Queens College’s iTones is a co-ed a capella group founded in 2012 by President Taylor Blanket and Vice President Jessica Altieri.
A cappella is technically defined as “singing without instrumental accompaniment.” While some groups use their voices to emulate instruments others are more traditional and focus on harmonizing.
“I met Jessica in a jazz history class. I pitched the idea of starting an a capella group on campus. We both came from choral backgrounds during our years in high school,” Blanket said.
“With a lot of determination and a little bit of luck, we were able to fill out all the paperwork, write up a proposal, and collect 20 signatures from prospective members before winter break of 2012. That was how the iTones were born.”
The iTones currently consist of 16 students chosen through a competitive audition process.
“During audition season, we usually have each prospective member prepare a solo piece to showcase their voice. After they perform for us, we execute a few other exercises to determine their range, voice part and how they blend with other voices,” Altieri said.
The group’s repertoire includes various genres of music, from old-time classics to pop and jazz.
“We usually have the group suggest one of two songs at a time then have our members vote on which ones they’d like to perform. We like to have a wide variety of styles in our repertoire so we keep genre in mind when deciding. My favorite genre is jazz because of the intricate harmonies and how they sound in our voices,” Altieri said.
Like many clubs on campus the task of receiving funding can be a rigorous process.
“The iTones applied for school funding in the fall of 2014 and received it in November of that year. We were finally a legit club on campus,” Blanket said. “This money contributed to our first ever ICCA audition submission.”
The ICCA’s are the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella, where selected groups compete all over the tristate area for the grand title of ICCA Champion.
“The iTones were both anxious and excited to submit our video filmed in the Copland School of Music. We were accepted on our first try,” Blanket said.
“We spent the next 3 months preparing for our quarterfinal at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. We competed with 12 other groups and placed 5th. While we did not have the opportunity to move on in the competition, we were extremely proud of ourselves!”
Despite only being an official club for one year, the iTones have brought innovative musical ideas to QC’s campus. Last fall, the first ever a capella festival “Voices Only!” was held in Lefrak Concert Hall. Unlike other iTones concerts, this event featured seven other a cappella groups from across 3 states.
“One thing that’s particularly unique about our group is that it is predominantly comprised of non-music majors,” Altieri said.
“There are many instances when high school students don’t get to experience choir or a cappella in college because most on-campus ensembles are reserved for music majors. Our members enjoy their time making music together and I love being able to give them the means to do so.”
Upcoming auditions for the 2015-2016 school year will be held in Copland School of Music on April 24 and 26.