Soul'd Out, WHS's a cappella group, takes first at regionals and heads to nationals in NYC

Twenty young singers from Wilsonville High School will be packing their bags and heading to New York City in April, after their a cappella group, Soul’d Out, took first place at the International Championship of High School A Cappella 2014 tournament. by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Sou'ld Out members explode with joy Saturday, moments after it was announced the Wilsonville High School a cappella group was the winner of the International Championship of High School A Cappella Western Semifinals. The group now will compete for a national title in April in New York City.

Held Jan. 25 at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, the tournament drew a cappella groups from the Portland metro area and Willamette Valley, and from as far away as Bend and San Francisco.

The Wilsonville singers headed from their last day of first semester final exams to an intense rehearsal at Rolling Hills. Soul’d Out’s strong showing in previous years, including a second-place finish last year, gave the group a certain level of confidence going in, although group members were taking their competitors seriously.

“They’re all really great,” senior Rachel Hawkins said. “There are a few that I look out for, because they’re so good.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville High senior Rachel Hawkins, front right, earned an award for best choreography Saturday at the ICHSA Western Semifinals at Rolling Hills Church. Hawkins counted Soul’d Out’s bass singers, Jason Black and Aaron Gilbert, and Justin Hartenberger, the group’s beat-boxer, among its strengths. Every singer’s stage presence also made a difference, she said.

“We are really good at connecting with the audience,” she said. “The people in our group are really good at making eye contact.”

In her fourth year with Soul’d Out, Hawkins was ready to win.

“It’s a full circle,” Hawkins said. “I plunged into it freshman year. Winning this would bring it back around. Now I know what I’m doing.”

“They’re all very good and they’re all getting better. The competition is getting very different,” WHS choir teacher and Soul’d Out director Sue Schreiner said. “It’s pushed us to become better to win. We’ve upped our ante too. The kids have grown, and their expectations have grown.”

Schreiner has taken Soul’d Out to New York twice before, but it has been two years since the group’s last trip.

“If it’s in the cards for us to win tonight, we’ll be going to New York. We’d like to finish in the top three,” she said on the night of the competition. “There are no weaknesses in our program. Whether they’ll win, that’s up to the judges. If we do our best, that’s all we can do. ... Sometimes it goes in our favor, sometimes it doesn’t. The judges do their best. Whatever we do, we’ll take it and smile and be happy for anyone else if they win.”

“We’ve got a big sound, with 20 people in the group,” junior Cameron Worth said. “I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”

The order in which the nine competing groups would be performing was decided by blind draw just prior to the beginning of the competition. As a result, Soul’d Out had the distinct advantage of performing last on the night, which allowed them to observe the competition and consider exactly what they needed to do to win.

“We knew we had to end out the show with a bang,” Hawkins said.

Soul’d Out’s performance included three songs. Each song — “Just Keep Breathing,” by We The Kings, “Calgary,” by Bon Iver and a mashup of ‘N Sync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” and Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” — featured original choreography and one or more soloist.

Before their performance time, Soul’d Out’s members gathered backstage for last-minute instructions and a pep talk.

“When we walked onto the stage, though, I think we were all 100 percent caught up in the cheers and the lights and the feeling that we were going own this, even if we didn’t win,” Hawkins said. “We performed our set with the highest level of energy I’ve ever felt us have — which is all thanks to the support we got from the crowd — and we finished knowing that we did everything we could.”

“They were amazing. They were just great. When they finished their last song, I said, ‘They’ve won. They were better than everyone else.’ I just knew in my heart,” Schreiner said.

“We left everything we had on that stage last night, and we all knew that it was something the audience and judges had to have noticed as well,” Hawkins said.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Senior Madison Pintar of Sou'ld Out was named best soloist at the ICHSA Western Semifinals Saturday.In addition to the group’s overall win, Soul’d Out member Madison Pintar was recognized as the top female lead performer at the event. Hawkins was recognized as top choreographer.

After the winners were announced, Soul’d Out offered an encore performance. After that, the celebration could begin — but not until the group performed one final chore.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Soul'd Out members mingle with parents, friends and classmates following their victory Saturday in the ICHSA Western Semifinals at Rolling Hills Church. “First I made them clean up the green room,” Schreiner said. “I told them I’m really proud of them, but let’s clean up this mess first.”

Along with the rest of the WHS student body, Soul’d Out members enjoyed a day off from school on Monday, a teacher work day at the high school.

“On Tuesday, the work begins,” Schreiner said.

She plans to consult with professional friends of hers, she said, to change or refine the group’s performance in preparation for the trip to New York. She also will consider options for raising the money the group will need for the competition in Manhattan April 25.

“It will cost at least $1,000 apiece for the kids to go, for the flight, the hotel. We have to rent space to rehearse in Manhattan. I don’t know if we’ll have carwashes or what, but we’ll do what we have to do,” Schreiner said.

“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “The kids are ready. They know what they have to do,” she said. “The good news is, we have time.”
By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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