Supernovas Make ICCA Semifinals


Courtesy of @vusupernovas Instagram

The Supernovas placed second at the ICCA quarterfinals.

Kai da Luz, Staff Writer

 the spirit of collegiate competition is at an all-time high. The “madness” doesn’t stop with college basketball. This upcoming Saturday, March 26, the Supernovas, a coed a cappella group at Villanova, will be performing at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE to compete in the Semifinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).

Popularized in the first “Pitch Perfect” movie, the ICCAs are the big leagues of collegiate a cappella. According to, ICCA and ICHSA (the high school equivalent) are the “only global tournaments that showcase the art of student a cappella.”

Groups prepare three songs and a storyline for the competition, but they are permitted a degree of creative liberty and can take their performances in whatever direction they desire, as long as they keep them under 10 minutes.

This is the fourth time the Supernovas have qualified for the semifinals of the ICCAs, as they reached the semis in 2017, 2020 and 2021. In 2020 the semifinals were canceled due to the pandemic, and the 2021 competition was virtual, though the group still managed to place second runner-up. As such, this year’s competition is highly anticipated. 

The Supernovas began preparing for this year’s competition back in September. The Supernovas have an ICCA committee that helps to organize and plan the group’s strategy and handle logistics. They had to pick a set to prepare for the competition and choreograph their performance, combining sight and sound to wow the audience. The Supernovas then began to practice their vocals and choreography, continuing to make small adjustments and tweaks with rehearsal after rehearsal.

“The fall was pretty moderately paced, but we started getting super serious right as the second semester started,” freshman member Bridget Duffy said. “We spent about 25 hours at bootcamp learning music and choreo every weekend for the first few weekends back on campus. It was a lot of hard work, but we made so many great memories. It was truly a bonding experience.”

With auditions happening on Sept. 10 and callbacks the following day, there was a quick turnaround for these members to begin rehearsing with the rest of the group.

“Jumping right in was crazy, just as it is for all the groups, because we had very little time to put together our performance for parents weekend since it was only a week after new members joined,” Duffy said. “Competing in quarterfinals was absolutely exhilarating, and I’m so excited to take the stage with this talented group again at semifinals.”

Each member plays an integral part in the ICCA arrangement because there are no specific voice parts, but rather lines individualized for each member’s strengths.

“I usually start arranging for ICCAs in October, so I’ve had a few months to get to know the new members’ voices, and I try to use everyone’s voice to the advantage of the group,” said junior Madeline Wujek, who is the music director for the Supernovas. “For example, if I know someone is a powerhouse belter, I make sure they have a lot of powerful moments, or if I know someone has really precise pitch control, I’ll give them a lot of moving parts.” 

As music director, Wujek has spent countless hours putting the pieces together for the performance. Over the years, she has developed many unique strategies in her arranging that add to the magic of the group. 

“Another thing I do a lot with ICCA arrangements is write little background parts within the songs that match up with the lines of other members,” Wujek said. “I think of these almost like puzzle pieces, and it makes the arrangements so much more intricate and so fun to sing together.” 

Rehearsals continue to be a rigorous, yet rewarding, process, with some unique challenges along the way that had to be overcome. 

“One of the challenges we came across this year was having to relearn to create and teach for our ICCA performance after a year without it and with many members being first-timers,” senior president Emily Cavanaugh said. 

“The theme of our set this year is mental health and the concept of internal conflict,” Wujek said. “This is something that means a lot to us as a group, and we formed our set around feelings of fear and loneliness that eventually are met with the comfort of knowing you’re not alone.”

The set they prepared for ICCAs is called “Delirium,” and they hope that everyone can find their meaning in it. 

“My favorite line in the whole set, ‘Through the light and through the shadow,’ is one we all sing together at the highest point of the last song, all holding hands,” Wujek said. “I think this is the most powerful moment both for audience members and for us as a group.”

Not only did they place second, but they brought home three out of the four awards given at this stage of the event. The three awards were Outstanding Arrangement, awarded to music director Wujek, Outstanding Choreography, awarded to president Cavanaugh and Outstanding Vocal Percussion, awarded to Ryan Hartnett.

In the semifinals, the Supernovas will compete against nine other quarter finals winners for a chance to move onto the finals.