"Organized nerd singing" hits high note


University of Southern California SoCal VoCals perform at the ICCA West Semifinals.

The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) will crown its 2015 champion in New York this weekend. Before "Pitch Perfect" hit movie theaters, a cappella had a bit of an image problem, but now the musical form is hitting a high note, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

The success of "Pitch Perfect" as well as TV hits "Glee" and "The Sing-Off" have made making music with your mouth mainstream.

One of the top selling albums of 2014 belonged to the group Pentatonix, a quintet with almost 8 million YouTube followers and a Grammy win.

"I don't know what changed, but in the past three or four years, suddenly it became this really cool thing to do, when sort of the stereotype for a cappella is nerdy music kids," SoCal VoCals president Myles Nuzzi said.

Success helps. The University of Southern California co-ed a cappella group has won the ICCA three times in the past decade.

The annual competition has grown from 35 groups in 1996 to 300 this year. The championship is even the focus of a reality series called "Sing It On" that will premiere on Pop TV on May 13th.

At the recent ICCA Western semi-final, 10 colleges competed for the chance to advance to this weekend's finals in New York.

The competition is fierce. Groups practice in the parking lot, memorize in front of the mirror, then kill it on stage.

"I would call the singers here tonight, equivalent to a cappella Olympians," ICCA West Coast Producer Lucy Jackson said. "There's really deep emotional connection too that's happening -- as opposed to you know, more feel good oldies. We don't really see so much of that snapping and clapping kind of song anymore."

And it's much more than simply singing. The groups also arrange their music, choreograph their performances and even provide the beats.

"We calculated it and I think it's been over 275 hours that we put in this semester," SoCal VoCal soloist Nikki Segal said.

All that practice paid off at the semifinals where the SoCal VoCal riffed, rapped and rocked their way to the end.

Now they head to the championship, but no matter the outcome, a capella is the winner because "organized nerd singing" has definitely changed its tune.