Aca-Fever: 5 Collegiate Female A Cappella Groups You Didn’t Know Existed

by Andrea Stopa

If you haven’t caught on to the a cappella buzz, or haven’t seen Pitch Perfect, you must live under some weird, music-less rock. A cappella is no longer the awkward barber shop quartet of your nightmares, but a thriving community of incredible singers and performers channelling their talents into unaccompanied music. Using only the human voice, groups create dynamic soundscapes that sound near magical — so magical you have to continually remind yourself no instruments were involved. Combine these sounds with killer choreography, and you have thrilling performances that leave you YouTubing for more. 

A Cappella grew in popularity following The Sing Off, an NBC competition series debuting in 2009 featuring top groups competing each week for a cash price and recording contract. After 3 seasons, the show was cancelled, picked up for a 4th season, and then cancelled again (whomp, whomp). Pentatonix, the Season 3 winners, will blow your damn mind. 

Within the a cappella world, there are – surprise!- many gendered stereotypes, that make it an interesting experience for the feminist eyes and ears. A Cappella was largely male-dominated and its most respected groups have been mostly, all-male, despite the diversity of group types in the community. All-female groups are not taken as seriously, and often have to fight a bit harder to be recognized for their talents. Wait, what does that remind me of? (Hint: everything, ever).

All-female groups have a stigma of being “boring,” “choir like,” “girlish,” and just kind of bland. Not saying that some groups don’t fit this stereotype, but it is hella annoying to combat that kind of bullshit idea when you are part of an all-female group that blows those dumb ideas to shreds. Overall, all-male groups get to be funny-serious; they get a huge crowd response for being playful and goofy, and they can easily switch gears and be considered uber-sexy. In short, they are allowed and expected to be dynamic and effortlessly entertaining. All-female groups have a different challenge in achieving a crowd-pleasing persona. They can rarely be goofy, and are expected to be super sexy divas, super cute puff-balls, or harmonious church girl singers, with very little room to be anything in between. 

That’s why, with the help of a dear friend, I have rounded up 5 amazing all-female collegiate a cappella groups that shatter these limiting stereotypes, and frankly, any preconceived notions about a cappella in general. 

1. Sil’hooettes from UVA  singing “Breath of Life” by Florence and the Machine 


2. Divisi, from UO performing “Killing Me Softly” by The Fugees 

3. The AcaBelles from FSU performing “Royals” by Lorde

4. Sapphires, from UNG performing at SoJam, an a cappella conference
(set starts at 1:45 in video and the sounds a little rough but they’re awesome)

5. Pitch, Please! from Northeastern performing their set for competition at ICCA’s

Super Bonus Round: The Boxettes are from the UK and they will seriously knock you off your chair. Here they are performing “La La La – Naughty Boy.” Added bonus, their original song “Free” features some crazy electronic voice play and beat boxing you will not believe. 

Special thanks to Heather Newkirk, my personal reference for everything a cappella and an awesome person all around!

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