Five years ago, an a cappella group called That’s the Key began as a collection of singers who didn’t make the cut for the better-known Take it SLO.
Now, it’s an officially chartered Cal Poly club — and they can hold their own.
“People know Take it SLO and they are a great group, but because we are new, we have the pressure of meeting those expectations,” That’s the Key president and liberal arts and engineering senior Jason Lu said. “A lot of people see us as rivals, but we are trying not to compare ourselves to them anymore. We are trying to be our own group and have our own identity.”
Before this year, the group rehearsed in Poly Canyon Village and performed wherever they could, Lu said. Now that they are a chartered club, they can book rehearsal rooms on campus and they get invited to perform more often, such as singing the national anthem at the soccer game against UC Santa Barbara and performing at Farmers’ Market.
Two years ago, That’s the Key attended the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), the competition made famous by “Pitch Perfect”. They scored only five points lower than Take it SLO, which motivated them to step it up.
“Getting that score was really encouraging,” Lu said. “We then started to think that we should try our very hardest to be the group to audition for now.”
“I chose to audition for That’s the Key because they are kind of the underdogs,” Pestle said. “They are new and they are fresh and have different ideas.”
Pestle was originally planning on auditioning for both Cal Poly a cappella groups, but she felt so comfortable in That’s the Key that she decided to skip Take it SLO’s audition. Pestle may be new, but she’s already making waves. Pestle scored the solo part in That’s the Key’s rendition of “Chandelier” by Sia, a song the group sang at this year’s ICCA competition at UC San Diego on Jan. 31.
That’s the Key went to ICCA largely to get feedback from professionals, biomedical engineering sophomore and tenor Kyle Erickson said.
The judges at the competition weren’t overly critical, but they made sure the groups knew their opinions, Erickson said.
“They are sure to offer us as much feedback as they can regarding individual soloists, the group dynamic as a whole, choreography,” he said. “It was great to get feedback from professionals like that.”
Erickson joined the group his sophomore year without much of a musical background. He’d focused on sports and school during his high school years and didn’t do anything remotely musical until college. But he ended up loving a cappella after auditioning for the group at the recommendation of his high school friend and his dad.
“I think it is a phenomenal outlet, it is something to look forward to at the end of the week,” Erickson said. “If you have had a tough time in class or at work, this is a place where you can come and hang out with 15 other people that love singing as much as you do.”
The group is made up of singers from all different majors, personalities, grades and musical backgrounds, but they come together twice a week for two-hour rehearsals.
Kinesiology junior and alto Zoe Lemieux has been in the group since her freshman year. She knows what it takes to make a song come together: the arranger’s tedious process of translating a radio version song to a cappella, countless hours of learning the song’s different parts, perfecting it and then adding choreography to the number.
“It is definitely a lot more work then media has made it out to be,” Lemieux said. “You could be an amazing singer and you might not be able to be in an a cappella group. If you can’t hold a pitch on your own when there are like seven other parts around you, it’s not gong to work.”
Lemieux thinks That’s the Key is lucky to have a community that wants to see the hard work the group has put in.
“The community really wants us to be a part of all of their things,’ Lemieux said. “Last week at Farmers’ Market there was a person that was moved to tears by our rendition of ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay. It is cool to be able to brighten their day a little bit.”
“All of the founding members have graduated and we have both come to the realization that we are just a bunch of college kids that like to sing,” Lemieux said. “There is not much of a difference between our talent level, no reason to have a divide.”