Pitch Perfect 2, one of the most anticipated non-superhero films of the summer, follows the trials and tribulations of a group of collegiate singers after they win the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. The characters might be fictional, but the competition is real: Last year's winner, Pitch Slapped (above), a 15-member coed group from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, practiced nine hours a week in the months leading up to the ICCA finals.
Several Pitch Slapped members hail from the D.C. area. In conjunction with the film's launch last Friday, Arts Desk asked senior alto Erin Cafferky of Springfield, Va., junior bass Matt Sallee of La Plata, Md., and 2014 graduate and baritone Jared Jenkins of Bowie, Md., what it takes to be an a cappella champ.
Arts Desk: Is it exhausting to live and breathe music in school and sing as an extracurricular activity, too?
Jared: [D]uring the audition season and as time goes on, we try to build a family of our own, so when we’re working three-hour rehearsals after school, [group members] take the stress of our day away because we’re with families.
Matt: Singing [that’s assigned for] homework is a lot of technical singing. It’s a lot of learning theory and the ins and outs of music. Everyone in the group is a vocal principal where we do that technical singing, but [a cappella] is a lot more fun. It’s like a bonus.
In the beginning of Pitch Perfect, a cappella is seen as a kind of dorky thing to do. Before you joined a prestigious all-music college, how nerdy was singing at your high school?
Jared: My school was a little different in that respect. We had choir and a cappella options. And there were a lot of people in the choirs, but a cappella wasn’t that popular.
Matt: I went to a very music-heavy public school where music was supported and I’ve also been singing at the church where my dad was the pastor.
In the film, a cappella groups have trouble getting prospective new members to audition. How does it work when singing is an extracurricular activity at a school tailored for vocalists?
Jared: The contemporary a cappella world has gained a lot of popularity, and just in general...the word was out. Whenever Pitch Slapped was having auditions, it was a big thing. And it would take days and days and hours to get through everybody.
Erin: Being in a music school, everyone’s interested in music, but that varies so much. Everyone likes music, but not everyone likes a cappella; that’s still a niche. Everyone has different tastes and interests.
What character would you compare yourself to in the movie?
Erin: I’m trying to think, who would be Fat Amy?
Jared: You can be Fat Amy.
Erin: Thank you. I was hoping. She’s the queen.
Jared: I’ll go with the Anna Kendrick character—I love a cappella more than I thought I would. I was reluctant to join.
Do people improvise onstage at the championship like Becca does in the film?
Jared: It’s 90 percent rehearsed and 10 percent winging it on the choreography. On the singing side, that’s something that we nailed down to the T—the only part that was improvised was the soloists, where they had an idea what we wanted to do. The dancing’s very much rehearsed, but there are also sections where we just groove and want [the singers] to have a good time interacting with each other on stage.
Read more How Accurate Is Pitch Perfect? We Asked D.C.-Area A Cappella Singers.