Northeastern women-centered a cappella group ‘Pitch, Please!’ to compete in international competition in New York City

a cappella group members singing
Northeastern Pitch, Please! a cappella group members Jess Garcia, a human services major, Neals Maniraja, a data science and business major, Julia Chase, communications and theater major, and Olivia Materesky, music and industry major, sing a song in the Curry Student Center. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

A women-centered a cappella group from Northeastern University will bring its award-winning harmonies to New York City later this month in an attempt to win an international trophy.

Pitch, Please is one of 10 vocal groups competing for the title of best a cappella team in the U.S., U.K. and Canada in the 2023 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella being held April 29 at the Town Hall performance space.

“This is the most prestigious competition in a cappella,” says Pitch, Please president Jessica Garcia.

Founded 17 years ago, the ICCA was the inspiration for the book, “Pitch Perfect” and three subsequent “Pitch Perfect” films.

Another Northeastern a cappella group, the Nor’Easters, won the ICCA in 2013 and 2017 and was featured in the first season of John Legend’s “Pitch Perfect” inspired docuseries, “Sing It On,” on Pop TV in 2015.

Three singers from Pitch, Please talked with Northeastern Global News about what it takes to make it to the ICCA finals—and which parts of the “Pitch Perfect” movies are real or fake.

The formation of Pitch, Please!

“Northeastern has six a cappella groups. We’re the newest,” Garcia says. 

The group, which is marking its 10th season, made it to the ICCA finals once before, in 2019, as “wild card” contestants.

There are 15 members, half of whom are new to Pitch, Please this year. Thirteen will compete in New York.

“We are comprised of women and non-binary members,” Garcia says. “We call ourselves a woman-centered group.”

Regional winners in Boston

The group won a spot at the international competition in New York by winning a regional competition held at the Berklee College of Music in Boston March 26.

In addition to being regional champions, members won special awards––Julia Chase for outstanding choreography, Oli Leto for outstanding vocalist and Oliva Materetsky for outstanding vocal percussion.

Since a cappella is performed without instrumentation, vocal percussion—also known as beatboxing—adds an important dimension to performances.

The recent award was Materetsky’s sixth or seventh for vocal percussion, Garcia says. “It’s really unheard of to be winning awards like that that many times.”

Three hours of practice a day

With finals coming the group can practice more than three hours a day, perfecting three songs and choreography for a 10-minute set.

“Competition requires a lot of really hard work and dedication and time,” Garcia says.

Building mental and vocal stamina is important, but holding back to preserve energy and voices is also important, says Materetsky, a third-year student majoring in music industry and communication.

“We try to balance rehearsals so we are not singing 100% of the time. Sometimes we focus on choreography.”

Everybody has their own health rituals or routines, Materetsky says. “We do encourage honey” to soothe strained voices.

It’s like “Pitch Perfect”

The vocal group recently watched a “Pitch Perfect” movie together and members agreed that in some ways it mirrors a cappella life.

“The intensity of the competition is real,” Materestky says.

“The passion that they show is played for comedy, but it’s real,” says Garcia, a fourth-year human services major.

“People feel really strongly connected to their group,” Garcia says.

“A lot of people comment that they can see the love we have for one another when we are performing,” says Chase, a fifth-year communications and theater major.

“You feel the 12 other people on stage have your back and are truly in it with you,” Chase says.

What’s not real? Far less drama

Pitch, Please members deal with far less drama than the “Pitch Perfect” characters, Garcia says.

“We as leaders set a norm where that is not OK,” she says.

An authoritarian leader featured in “Pitch Perfect” would not make the grade in Pitch, Please, the Northeastern singers say.

“Something that’s really special in our group is that we all collaborate,” Chase says.

“We make a lot of decisions together,” whether it is about song selection or other things, Garcia says.

“All the hard work is only possible because we  have a connection with each other that really makes really hard things easy,” she says.

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at or contact her on Twitter @HibbertCynthia