Soulstice Searching

Ranked as the top American university less than 50 years old by “Times Higher Education” and placing 11th on “U.S. World & News Report’s” list of the nation’s best public universities, UCI is known for its academic prowess, its diligent student body and distinguished faculty and its creation and distribution of new knowledge.

But what else does UCI have to offer? When its students are not in a lecture hall, a study room, a research lab, what are they investing their time in? What are the talents of this student body, their passions? These are the questions, and Soulstice is the answer.

Soulstice is a student-run talent competition, constantly striving to seek out and showcase the abundant artistic talent of the UCI community. Soulstice gives an opportunity for UCI’s most talented to share their passion (and their soul) with a spirited audience of Anteaters. With categories of Solo/Duet, A Capella, Band, Fusion and Dance, there’s a little something for everyone at this show.

With the fourth annual Soulstice less than a month away (February 12th), we wanted to highlight some of the acts being featured this year. By learning a bit more about these talented folks, we hope to gain a better understanding of the performances. First up: A Capella contender, Vermillion Vocalists.

Vermillion Vocalists (affectionately referred to as “VeVo”) is one of UCI’s premier A Capella groups. Founded five years ago, this group is known for their squeaky-clean arrangements, tight vocals and theme song, their rendition of “Penny Lane.” While it might sound like VeVo is all business, this isn’t exactly the case.

Sitting in on a VeVo rehearsal is definitely a rollercoaster of an experience. Raucous laughter and beatbox freestyling bounces around the walls of Engineering Hall; almost immediately, these sounds are replaced by a profound moment of truly angelic harmony. Members read sheet music from their phones and tablets and talk over changes to their arrangement while the bass players drone impossibly low notes over the podium’s microphone. While this hardworking ensemble performs in private events and quarterly showcases all year long, they’ve definitely geared up for their upcoming appearance at Soulstice.

“We have several rehearsals [a week] for choreography and fine-tuning,” said current VeVo president, Brenna Jessup. “We are really excited to perform at such a big venue!”

But the group is not unfamiliar with Soulstice, by any means. Vermillion Vocalists took home a win in the A Capella category at the first-ever Soulstice, back in 2012. Their arrangement of Coldplay’s “Paradise” secured them a top spot in the competition. The group has something special in store for their 2015 return to the stage at the Bren Events Center.

“We wanted to do something that’s a little out of our comfort zone,” Jessup said. “We wanted to push our own boundaries. The song we’ve chosen will give us a great opportunity to do [that].”

Jessup, a fourth-year, leads the 14-person ensemble, but every member has a hand in contributing to the performance, either by helping with arrangements, choreography or vocal training. Surprisingly, only one of VeVo’s members is pursuing a degree in music; the diversity of the members’ backgrounds and interests really adds an interesting element to the group’s dynamic.

“Despite our different majors, our love for singing and each other is really what drives us,” Jessup said.

The group is truly a mixed bag, with members representing almost every school on campus; but, like Jessup says, they are “all talented musicians who bring something to the table.”

These talented musicians have put together a great act that really shows a new side of what VeVo has to offer and are prime representatives of the thriving community of UCI A Capella. They’ll be competing against two other groups, the soulful Uniting Voices and capable all-male Circle of Fifths.

Stay in tuned for a sneak-peek at some amazing acts being featured at UCI’s biggest talent competition: Soulstice, at the Bren Events Center on Thursday, February 12th.