The Water Boys recently made waves, not just because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognized them, but also because they are the first Canadian team to qualify, in a decade, as finalists for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA).
The University of Waterloo’s own Water Boys, competed in ICCA after being named Cetral Regional Champion. The competition took place at the Beacon Theatre in New York, NY. The competition drew in teams from all over the United States, one team from the United Kingdom and one from Canada.
The group recently exploded on Facebook after posting a letter from Trudeau. Matthew Leandres, the President of the Water Boys, admitted that the magnitude of the gesture did not dawn on them until a few days passed when they realized, “[the Prime Minister of our country] took the time of his day to write and acknowledge what is going on. Then we posted it on Facebook and realized this is actually a pretty big deal.”
The boys ultimately described the experience at the competition as “magical” and “really cool” for a lack of better words.
“This whole journey has been such a crazy wild ride for me” said Daniel Morris, the assistant musical director of the club. “It didn’t really hit me until it was the Saturday of the competition when we were on our way to meet with the other competitor. It didn’t really hit me that we’re going as performers and people competing and not just tourists.”
The boys performed Black Bird by the Beatles, went straight into a mashup of “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson and “Maps” by Maroon 5, “Needing/Getting” by Ok Go and Fake Memories by One Direction. They also got an opportunity to perform “Man in the Mirror” with all the finalist groups to sing together, arranged by Ben Bram, a Grammy award-winning vocal arranger.
There is a lack of representation from Canada in the competition. However, Yifan Wu, Water Boy’s musical director, does point out that a capella “is a growing [interest] in Canada. Right now, all the regionals are in the US. In 2018 or 2019 [The Water Boys] want to [host] one of the quarterfinals in Canada.”
Members of the group live a less dramatic life than those portrayed on Glee (a TV show) and are usually balancing rehearsals, school, and a lot of other activities. Leandres joked, “in Glee it’s like who cares about school and learning and class, let’s just go singing for eight hours a day.”
When asked to describe the group, Morris said “its really cool we made it far and I’m impressed with everyone … It’s a really special group of guys and we really accomplished something pretty good.”
Wu said that the Water Boys are different from other groups because “[we are] a lot more focused on having energy and soul to [our] performance as opposed to being technically perfect … we embraced the imperfections and tried to be human.”
Leandres encouraged people to continue to audition for the Water Boys and not to be discouraged if not selected. “Try your best, have fun, and if you don’t get in don’t give up, because a lot of members that help us get to finals didn’t get in the first time they tried. Kobe [Pathmanathar] who was our vocal percussion won two awards, and he didn’t get into Water Boys the first two times he auditioned.”