Student a cappella group reflect on their preparations for the ICCAs

The student a cappella group, HEARTbeats, is part of the Honors College’s Honors Education in the Arts program. The group took on the ICCAs on Feb. 24. (Photo by Marissa Rodriguez/FIU HEARTS Photography Club)

By Gabriella Pinos

With their recent trip to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella South Quarterfinal on Feb. 24, the HEARTbeats have had a hectic few weeks of rehearsals and preparations. Yet, according to baritone Marvin Robinson, the University’s student-led a cappella group is already excited for next year’s competition.

Founded in 2014, the HEARTbeats are a part of FIU Honors College’s Honors Education in the Arts program, where students of all majors can share in their passion for singing. Robinson, a freshman double-majoring in international relations and geography, brought this passion to the club when he first joined.

“I had been a performer all throughout high school, and singing has always been a passion for me,” said Robinson. “Even though my major isn’t in the performing arts, it’s still something I wanted to do, and HEARTbeats gave me the opportunity to do what I love.”

HEARTbeats’ musical co-director and alto Gladys Levy shares the same fervor for music, one that she cultivated throughout her three years in the club. Because she has focused on packing her international relations major into three years, she is grateful of the time she gets to spend performing with her peers.

“No matter how big or small the crowd may be, performing is, in a way, a stress reliever for me. It’s something I absolutely love doing, and it’s always fun,” said Levy.

When it comes to competition, the process is long and tiring, Levy says. The songs were selected as a group in the fall semester, followed by arranging and choreographing each set.

Levy says that choreography is all about telling a story through movement and song, while emphasizing phrases and words through actions. Perfecting both took months of rehearsals, leading up to the weekend before the ICCAs in Gainesville.

Nino Mejia, a tenor and junior studying education, calls the last few days of preparations “hell week.”

Even so, competing against other collegiate a cappella groups in Florida isn’t the most exciting thing about the ICCAs.

For Mejia, it’s the joy of spending time with his fellow club members hours before taking the stage. The bonding experience he had with the HEARTbeats was, according to him, his favorite part of the experience.

The same goes for Kayla Jolly, soprano and freshman majoring in social work, who remembers singing with the other a cappella groups on stage while waiting for the judges’ decisions.

It is this passion and friendship between club members that makes HEARTbeats stand out. For them, it’s more about spending time with each other rather than winning a prize.

“I always kept in mind that, as long as I did my best, it didn’t matter how we did at competition, because having fun and singing together was the most important thing,” said Jolly.

Even though the adrenaline of competition has worn off, the HEARTbeats can’t wait to take on the future with microphones at the ready.

The group will carry on strong after Levy’s graduation this semester, and she’ll be there to cheer from the sidelines, according to the director. To her, and to many other members, the club is more than just a creative outlet, it’s a place to make lasting friendships.

“When you perform with people, you tend to become closer to them,” Levy says. “I knew this was something I was going to love because I was surrounded by like-minded people who all have a love for music, and that’s all I really wanted.”

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