The Tritones

John Hanacek/Guardian

Rising from a campus full of mediocre shower singers and American Idol wannabes, the competitively selected singers in the UCSD Tritones are a breath of fresh talent. Don’t believe us? If world-famous pop star Taylor Swift chose the a capella group to sing backup for her nationally televised Academy of Country Music Awards concert in Las Vegas, they’ve got to be doing something right.

The Tritones spotted their chance when producers from the CBS network contacted a handful of collegiate a cappella groups in search of a backup choir for Swift.

After sending in their rendition of Swift’s “You Belong With Me” — which they performed in Ledden Hall — the Tritones received a call informing them that Swift had handpicked them to accompany her onstage.

Revelle College senior Teresa Souto — the Tritones’ assistant director, and one of the four sopranos of the group — said she was ecstatic to have beat out national competition for the chance to sing with Swift.

“Through opportunities like this, the more our name will get out there and people will not only know who we are but who UCSD is,” Souto said. “We hope to have more of a reach out side of UCSD and San Diego.”

Founded in 1996 by a group of high-school choir friends searching for an artistic outlet, the Tritones were the first of UCSD’s a cappella groups. Comprised of 16 members — four soprano, four alto, four tenor and four bass — the group rehearses twice a week to perfect their collective harmony.

These days, Tritones auditions are the most cutthroat on campus. Every Fall Quarter, prospective members are asked to memorize “The Star Spangled Banner” and perform an additional one-minute song excerpt that highlighted their particular vocal skills.

Candidates must also pass a series of tests determining their ability to sight-read, clap to complex rhythms and memorize tones. Last fall, over 100 students auditioned for a only 10 open spots.

Souto said that — although each member of the Tritones has a unique set of interests — it’s the thrill of group performance that brings them together.

“Some members of the group are on sports teams, some are in musical theater; our majors range from pre-med, political science to economics,” Souto said. “We are all really different, but we do have one thing in common — and that’s where we love to sing.”

This March, for the first time ever in UCSD history, the Tritones won first place in the International Championship of A Cappella quarterfinals at UC Berkeley, advancing them to the semifinals at the University of Southern California.

Their winning sets included Lady Gaga’s “Speechless,” Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Although they did not advance to the finals, the Swift performance is sure to meet their quota for limelight — at least for the time being.