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‘Pitch Perfect’: California Golden Overtones talk friendship, ICCA semifinals

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Arts Editor

MARCH 17, 2023

The California Golden Overtones, UC Berkeley’s premier all-female a capella group, are often compared to the Barden Bellas in “Pitch Perfect.” With their matching blazers and polished appearance, the observation doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. 

“I think, to some degree, (collegiate a cappella) is very similar to ‘Pitch Perfect’ in that the competitions are high stakes,” said Golden Overtones business manager Maggie Khoury in an interview with The Daily Californian. “But I think the movie does a poor job of displaying the time and effort it takes to sound and look that good.” 

Rehearsing at least 12 hours a week, the Overtones require a high degree of dedication to keep their performances pristine. They had to up their commitment to their craft as they prepared for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCAs, but the extra work paid off: On Feb. 18 at Oakland’s Fox Theater, the Overtones placed second at the ICCA West Quarterfinals, and they’re now preparing to head to the West Semifinals in Oregon on March 25. 

While Khoury and her co-business manager Angela Gao were surprised by the outcome, they also had faith in the group’s talent and ability to succeed. In the weeks leading up to the competition, the Overtones chose to remain positive, believing in themselves despite the odds. 

“In our group we were always saying, ‘Oh, after the ICCAs,’ with the implication that we weren’t going to move on,” Khoury said. “I was like, ‘Guys, I think we need to change our language. We want to be manifesting something better for us.’” 

It’s easy for the Overtones to feel like the underdog. All-female groups traditionally do not make it far in the ICCAs, and the group lacked the proper microphones and sound equipment to prepare for the stage. 

“A lot of variables were in play that we just had never worked with before,” Gao said. “I guess (our rehearsals) really worked. It turned out great.”

In addition to the Overtones’ winning set — which included songs such as Rina Sawayama’s “Hold the Girl” and Thirdstory’s “Still in Love” — Gao and Khoury won best soloist for their performance of “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato. As the Overtones gathered in a vertical line, Gao stood front and center, singing the opening line “Little girls, listen closely” before she was joined by Khoury.

“I feel like sometimes when you perform on stage, you just feel the adrenaline, like the power of the song that you’re singing. It just feels so great,” Gao said. “I didn’t know we were going to win, but singing in the moment with Maggie was so fun.”

“It brought chills to my body (watching Angela),” Khoury added. “It was just an amazing experience, because I was feeling what the crowd was feeling in that moment.”

As co-business managers, Khoury and Gao are tasked with overseeing finances and planning events such as the West Coast A Cappella Showcase. Both have been involved with the Overtones for multiple years, but the journey to get there wasn’t exactly easy. After not making it into the group as a freshman, Khoury auditioned again the next year, refusing to give up. 

“It was still something that I was interested in because the group is just so cohesive in their sound. They represent women, and they support women with their music,” Khoury said. “So I reauditioned in the fall of my sophomore year, and that’s when I joined with Angela actually. So it worked out.”

Besides the ICCAs, the Overtones look forward to more Friday performances on Sproul and recording their ICCA set. They also have their spring showcase approaching, which spotlights seniors in the group by giving them the opportunity to solo. Later in the semester, they will also be holding auditions to fill the spots opened by graduating seniors. 

In terms of how to succeed in the audition, Khoury recommends picking a good solo song. “Really pick a song that showcases who you are as a singer, not who you think we want you to be,” she said. “Because we have a wide variety of singers in our group, from R&B to pop to even country.”

As they prepare for the ICCA semifinals, the Overtones have dialed back on rehearsals a bit, instead fine tuning and nitpicking their set based on the judges’ notes. They’re also raising money for their trip to Oregon, using GoFundMe to cover the costs. 

“Regardless of what happens at (the semifinals), I think it’s just a very good memory to make with the 14 of us,” Gao said. “We’re going into this competition with a good mindset. It’s just like singing with your best friends.”

Contact Lauren Harvey at 


MARCH 16, 2023