Story by Emily Williams, Features Editor
The date was Feb. 11, 2017 at Ball State University and nine talented acapella groups hovered backstage warming up their voices, wiping nervous sweat from the backs of their necks, wishing competing teams luck and hoping for the very best. Among the nervous harmonizers stood Murray State’s own aca-amazing group of performers ready to go.
EQ Blu was practiced, prepped and pumped to take on Quarterfinals as a team. At the end of that day, when the results came through, EQ Blu held their heads high knowing they placed third, a remarkable accomplishment for the team’s first ICCA competition.
However, it was only the top two teams in the Quarterfinals phase that moved on to Semifinals. Nevertheless, after representing Murray State well, EQ Blu returned home with a new goal, a perfected focus and a drive that would push them to move boldly forward in their pursuit of being pitch perfect.
EQ Blu, Murray State’s premier mixed acapella vocal group, will make its return to the ICCA South Quarterfinals on Jan. 27. This will be the second year in a row the team will gather together to sing their hearts out while competing for a top two placement against nine other acapella groups in the region. With newfound wisdom and experience from the previous year, EQ Blu is ready to take it up an octave.
Oliver Montgomery, senior from Louisville, Kentucky and member of EQ Blu, said this is his second year as a member and performed at the ICCA Quarterfinals last year.
“When we found out that we were just a couple points off from placing second, of course we were hurt,” Montgomery said. “But the whole team was just very excited to even be placed in our first year competing.”
Montgomery said he believes their close call last year is the exact reason why the team is so focused and ready to go back to the ICCAs in just a couple of weeks.
“This group has grown so much since I have been apart of it,” Montgomery said. “When we found out we were accepted last year, that’s when the real work began to find our unique sound. We were all very overwhelmed to hear that we placed third in our first year to compete.”
Montgomery said the group is so much closer and they were able to find their unique sound so much faster than in years past.
“We are all very excited to be returning to the ICCA’s this year and we really hope we advance on,” Montgomery said.
Dr. Christopher Mitchell founded EQ Blu in May of 2015.
“It was really just a hand picked group of students I knew were strong singers and musicians put together to perform for the Paducah Symphony Sing-Off fundraiser,” Mitchell said. “That first incarnation of the group only rehearsed for two weeks before our first performance.”
Mitchell said they were very well-received at the event, so he decided to offer it as a small ensemble as part of the music department.
“As the group’s visibility has grown on campus and in the area, I’ve seen larger numbers of auditions for the group, which gives me a deeper talent pool to from which to choose the group members,” Mitchell said. “It’s nice to get some recognition for a group that is still really just starting out.”
Mitchell said the thing that will set the group apart is if they are able to really show their personality and connect with the audience on an emotional level.
Hunter Carter, senior from Madisonville, Kentucky said this is his first year with the a capella group and they have grown to 14 members.
“We’re a little bit nervous going into it because we don’t really know what to expect with the groups we’re competing against like we did last year,” Carter said. “It’s kind of like going in blind about where we’re going to place competition-wise but we feel confident.”
Carter said the group tries to use a wide variety of genre for their performances but the set they are doing for Quarterfinals this year consists mainly of pop songs. He said preparing for Quarterfinals helps the team as a whole to work together.
“It gives us a goal as a group,” Carter said. “Our goal is to always create beautiful music and be a good group but this gives us extra motivation because of the competition factor.”
Carter said he would love to see the growth of the a capella scene on Murray State’s campus and hopes that these experiences with EQ Blu will be the stepping stone that gets students involved and interested.
EQ Blu will perform in the ICCA Quarterfinals at UT Knoxville on Jan. 27.