The Water Boys Make History
“Unreal... Intense… Unbelievable... A dream I never dreamed.”
These are just a few of the sentiments that Waterloo’s all-male A Cappella team The Water Boys expressed after their historic first place win at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semi-finals last month.
On March 25, The Water Boys traveled to the University of Buffalo Centre for the Arts to compete in the Central division of the ICCA semi-finals, scoring the most points in their division and qualifying for the ICCA finals.
Not only is their win a remarkable accomplishment for The Water Boys, but it is significant on the university, provincial and even national scale: they are the first group from Ontario to make it to the ICCA finals, the second Canadian group to make it to finals since 2006, and currently ranked as the top A Cappella collegiate group in all of Canada.
Members of the team were also recipients of two special awards. Koby Pathmanathar received the Outstanding Vocal Percussion Award and shared the Outstanding Choreography Award with teammate Yifan Wu.
Their journey to the finals was neither easy nor seamless. The Water Boys competed against music majors and professionals who have been training for this competition for months and practicing for hours on end. The Water Boys, who are mostly made up of engineers and math majors, only had three months to rehearse and limited time together with the entire group.
The team prepared with two-hour rehearsals twice a week. However, like most undergraduates, they found that their heavy course loads and extracurricular activities made it difficult for the team to come together.
“A lot of people can’t make rehearsals. One of our members couldn’t make a single rehearsal, so he had to learn the choreography the day of quarter-finals,” Pathmanathar said.
The team pulled together and made it to the semi-finals, where Pathmanathar described the atmosphere of the competition as “insane.”
“We’ve seen a lot of these groups we were competing against on YouTube and TV and were so inspired by them. The fact that we were even singing on the same stage with them was unbelievable,” he said. “They were really strong and entertaining - we’ve never really seen that caliber of performance live.”
Despite matching that caliber with their performance at the semi-finals, The Water Boys were genuinely surprised by their win.
“We weren’t even expecting to place in the top 3,” said Matthew Leandres, president of The Water Boys. “When they said we won, we were waiting for him to say, ‘Sorry, we said the wrong name.’”
Realizing that they won was “indescribable,” said Wu. “We felt like this couldn’t have been our lives.”
While The Water Boys can attribute their win to singing and choreography of the highest caliber, their success is built on a solid foundation of friendship and camaraderie. “Friendship on 3” is the chant they say right before heading on stage, and friendship is certainly a huge factor in shaping The Water Boys.
Joining The Water Boys “help[s] you break out of your shell and be yourself, which makes it easy to make friends,” said Pathmanathar. “It’s a life-changing experience for anyone who comes in.”
The Water Boys are back to working hard in rehearsals in preparation for the ICCA finals this month in New York City. They will be directed by Grammy award-winning producer Ben Bram and competing against some of the best A Cappella collegiate groups from around the world.
During this busy exam season, The Water Boys are studying for more than their finals.
“We’re all trying to study for exams but we’re also studying ways to improve and alter our set,” said assistant musical director, Daniel Morris.
The Water Boys head to NYC to compete in the ICCA finals on April 22nd. Congratulations and best of luck, Water Boys!
Interested in joining an A Capella club at Waterloo? Feds has five: The Water Boys, The Unaccompanied Minors, The AcaBellas, The Musical InterDudes and ACE!
If you’d like to support The Water Boys on their trip to NYC, you can find their fundraising link here: https://www.gofundme.com/send-the-water-boys-to-icca-finals
Written by Kathy Nguyen, Communications Assistant.