Standing on stage in front of an audience of 3,000 at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), Perrin York ’19 “didn’t know if I was crying or wanted to cry.” She had just been awarded Outstanding Soloist for her rendition of “Greedy” by Ariana Grande. “At that moment, I felt so humbled and couldn’t understand the magnitude of the award,” she recalls.
The ICCA hosted its final round of competition for the top 10 collegiate a cappella groups, selected from over 400 entries, on April 21 in New York. This was the first time York’s a cappella group, The After School Specials—or any a cappella group from The Claremont Colleges—made it to the final round.
Competing in the semifinals in February, the After School Specials placed third, which did not qualify them for participation in the ICCA. However, they secured a spot by participating in the wildcard video submission round, which gives every second- and third-place group the opportunity to participate in the championship. The After School Specials was the only group from the video challenge to be accepted into the final competition.
“We were so shocked when we found out we would be competing at that tier—it was amazing,” says York.
After months of practicing, York says her nervousness diminished by the final round of competition. “I remember a moment in the beginning of the set when I walked in front of the lights and could see the whole audience. I thought, â€˜This is amazing. This is what I want to be doing.'”
In addition to performing “Greedy,” the After School Specials sang a Moss Kena remix version of “These Walls” and “Jealous” by Labrinth. As the music director and co-choreographer, York arranged two of the songs and choreographed most of the set.
York says her confidence as a singer has grown since receiving the Outstanding Soloist award. “It was tangible feedback that others enjoy my singing and that I can hold my own with other high-caliber competitors.”
The award has also encouraged her to pursue new singing opportunities. Ben Bram, the arranger for the renowned a cappella group Pentatonix, posted an audition notice for a new group. York submitted a video audition and progressed to the final callback. Although she didn’t receive an offer, she believes she made it to the final round partly because Bram heard her sing in the ICCA competition.
“I think it was validation for Bram—an a cappella icon—to see me win the soloist award,” says York.
Music has been a main part of York’s life since she was seven, when she started performing in musicals and taking piano lessons. She realized she wanted to pursue music professionally after she completed her first music theory class at The Claremont Colleges.
“My whole life I’ve thought and heard about music in terms of chord progressions and scale degrees. Until I took that music theory class, I didn’t know there was a language for the way I was thinking,” she says.
York has been a member of several local bands, including Jive Tribe and Graavy. She hopes to continue performing and singing, working toward her dream of composing Disney musicals.
York’s philosophy of life is simple. “Everybody says they want to be happy and make others happy. For me, singing is my outlet to do that.”