In 2021 Varsity Vocals will be fully virtual. And while it will resemble in some ways the tournament we’ve known and loved for 26 years, it’s going to challenge groups to learn, grow, and stretch beyond their comfort zones more than ever before.


In order for us to present a normal season, we would need: (1) for most students to be on campus in the fall, (2) for it to be safe for group members to meet in close proximity and sing, (3) for it to look now like it will be safe come January – March for us to bring 10 groups of 15-20 members to a venue where they will be passing mics, (4) for it to look now like it will be safe this spring for audiences to sit in close proximity to each other, and (5) for all of these criteria to be more or less solid nationwide and in the UK.

TLDR: there’s a pandemic. Not only is it unsafe to participate in and attend shows, a cappella groups themselves can’t even get together to create their art.

So we’re throwing out the playbook and reimagining our tournament to provide groups and fans everywhere a way to stay connected and inspired.


Groups will submit their own performance videos, which will be evaluated by our judges using a modified rubric and the same regional-semifinal-finals bracket system we’ve always had.

We’re opening this opportunity up to ICHSA (high school), ICCA (college), and The Open (pro groups/dream teams that cross academic and regional lines).


Submission videos — which replace your traditional competition set — will be limited to 4 minutes. The video can be whatever you want — we anticipate many will do a “squares”-style video, but the sky’s the limit for creativity.

Vocals: Group members will presumably record their parts separately, though you may do something physically together as long as it’s within all then-applicable social distancing safety guidelines (i.e., six feet apart, wearing a mask, etc). Vocal tracks must be mixed by a current group member (or for high school, adult director), though you can get input or help from outside sources. (Think: in a typical scenario, some groups get feedback or coaching from professionals or alumni, but you are the ones doing the actual performing.) No limits on tuning, effects, etc. Mixing can be done using free or purchased software (Garage Band, ProTools, etc).

Visual: Group members will presumably record your videos separately, though you may do something physically together as long as it’s within all then-applicable social distancing safety guidelines (i.e., six feet apart, wearing a mask, etc). Video must be created by a current group member (or for high school, adult director) and can be done using free or purchased software (iMovie, etc).


Groups apply by October 15 (yes, October 15th!) with an application form and a 5-10 minute video of your group recorded any time during the 2019-2020 school year or later. Your application video does not have to include the song(s) you will submit for judging in the competition, nor does it have to have the members who will compete with you in your 2021 video. It’s just a commitment to participate that gives us some ability to try to ensure the quarterfinals are evenly balanced in terms of difficulty.

View full application policies here first, and then APPLY HERE.


Regions and rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals) will loosely follow the same lines we’ve always used, but are subject to change (as always!) depending on how many applicants we receive and from where.

Virtual Quarterfinals will be approximately February 15, Semifinals March 15, and Finals April 15.

Judging will follow a new rubric, based on our current system but tweaked to account for the change in format. For example, tuning will be worth less, but creativity will be worth more. We’re in the process of developing this rubric with some of our time-honored judges and will release it in early September.

Judges for each regional quarterfinal will be the same, which means there will be a consistent standard for judging within a region. Judges for semifinals will be the same for all regions as well. Judges for all “events” will be the best of the best, since we aren’t limited by physical proximity.

Groups can change, add to, or completely redo their videos between rounds.

View our full competition rules here.


In 2021, Varsity Vocals programming will be entirely free.


Our goal is to provide an educational opportunity and encourage groups to work together and be creative during this challenging time, as well as to give groups a common goal in a year where most can’t even physically meet.

This new format will encourage groups to develop skills recording, mixing, and editing audio and video. The future is digital and relies heavily on social media #content, so developing these skills will empower groups and individuals to be able to create and present their music in a new and relevant way.

We love the joy, passion, artistry, camaraderie, and incredible talent of our a cappella community — and we need it now more than ever. ❤️


Applications will open in September. Keep an eye to our social media and mailing list for updates!

New to audio and video production? Keep an eye on this crowdsourced resource guide, where community members and pros can share their suggestions, recommendations, and services. Remember — you can take a seminar or lesson, but your group must do all the audio and video work yourself! VARSITY VOCALS AUDIO/VIDEO RESOURCE GUIDE

Let’s take advantage of this unique and unprecedented time and challenge ourselves to do something new. Please join us for Varsity Vocals 2021 ICCA, ICHSA, and The Open!