For years, Brigham Young University has been a leader in collegiate a cappella music. The student population at BYU has produced nationally acclaimed groups like Vocal Point, Inside Out, moosebutter, and Reprise.
Although all-male groups have dominated the art form nationally, women's groups have enjoyed much success as well. Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Mint Juleps, and Mary Schmary are just some of the professional female groups that have paved the way. This wave of all-female a cappella has also graced the campuses of many colleges across the country in recent years. Noteworthy has had the opportunity to share the stage with such popular groups as the Golden Overtones, Divisi, Vocal Ease, The Sirens, and others. BYU has seen several all-female groups too, including PDA and a previous group called Noteworthy.
In the fall of 2003, a BYU student named Esther Yoder decided it was time to bring female a cappella back to the school. After consulting with Bob Ahlander, co-founder and director of Vocal Point and co-founder of the professional group Extempo, Esther recruited Vocal Point members Dave Brown and Dan Dunn to help create the new group.
In January 2004, the three founders held Noteworthy's first auditions. With just a few fliers some little word-of-mouth, the group was surprised when over 60 women showed up to audition for just eight spots. The three founders chose the eight women who, along with Esther, became the founding members of the group.
Esther led the group to immediate success. It appeared there was a niche on campus for female a cappella. In just one semester, Noteworthy was asked to sing at several campus-wide events and many private parties. The group finished the year performing in a full-house joint concert with Vocal Point, where many were turned away at the doors.
Under the direction of co-founder Dave Brown, 2004-05 was a year of firsts for the group. Noteworthy took its first official tour when the group was invited to perform in the West Coast A Cappella Showcase at UC Berkeley. The group produced its first full-length solo concert, performed for the first time at a Utah Jazz game, delivered its first fireside, and made its first appearance in the International Championship of Collegiate A cappella (ICCA). At that competition, Esther became one of the first women ever to receive the award for Most Outstanding Vocal Percussion. That same year the group took on a more professional look by releasing the noteworthyladies.com website, the Noteworthy logo, and adopting what has now become its signature "Noteworthy green." That year, the nine ladies of Noteworthy set goals and created traditions which would have a great impact in the years to come.
Vocal Point member and award-winning vocal percussionist Jimmy Dunn took the directorial reins in 2005-06. In that year Noteworthy expanded its list of performances, its repertoire, and its originality. The group delivered its second solo concert, finished recording tracks for its debut album, and performed in the third annual Vocal Point / Noteworthy joint concert, which had now become a tradition. The group made a focused effort to increase its stage presence and visual performance. An appearance at the ICCA not only placed them among the top groups in the western U.S., but Noteworthy member Camille Hancock brought home the award for Most Outstanding Choreography.
Noteworthy veteran Catherine Papworth stepped away from her role as performer and musical director to take over as the group's full-time director for 2006-07. In the fall, Noteworthy achieved a long-time goal of performing in BYU's famed de Jong Concert Hall when the group was invited to open for Vocal Point's fall concert. After Noteworthy's third annual fall solo concert, the group released its long-awaited debut album On the Horizon, which represented the work of the 2004-2006 groups. "Kaval Sviri," a Bulgarian track on the album, was shortly thereafter nominated for the prestigious Contemporary A cappella Recording Award (CARA) in the best female collegiate song category. During the winter semester, Noteworthy took an incredible path through the ICCA competition. At the Quarterfinals, the group not only took first place (a milestone for the group), but received the highest score ever given in a single round in the history of the competition. At the same round, director Catherine received the Most Outstanding Arrangement Award for "How Great Thou Art." At the semifinals, Catherine received the same award again, and the group took first place, winning the entire western region. In their first tour east of the Rockies, Noteworthy flew to New York City in April to compete in the International Finals held at the Lincoln Center. At the final round, group member Kristin Papworth received the award for Most Outstanding Choreography for Noteworthy's full set, and in yet another milestone, the group took first place and was named 2007 International Champion! Since Vocal Point had won the previous year, this victory represented two consecutive wins for BYU groups. In all, it was a tremendous year.
Having returned only one day earlier from her 18-month mission for the LDS Church, Esther Yoder was present in New York City to witness the group's astonishing victory. Inspired by this great achievement, Esther returned to serve as the group's director for 2007-08. Picking up where she left off, Esther brought a new vigor to the group, taking them on tour to new places throughout the western U.S. where the group had never performed, including the new Las Vegas A Cappella Summit, where the group shared the stage with a cappella professional supergroup Mosaic, and the famous venue Tuacahn in southern Utah, where the group opened for piano star Jon Schmidt. The group's growing reputation led to increased media coverage, including a feature story for NBC Sports and piece in BYU Magazine. The group again impressed in the ICCA as they brought new, unexplored styles and a dynamic presence on stage, again placing among the top groups in the west. Always improving its image, Noteworthy unveiled this very website in 2007, designed by group member Nabby Parkinson in effort to continue improving the group's professionalism. The group finished the year by finishing tracking its second album, produced by Catherine Papworth.
Catherine returned for Fall 2008 and teamed up with veteran member Erica Neuffer to direct the 2008-09 Noteworthy year. The year brought another series of milestones as the ladies toured to California, appeared on a dramatic web series JER3MIAH, and were featured in newspaper and other press coverage. Always improving, Noteworthy introduced its first original songwriting into its repertoire in the form of Rachel Sonderegger's touching pop ballad "Step Outside." The group's sophomore album Green Means Go was released in April 2009 to critical acclaim, and features songs from their 2007 ICCA Championship set.
Powerhouse veterans Amy Whitcomb and Courtney Jensen assumed the directorial reins for 2009-10. The group carried the Noteworthy torch even further when "Listen," a stand-out track from Green Means Go was selected to appear on the highly influential Best Of College A cappella (BOCA) compilation for 2010. In an unthinkable turn of events, Noteworthy was contacted by producers at NBC and asked to be one of only eight groups in the nation to appear on NBC's a cappella competition reality show The Sing-Off. The show debuted on NBC on Monday, December 14, 2009 to an estimated home audience of 6.9 million viewers. The tremendous publicity generated by the show led to performance opportunities and a chance for Noteworthy to continue to fulfill its unique mission. In April of 2010, they had to opportunity to travel to Hong Kong to sing at an international a cappella festival!
This year, Kelsey Pratt and Cassie Crabb have stepped in as directors for 2010-11. The group has already had many opportunities to perform in Utah and Idaho and is preparing to release the third Noteworthy CD titled Defined. This new CD, featuring the songs sung on the reality TV show The Sing-Off, is sure to entertain!
Though the individual members of the group may come and go, Noteworthy remains. Each lady who dons the Noteworthy green walks away not only a better performer, but a stronger woman as well. As Noteworthy expands its versatility and style, performs in new venues, and gains added recognition, the group will remain dedicated to its mission of uplifting audiences and spreading joy through the power of music.