By DAVID LUKER
The group of BYU students wasn’t sure how a Los Angeles audience was going to receive the message of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Nervous but excited, all nine sang it for the first time to a non-LDS audience.
As the last chord rang out, it seemed to reach the ceiling and fill the room-with silence. One-two-three-four seconds went by.
Suddenly a burst of applause broke the air, and that was it.
After taking first place in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella semi-finals, the BYU all-women a cappella group, Noteworthy, prepared for their final competition in New York, where contestants came from five United States regions and two regions in Europe. The melodious ladies of Noteworthy took first place in the International Championships of Collegiate A Capella.
“I felt like I was doing something bigger than myself,” said Kaitlyn McGuire, 19, a psychology major from Burbank, Calif., and an alto in the group. McGuire was awed by the affect their song had on the Los Angeles audience. “I felt like a tool in God’s hands,” she said. “I could see the faces of some of the people in the crowd, smiling and nodding.”
It’s been a challenge for the group to collect enough money to travel to California and New York to compete. Although some may think BYU’s School of Music helps fund the group, they function completely on their own. They have received a lot of support from friends, family and even complete strangers.
“We feel so blessed,” McGuire said. “At one of our shows this guy comes up and asked us to sing at a banquet of his, so we went. He started asking us random questions and was giving us $20 bills for answering. He yelled to others, ‘Hey, these girls are trying to go to New York!'”
According to the Web site, noteworthyladies.com, Noteworthy has risen quickly to this level of accomplishment within three years. The group was formed in January of 2004 when the first auditions were held in which there was a surprising turnout of more than 60 women to fill eight spots.
It turns out there was a niche for women’s A cappella at BYU. The group began performing immediately and experienced success, which eventually brought them to perform a joint concert with BYU’s Vocal Point, who won last year’s International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella contest.
So often at BYU, student-formed A cappella groups will last a semester or two and then fall apart for various reasons including marriage, school, work conflicts, church activities and lack of commitment. Nabby Parkinson, 18, a freshman and an alto in the group, said this group is still around and doing well because it was built to last.
“We have a three-page contract we have to sign at the beginning, of things we won’t do during rehearsal like eat and turn on cell phones,” Parkinson said. “We also have goal sheets of what we want the group to accomplish in five or 10 years, and we talk about where we want it to go in the future. We know it’s not just about us but about all the alumni and the future members of the group.”
Each member of the group also looks over certain technical areas, which all serve to promote and maintain the group’s professionalism.
“We’re the arrangers, the choreographers, the advertisers, the PR people, the venue bookers, the flyer-passer-outers. We have to raise our own money and sell our own CDs,” said Camille Hancock, 20, a family and consumer science major from Dayton, Ohio.
“We have to manage our own Web site, and we don’t even have a scheduled room to work in. Life is tough. But it makes us stronger because of all this stuff. We’ve worked for it. When you work hard for something you just don’t want to see it disappear the next year.”
At the beginning of each year the members will come together and choose their music for the year. Each brings about 10 songs to the meeting where they narrow it down and take a vote, creating a mixed repertoire of music. The styles include popular, country, jazz, religious and songs appropriate for opening and closing concerts.
“It really is a group effort,” Hancock said. “We sit around and we pick out our parts. Sometimes we’ll have a great country singer and we have a country song. So that person will come up with the parts.”
All of the young women think that a big challenge is finding time for everything. With school, work and church activities, the group finds themselves practicing twice a week from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.
“For a group of nine girls we spend a ridiculous amount of time together,” said Ashley Mordwinow, 20, a linguistics major from San Jose, Calif. “Just like any other group, we get stressed out and may let loose on somebody, but we get past those days, and we know we love each other. We all fit in and get along.”