Two Fordham A Cappella Groups Go to the ICCAs


The Satin Dolls and Hot Notes showed off their talents in the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella. (Courtesy of Instagram)

On Saturday, March 4, two of Fordham’s very own a cappella groups traveled all the way to Long Island, N.Y., in order to perform at the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). Featured in the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect,” the ICCAs are an a cappella competition where the best of collegiate a cappella compete since its founding in 1996. The competition has a bracket system, meaning that a cappella groups must win a series of smaller competitions before they make it to the ultimate competition. The Satin Dolls, Fordham’s all-female group, and Hot Notes, the jazz fusion group, performed in the quarterfinals at St. Joseph’s in Patchogue, N.Y. Both groups performed a ten-minute set, consisting of three arrangements and choreography, and neither returned empty-handed. 

The Satin Dolls placed in the regional competition, winning fourth overall and falling only two places shy of continuing on to the semi-finals. They received Outstanding Arrangement for their arrangement of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which their music director, Maya Bliffeld, FCLC ’24, created. Toleeya Napolitano, FCRH ’26, won an Outstanding Soloist award for her performance of Greta Van Fleet’s “Flower Power.” The Dolls did remarkably well in many aspects.

“Our group has bonded so much, and we truly just had a blast and gave it our all,” said the president of the Satin Dolls, Julia Leahy, FCRH ’23. “This is a huge improvement in comparison to the last time we competed.”

The Hot Notes similarly received commendations from the judges. They won the Excellent Arrangement for Taylor Swift’s “I Know Places,” which their music director, Hannah Gied, FCRH ’24, put together. “I actually wrote most of the arrangement for ‘I Know Places’ while I was on vacation and started writing ideas down on the plane. I’m a huge Swiftie, so the basic outline came very naturally to me,” Gied said. “After listening to the original song and writing out everything I could hear in the background, I came up with my own rhythms and harmonies to make the arrangement my own. I could not have completed the arrangement without advice from Maddie Huff, the assistant music director of Hot Notes, Rhett Bailey, the president, and Abby Housberg, the former music director and president. Their advice was extremely helpful, and they definitely pushed me to make the final product the best it could be.”

Both groups agreed the overall  rehearsal process was exhausting, but fulfilling. Leahy explained that the Dolls began their rehearsals at the beginning of the semester, and would practice three times a week. Rhett Bailey, GSB ’24, the president of the Hot Notes, echoed Leahy’s point. “The rehearsals leading up [the] ICCAs were difficult; now that we were competing against groups from all over the Northeast, we knew we had to step it up and focus on the little details.” 

And step it up they did, as a crucial facet of the ICCA performances, which does not typically appear in the a cappella group’s regular concerts, is choreography. The Hot Notes specifically enlisted a member of the dance team, Katherine Shearin, GSB ’23, to help them. Yustina Hryciw, the Dolls’ music director, designed their whole set. “It’s always a challenge to implement choreography as a singing group, but we really whipped into shape,” said Leahy. The Dolls did not make their choreography a walk in the park, either, as at one point they lifted Gracie Kunik, FCRH ’24, into the air, during her performance of “Running Up That Hill.” 

Gied explained that the increased intensity of rehearsals brought the Hot Notes even closer together, “Overall, the extra rehearsals and hard work were so worth it! We have completely transformed as a group, and are closer friends and better musicians because of the experience.” 

For older members of the Satin Dolls, these performances were even more meaningful.They poured their hearts into this performance as they could finally return to a tradition that had been interrupted during the volatile first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leahy described her experience as “bittersweet.” “We competed my freshmen year and didn’t place, and then didn’t compete for the last two years due to COVID. I couldn’t have asked for a better comeback to the ICCAs stage… It was amazing to see our hard work come to life on the stage last weekend, and I am so thrilled that I got to have this experience just before I graduate. Dolls forever!”