Cornell University: Class Notes heads to international a cappella finals

For the first time, the Class Notes – Cornell’s oldest all-gender a cappella group – will compete in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Finals, making it one of the top eight of 450 registered collegiate a cappella groups.

The contest is the same one featured in the 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect,” which was loosely based on Cornell’s a cappella groups.

“We are really excited to get on stage on Saturday and show off everything that we have,” said Vanessa Shim ’23, president of the Class Notes. “I am really excited to show how great our people are: the vocal percussionist we have, the people with perfect pitch, people with great voices, people that can hold down good notes. It’s a really collaborative thing. I think we have all the ingredients, and we need to put it together and cook something up and have a whole meal, a whole feast for people to enjoy.”

The honor is hard won, coming after Shim and her teammates worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. The nature of singing a cappella, a collaborative process, traditionally requires gathering in person. Voices must be blended and finessed, and each singer must be able to hear others.

But for a year, members found themselves singing alone in their residences, apologizing to roommates for the noise. Rather than a buffet of food at in-person auditions, Shim delivered goody bags to participants during virtual auditions. To keep tradition alive – and to reinforce team bonds – they revamped a Class Notes concert tradition, in which members give each other gifts before concerts, to gifting secret Spotify playlists to all team members, despite not having any concerts.

In spring 2021, when they got permission for in-person outdoor rehearsals in Hoy Garage, they found it was a challenge to readjust to group singing. They tapped their alumni network for tips, encouragement and financial support.

Founded 39 years ago, the Class Notes has made semifinals in the past, but has never advanced to the finals. Shim said reaching this milestone is emotional.

“The Class Notes is not just a group,” she said. “It’s a family to me. I am so proud of everyone because I know that sometimes, the whole process was difficult, gruesome in terms of how long we had to practice. I appreciate everyone’s patience with learning choreography, learning the music. I am very honored to be president of the group. I feel very honored, very humbled.”

Said Kinya Wang ’23, the group’s music director: “It’s a dream come true.”

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