ETSU brings home top honors, more in ICCA quarterfinals

Published 8:04 am Friday, January 31, 2020

JOHNSON CITY — Greyscale, the premier a cappella ensemble in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Music, brought home first place honors in the South Region quarterfinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), held Saturday, Jan. 25, on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Greyscale, along with ETSU’s Swashbucklers, Harmonium and Ascension, competed against five ensembles from UT-Knoxville and one from the University of Memphis. The first-place finish qualifies Greyscale to move on to the ICCA South Semifinals, which will be held March 7 at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Regional semifinal winners and wild card selections will go on to the finals on April 18 in New York.

In addition to the success of Greyscale, which is directed by Dr. Alan Stevens, ETSU’s student-led ensembles enjoyed accolades. Ascension, a mixed ensemble directed by Thomas Richardson, placed third overall, and Harmonium, an all-female ensemble led by Kaitlyn Hopkins, placed fourth.  Second place went to the UT Singers from UT-Knoxville.

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ETSU also swept the individual awards in the competition. Rebekah Cormack of Greyscale, a sophomore health sciences major, was named Outstanding Soloist for the second consecutive year, this time for her performance of “Bad Liar.” Richardson, a junior music education major, earned Outstanding Arrangement for “Animal,” and Hopkins, a senior music education major, was honored for Outstanding Vocal Percussion for Harmonium’s entire set.

“To earn their spot to compete, our ensembles had to send in video auditions, competing against hundreds of a cappella groups in the Southern region,” said Dr. Matthew Potterton, professor, director of choral activities and chair of the ETSU Department of Music. “We had four ETSU groups make it, which was incredible, and then to have such success — I could not be more proud of our students and our department.”

“I’m thrilled that ETSU did so well at the ICCA quarterfinal,” added Stevens, associate professor and associate director of choral activities at ETSU. “They demonstrated musicality, professionalism, dedication and hard work. They made it clear that the ETSU Department of Music is one of the best vocal music programs in the state and the region.

“People who attend the competition see a 12-minute set from each group, but it takes months to learn and memorize the music, create and perfect the choreography, adapt to microphones, and put it all together into a complete show. They schedule late-night and early-morning rehearsals to make it all happen. We all work together, and the students in all of the groups support and help each other every step of the way. The ETSU Department of Music is truly a family, and that strength shows when these ensembles walk onstage. It made a major statement as we swept almost every award.”

While Greyscale focuses on refining their competition set for the ICCA semifinal, Ascension, Harmonium and Swashbucklers, ETSU’s all-male ensemble which, Stevens says, “brought the house down with their energy and choreography,” will continue rehearsing and learning new music in preparation for various gigs throughout the semester. The final ETSU a cappella concert of the 2019-20 academic year featuring all four ensembles will be held Saturday, April 25, at Johnson City’s First Christian Church, 200 E. Mountcastle Drive. Tickets may be purchased at