would otherwise get into the group but because of balance, there’s just not enough space for everyone,” said Malvar.

“On That Note is making my dreams a reality”

Both having been involved in a cappella previously, the two have been able to rise to the top at both TMU and on a national stage. 

First prize is not the only award On That Note left the Waterloo, Ont. quarterfinals with, winning three of the four special awards at the competition. 

Malvar, a fourth-year graphics communications management student, the music director for On That Note and TMU A Cappella Collective president, won outstanding soloist and outstanding arrangement for their rendition of “BIGGER” by Beyonce. The group also took home the award for best choreography.

Carina Bianchini, a second-year professional music student, worked on the choreography team during her first a cappella season this school year. 

“Whenever I come into rehearsal I feel like I can leave any other stress or worries just out the door, and then I come in, and I’m having fun with my friends and I’m also doing what I love, which is singing and dancing,” said Bianchini. 

The ICCA competitions are featured in the Pitch Perfect film franchise which Bianchini grew up watching. “On That Note is making my dreams a reality,”  she said. 

Like Pitch Perfect’s “Barden Bellas,” On That Note is a women centric group, setting them apart from many. 

“I think just having that kind of uniqueness to us, not only in our identity but also our sound, is really important to me,” said Malvar. “We all really do feel like a team and really love each other as a family,” said Lee. 

“We all really do feel like a team and really love each other as a family”

The upcoming semi-final competition will take the group further than they’ve ever gone before. It will also act as a second chance for members of the group who were unable to compete in the quarterfinals—sickness and unforeseen circumstances left three members unable to compete—to showcase their talents.  

“The opportunity to have members who had to miss the quarters to participate in the semis…that was my main motivation for winning,” said Lee. 

On That Note plans to release a professionally recorded EP of their award winning set and a music video later this year. 

“It will be cool to just have a recorded thing where we could look back on this incredible journey that we’ve all been on,” said Malvar.

On That Note is collecting proceeds to fund their trip to Buffalo for the ICCA semi-finals and their future endeavors. Their GoFundMe page can be found here.

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