Fans of talent competition shows like “America’s Got Talent,” or the “Pitch Perfect” movie franchise may not realize that the best a capella high school group in the country is right here in metro Atlanta.
Last month InToneNation from Douglas County’s New Manchester High School wowed judges at the 2019 International Championship of High School A Cappella and took home first-place honors.
“We’ve never made it this far so we didn’t know what to expect,” said director Trey Giddens, who also directs the school’s award-winning Fame Choirs. Manchester is a fine arts magnet school, so the students are used to flexing their performance muscles and putting a lot of effort, determination and creativity into projects.
Shortly after the first “Pitch Perfect” movie came out, Giddens got an idea to form a capella groups at the school. They started out with a male-only and a female-only group.
The Netflix series “Sing It On,” a behind-the-scenes look at the country’s top competitive collegiate a cappella teams, convinced Giddens that his kids were good enough for competition. That prompted them to combine into one co-ed supergroup.
Although Giddens is the teacher, he said he considers himself more of a manager who just steers the rehearsals.
The students choose the music, arrange the vocals and the choreography and through a democratic process decide who sings the solos.
“There’s no drama or friction,” said Tyler Lewis who was named outstanding soloist during the competition.
“We know what songs work for the different voices and just work toward putting together the best performance,” he said. “The cool thing about our group is that we have such diverse talent. It’s kind of obvious who works best for what song.”
To make it to New York City, InToneNation beat out local competitors in October.
With just three years of experience behind them, they stayed humble and ever watchful for techniques to utilize space and other performance tips.
“We took notes and used the best of the other teams to make us better,” said Lewis.
Once in the Big Apple, the 13-member group mesmerized judges before beating out eight other regional a capella finalists during the national competition. The teens delivered a powerhouse 12-minute performance scored on vocal performance, visual performance and subjective rank.
When the dust cleared, they also tied for Outstanding Arrangement. In signature hot pink costumes, they performed Calum Scott’s “Dancing on My Own” and the Oscar-winning song, “Glory” written by John Legend and Common for the movie “Selma.”
InToneNation also holds the Varsity Vocals International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) title. In 2018, the group won the Georgia Lottery $5,000 grand prize for singing their own, original version of the “HOPE” Jingle.
As a graduating senior, Lewis plans to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He’s not sure where that will take him, but he’s positive singing is in his future.
“Music is my life,” he said. “I can’t imagine a day without it.”
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