When Severna Park High School’s a cappella group, Sol, auditioned for the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) this past fall, advancing in the competition seemed out of reach. After all, it was the group's first time competing.
On February 11, however, Sol placed second in one of the ICHSA Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals at St. Charles High School in Waldorf, Maryland, allowing them to move on to the semifinals in March.
The group, composed of 12 members, is directed by Severna Park High School music teacher Sara Metcalfe. Former music teacher Michael Brisentine created Sol last year before passing the group onto Metcalfe and encouraging her to look into the ICHSA.
“I decided, ‘You know what, this is my first year doing a cappella. Why not enter a big competition?’” Metcalfe said. “I especially wanted to do it because I felt like the seniors really needed a challenge.”
The group began preparing for the competition in January; however, Sol was sharpening their a cappella skills long before then. With this being Metcalfe’s first year teaching a cappella and many of the members' first year in the group, there was much to learn before competing in an international tournament.
“Sol have been really great teachers, and so has Mr. B, and I’m really grateful they’ve been patient with me,” Metcalfe said.
Together, the students collaborated with Metcalfe and Brisentine on their setlist, choreography and vocals. Students rehearsed four nights a week leading up to the competition.
“When I called rehearsals, tons of rehearsals, [students] really made the effort to come and do it,” Metcalfe said. “They’re teaching me what it really is like to have a chorus family.”
Despite their hard work, the group faced some challenges, including setbacks with song arrangements and losing members due to scheduling conflicts. Regardless, the group persisted.
Sol competed in an ICHSA Mid-Atlantic quarterfinal on February 11. Their setlist included the Harry Styles tune “Music For A Sushi Restaurant” with senior soloists Olivia Blake and Jaden Givens, Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with senior soloist Gianna Dicks, and Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” with sophomore soloist Jenna Augustine.
“My favorite part about the performance had to be how I saw how much I have grown with music in the time I have been in Sol,” Augustine said. “Sol has taught me to come out of my shell, to not look at competition and be scared, but to see it as a learning opportunity and a space to grow as an artist.”
Sol placed second in their quarterfinal, meaning that they will move on to the semifinals of the ICHSA along with first-place winners Evolve from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena. Additionally, the group received two other awards, including Outstanding Soloist for Dicks and Outstanding Choreography for seniors Dicks and Deepak Thumma, and junior Ronnie McIntyre.
“The fact that we were able to do that as a group that has existed for less than two years is really something, and it shows that we have something really special here,” Thumma said.
Sol members seem to agree that the thing that sets them apart from other groups is the passion behind their performances.
“You can see the love of it and the energy through the performance, and I think that definitely makes people shine out,” Dicks said.
Thumma touched on the group’s fitting name.
“Sol means the sun and to be bright, and that was what we kind of based our whole thing around, to be fun and energetic and bright and beautiful,” Thumma said.
Sol will return to the stage March 25 at Neptune High School in New Jersey for the Mid-Atlantic semifinals. Those interested in buying tickets or learning more about ICHSA may visit www.varsityvocals.com.
“I think, most of all, I do love the connection of having an a cappella group for the first time because it’s very new,” Dicks said. “It’s a different type of sound, it’s a different type of support both musically and group-wise, and it’s very tight-knit. It makes me really happy that we have this.”