Less than 48 hours earlier, the group was in the Christopher Cohen Performing Arts Center (PAC) parking garage rehearsing for the busy weekend. Sounds of honking horns and chatty students walking to class echoed through the garage, but the focus of the 13 musicians never wavered as they sang together one last time before the big performance.
As Take It SLO made last-minute modifications to their choreography and songs, most members were eagerly anticipating the opportunity to perform on such a big stage.
“We tried last year and didn’t make it, so this year came as a big shock,” earth and soil science sophomore Mikaela McGill said. “Overall, I’m actually pretty confident in our group, [we’re] doing really well. I’m just nervous because it’s a huge crowd.”
Take it SLO President Dylan Kirkby was filled with visible energy as he talked about his emotions surrounding the group’s final practice.
“I’m super jazzed right now, like I was just dancing a minute ago,” electrical engineering senior Kirkby said. “We just did a run-through of a song that was the best that I’ve heard this song in four years. That just makes me super excited and bodes well for the competition.”
Take It SLO is one of two a cappella groups on Cal Poly’s campus; the other is called That’s the Key. While both groups have attended LAFF in the past, this was the first year that Take It SLO qualified to compete in the scholastic competition.
Take It SLO was among six high school and collegiate groups chosen to compete out of 18 entries. To prepare for LAFF, they amped up rehearsal time and intensity after winter break.
“A typical practice will just be us running through music, learning notes, practicing sectional stuff and blend with the whole group, but these rehearsals leading up to LAFF are pretty specific,” Kirkby said. “We’re practicing performing, our choreography, everything that needs to be a part of an a capella competition.”
At the competition on Friday, Take It SLO was eliminated after the first round where they performed “Don’t Wait” by Mapei and “Omen” by Sam Smith. Though they were disappointed, Kirkby thinks it was the best performance Take It SLO has ever had and a great achievement for the group.
“I think as a group it was a strong performance,” Kirkby said. “The competitive atmosphere, booming sound system and all of our families in the audience really motivated us and drew out a really special performance.”
After the competition portion of the weekend, Take It SLO attended master classes where they received critique from professionals in the a cappella industry. An external set of eyes helped provide the group with helpful feedback on how to improve their performance in terms of staging and vocals.
Kirkby said Take It SLO’s presence at LAFF set a positive trajectory for the rest of the year. When surrounded by other a cappella groups, and after receiving advice, Take It SLO crafted a vision for their group and got helpful ideas for where to direct their focus next.
Not only was the experience constructive, it brought members closer to one another, fostering a great group dynamic.
“I think I’m just personally really encouraged by the amount of openness and the amount of support and love that’s been shown in the group this year,” Kirkby said. “I think the competition and vocal advice from the master classes is great, but what we’re really there to celebrate is our connection with each other and the family we’ve been building. I’m just stoked that that really got celebrated and elevated by the weekend.”