Mankato group wins SingStrong a capella competition

Maverick Vocal Precision takes home first place at New York festival

Mark Reynolds
Staff Writer

A capella group Maverick Vocal Precision, or MVP, claimed the first-place, $1000 prize in the ACA-Idol competition at the SingStrong NY a capella Festival Friday, Feb. 8.

The group of Minnesota State University, Mankato students attended the three-day festival in New York after intense preparation from its members, coached by Dr. Stephanie Thorpe and Dr. Douglas Snapp.

“Since the semester started, we’ve rehearsed six, nine hours a week at least,” said Cassidy Allison, an alto singer in MVP. “So, we have three hours of class time with Dr. Thorpe and Dr. Snapp, and then we do three-hour rehearsals once or twice a week on top of that. So, lots of rehearsals.”

Their rigorous schedule was for good reason. Competing against eight other groups, MVP had to bring their best to the stage. But Allison explained the mindset that helped them to be confident in their performance.

“Backstage we were all very nervous,” she said. “But we went in with the mindset that this was for fun. We weren’t competing to compete. We were competing to showcase what we could to and to have fun and perform for people.”

Their hard work and confidence paid off. The ACA-Idol judges commented on MVP’s performance saying, “Awesome program,” “Incredible depth of soloists,” and “Well-polished throughout.” 

Their three-song set completely won over the crowd, clapping and grooving along to the music, and earned MVP a standing ovation.

“I think we were the only group to have that. So, that was really cool. It was just lots of emotions,” said Allison.

Before the judges could announce the winner of the competition, they had to announce the winner of another category: the Audience Favorite. 

After their performance, the group were confident and proud of their performance but were still unsure how they would place. Being the only competing group that wasn’t from the East Coast, they knew that they were at a disadvantage.

“I’m like, “All these groups have their supporters here, and we don’t really have many people out here to support us just because of the distance,’” Allison said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to get People’s Choice. Everyone’s just going to support their home team, right?’ 

“But we actually ended up winning that, which blew my mind. I was like, ‘What!?’” she laughed.

Allison and the rest of MVP were so excited and shocked by this that it took them a moment to realize that they won ACA-Idol as well.

“And when they announced our name and put our name on the screen, we were just all jumping up and down,” she said. “Everyone was just so supportive of us, but then we also returned that. Because we competed against some pretty amazing groups.”

In addition to the $1000 prize, MVP was featured in a spotlight showcase, and received a private coaching session from Diana Preisler, who stars in the TV show “Pitch Slapped,” and is a member of the a capella group Blue Jupiter, who lead an a capella workshop at the University last year.

“She was very insightful about what it was like to learn from everyone in the group rather than just have leaders dictate what we’re doing. So, having her accept everybody in the group no matter what stage they were at, that was really cool,” Allison said.

The group also got to record some of their songs with singer/recording engineer Andrew Kim, founding member of the a capella group Backtrack, and a current member of the group Iris, who won the 2018 International A Capella Open Championship at Carnegie Hall.

Overall, the festival, the proceeds of which supported the “Cure Alzheimer’s Fund,” was an incredible experience for the members of Maverick Vocal Precision. Their winning performance brought eyes from around the world to Mankato. It helped the group grow and learn.

“Humility was probably the biggest thing,” Allison said. “Communication and showing others the same gratitude that we got from them. Just being a family and just embracing everybody no matter who they are or where they come from. Just accepting and being a big family.”

Feature photo courtesy of Centennial Student Union.

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