HomeBlogsclearlybaritone's blog2011 ICHSA Champions: PFC, Douglas MacArthur High School, San Antonio, Texas

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Congratulations to 2011 ICHSA winners, PFC (Premiere and Finale Cut), from Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas! They were among four groups invited to compete in the finals based on their outstanding video submission in the Wild Card Round. On Friday, April 15, 2011, in New York City, they became international champions. A fews days ago, I had the privilege of visiting with co-director, Caitlyn Griffith. Read on for their remarkable story.

Tell us about your group.

PFC (Premiere and Final Cut) hails from Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas, where they are the latest installment in a tradition of excellence in the Mac Choir. From barbershop to pop, this group works to produce entertaining and musically challenging performances throughout their community. Under the direction of Matt Woodward and Caitlyn Griffith, the group is comprised of twenty-one extremely talented sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Members are involved in a plethora of other organizations and groups including concert choir, band, theater, orchestra, peer mentoring, National Honor Society, barbershop quartets and choruses as well as maintaining rigorous course loads. Their ICHSA championship marks a new chapter in the ensemble's existence and the group is excited to continue along this path of a cappella excellence. 

How long has PFC been around? 

Premiere and Final Cut existed as separate ensembles for many years at Mac. Three years ago, we combined them for a performance at our annual Pop Show with Matt's arrangement of Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek. Everybody loved it! Since then, we have added more and more combined selections and performances. 

What made you decide to compete in the ICHSA?  

Matt discovered the BOCA CDs several years ago. We often used BOCA performances as listening assignments for our students. With more research, we discovered ICHSA and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for PFC! Two years ago, we began tailoring the ensemble towards contemporary a cappella and future competition in ICHSA. 

Tell us about your journey competing in and winning the ICHSA.  

After selection of the 2010-2011 PFC last May, we immediately informed the group of our plan to enter the competition. Over the summer, the groups worked on various repertoire and prepared for early performances. On the first day of school in August, we handed out the first of the sheet music for our ICHSA set.  The entire year was spent learning and crafting the competition music. PFC had never worked at this level of performance before, and every member rose to the occasion and pushed to become better and better! By October, we had the music learned in its most basic form. In December and January, we added the choreography. In February, we worked with Courtney Jensen (The Backbeats), who revolutionized the way we think about a cappella music! Following Courtney's guidance, we added the heart and emotions behind the music, which brought us closer together than ever and made the music truly come to life! We started sharing our personal struggles and climbs to help us grow as a family and to give us our vision for "The Climb." 

The entire time, student input was crucial in the ever-evolving set. These students are sharp and made the set their own! They also are extremely talented and were able to wrap their minds around these three songs in a way that few high school groups could. We worked harder than the group has ever worked before. We added rehearsals whenever we could! To build our stamina, we had conditioning training. We did everything from P90X to running around the campus and even flipped giant tires!

Our time in New York was amazing and was crucial in our success at the ICHSA. We arrived on the Thursday before competition and, after a chaotic commute through the NYC subways with lots of luggage, we had a fancy prom dinner (since the students were missing their prom in San Antonio). Friday began with a visit to the New York Society for Ethical Culture to drop off our competition clothes. It was the perfect way to start our day! Sitting in the hall, we were in awe of this entire experience and everyone was ready to sing. We spent the rest of the day in and around Central Park. We had the best rehearsals we've ever had! We were amazed at how many people would stop to listen to whatever we were singing--be it a song or just some chord exercises. One of the best moments came when PFC sang the Bird and the Worm to a couple from France. It was adorable and exactly what the character of the song needed!

Friday night's performance was exactly as we had planned! The focus was on each other and on sharing awesome music with the audience--just as performances always should be. PFC was completely committed to each other and to their performance and it showed on stage. I can't describe to you how wonderful it felt when it was announced that PFC won. We all were in complete shock and were so grateful for this entire experience!

What's next for your group?  

Well, right now it's pop show time! PFC will perform Matt's arrangement of the Queen hit Bohemian Rhapsody on our last concert of the year. As for the future of PFC, we feel that contemporary a cappella is a great focus for the ensemble. We hope to return to the ICHSA with future groups. Also, we want to help bring more awareness to contemporary a cappella in San Antonio and in Texas! There are groups within the state, but before we began this process, we were not aware of any of them. And the general public needs to know what's going on with a cappella music because it's fantastic!

As ICHSA Champions, PFC will receive a free one-year group membership to CASA - The Contemporary A Cappella Society.

Be sure to read the ICCA Finals 2011 Wrap-Up by Christopher Diaz for his report on PFC's moving Saturday night performance.

The International Championship of High School A Cappella is produced by Varsity Vocals.

John Hodges
Ambassador for Texas
The Contemporary A Cappella Society