Professional Groups Performing at Colleges

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #199: Professional Groups Performing at Colleges

Now more than ever, professional a cappella groups are plying their trade on stages across the United States and abroad. One of my favorite places to see them work their magic is on a college campus.

A cappella music offers a near ideal form of entertainment for college students—interesting and mysterious for how singers accomplish all of their effects without instruments, often funny, sometimes raunchy, and generally workable in just about any performance venue available with minimal technical set up (not to take anything away from the sound engineers who do amazing work optimizing sound, but rather to say that an “unplugged” set can work just fine for an intimate performance).

Better yet, pro groups can offer something for collegiate singers to look up to and aspire to. Not all members of college a cappella groups can or should try to make a living at a cappella post-graduation, but it’s good for them to see what pros are up to, and perhaps even have the opportunity to network with them to get a sense of what it really means to go pro.

In any event, professional a cappella groups performing at colleges have the ability to entertain, to educate, and to provide a memorable experience for everyone involved.

I love it!

Red is the Rose

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present the Fordham University Ramblers performing The High Kings' "Red is the Rose."

Track Order

Recording Recommendations

In this edition, our focus is on track order.

There comes a point—after you’ve decided what sort of identity your group is trying to project and whether or not your album is going to adhere a theme, after you’ve picked your songs, and perhaps even after you’ve recorded them when you need to think about what order your tracks will fall in on the album. In the contemporary era when so many people download individual songs rather than full albums and veer toward playlists over the orders that artists and record companies produce for them, the idea of caring about track order may seem antiquated. Just the same, if you sincerely want your listeners to hear every single song you’ve recorded, you need to consider how you can compel them to do so via album layout.

This process starts with grabbing your audience’s attention. It’s no coincidence that so many albums start with one of a group’s loudest, fastest, or otherwise most energetic recordings, because groups tend to agree that the first track should use that sort of energy to excite and captivate the listener’s attention. There are alternatives to this paradigm. While it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes starting soft, or with a song that stands out for its emotional vulnerability can force your consumers to listen more closely and get invested quickly in the album without the standard up-tempo, major chords we traditionally think of on a first track.

As the album progresses, it’s worth considering how the mood of different tracks plays off the others. I don’t necessarily recommend to basic of a structure as alternating between fast and slow songs, but I will say that having significant contrast in terms of dynamics, tempo, and content between songs not only makes the listening experience more diverse, but also makes the qualities of each individual track  stand out for their sheer contrast to the music surrounding them.

It’s also worth considering flow—how one track moves to another. In my estimation, when you’re figuring out your order, there’s no substitute for doing the work—sitting down and actually listening to your tracks in succession and shuffling them like puzzle pieces until you’ve arrived at your optimal order.

Lastly, when it’s time to finish an album, it’s important to think about what you would want your last impression to be. For some listeners—particularly ones who aren’t already personally invested in your group or who don’t live in your immediate area, the last track on your album may be what most lingers in your listeners’ ears—their final sense of what your group is all about.  You want to leave them craving more, which may mean putting an especially strong song last, or a song that other finishes “big”—culminating in a dramatic moment, or showing off your best musical chops.

Track order draws a listener to consume your entire album and progression of tracks can go a long way toward making each individual track sound its best.

The Return to Finals

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #198: The Return to Finals

Scholastic a cappella, not unlike scholastic sports, and other competitive mediums, face the interesting dynamic that at least once every four years or so, groups tend to face massive turnover. Graduation, shifting priorities, life changes—there are any number of contributing factors, but regardless, despite bearing the same name, the high school or college group you hear in 2012 is not the same group you’ll hear in 2016.

From 2007 to 2016, I attended every iteration of the ICCA Finals, and over half of the ICHSA Finals shows. One of the most surprising, remarkable, and impressive pieces of watching these shows across a decade was how many times the same groups arrived at the big stage.

Whether we’re talking about The SoCal VoCals winning a record five ICCA Championships, The University of Michigan G-Men making it to Finals in back-to-back-to-back years, or The Highlands Voices winning their ICHSA region six years straight, these groups demonstrated an astonishing continuity of excellence. Whether it’s maintaining institutional knowledge and practices, alumni support networks, the input of faculty advisor, or the sheer hard work and tenacity within the a cappella franchise to continually rebuild and re-attain excellence, it’s downright inspiring to see great groups remain great or return to greatness, often in new ways and with new faces over a period of years.

I love it!

There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Clemson University Tigeroar performing Shawn Mendes's "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back."

When The Home Group Wins

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #197: When The Home Group Wins

In an age when more and more groups are competing, more and more groups also have cheering sections with them at their shows. Friends, significant others, parents, legit fans won over at a campus show—they’ll make time for a whole competition for the sake of cheering on their favorites, and they’ll even travel to do so.

Despite traveling fanships, though, it’s rare for any group to have more supporters than the “home team”—the group based out of the school where the competition is happening, or at least closer to the venue than any of the other competitors.

You can claim that this dynamic gives the home team the advantage, on account of more crowd support, besides not having to travel, navigate an unfamiliar city, or perform on an unfamiliar stage—these advantages are for another time and place. For this post, I’m focusing on the joy of a group winning a competition in front of its supporters.

It’s the explosion of cheers when it happens. The wave of hugs and high fives after the encore. The palpable excitement in the room, for the sensation that not just the group, but the local community is moving up in the world.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve traveled to a lot of a cappella competitions. I may not always agree that the home group should have won, and I may have even come in rooting for someone else, but there’s nonetheless something about getting swept up in the excitement of a hometown crowd, celebrating its success.

I love it!

Next Page
Professional Groups Performing at Colleges
Red is the Rose
Track Order
The Return to Finals
There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back
When The Home Group Wins
Making a Life in A Cappella
Are You Gonna Be My Girl?
Coming To A Cappella From Unexpected Places
I Miss You
When Everyone’s Got Something Interesting To Do
When It All Comes Together
Concept Albums
When Gender Flips Work
Gaga Medley
High School Groups Going Old School
“Dream On” as performed by Casual Harmony
Gimme All Your Love
Music Videos
When A Show Starts On Time
Young Volcanoes
Soloists Who Don’t Look Like They’re Performing
Complementary Soloists
The Editing Room Floor
“If You’re Out There” as Performed by The Stereotypes
Feel You (Remix)
Fluid Transitions