The 5s: Five Things Aca-Things We’re Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Call us traditionalists. Call us cheeseballs. Here at the ACB, we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving and trying to tap into the spirit of the day. No, not stealing land from indigenous people, slaughtering them, and eating turkey—but rather the worthwhile aftermath of all of this—that we have a day of thanks for that which we have.

With that, I give you a (far from exhaustive) list of five things I’m feeling particularly thankful for in the a cappella world in this moment.

1. Pentatonix Sure, this pick is obvious and not entirely original. It’s also undeniable.
When Pentatonix won The Sing-Off, there was plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the group’s potential. Just the same, there wasn’t exactly a clearly defined road for them to follow. Don’t get me wrong, because I think NOTA and Committed are fantastic groups that have done some cool things since their big victories on NBC. Just the same, they never quite broke the aca-glass ceiling to cross over and become sustainably successful acts for a mainstream audience on a national scale.

Pentatonix remained relevant. Rather than fading away, the group built upon its fan base and reputation with clever and musically pristine covers on YouTube. They toured. They released EPs and Christmas albums that sold very, very well.

2015 may go down as the year when Pentatonix advanced from red hot to nuclear. They (and Ben Bram) won a Grammy. They released a documentary. Oh, and their latest album, centered on original music? It sold its way to the number one spot on the Billboard 200 Chart.

Pentatonix has, therefore, transcended the role of great a cappella group, to emerge as the definitive ambassadors for a cappella for their generation. They are talented. They are cool. They are prolific. They are putting a cappella into a national spotlight. For all of this, I am so thankful.

2. ICHSA Quarterfinals This summer, Varsity Vocals announced the addition of International Championship of High School A Cappella quarterfinals this year. An additional round of high school competition bespeaks the rapidly burgeoning roster of uber-talented high school groups around the country. Moreover, in talking with Executive Producer Amanda Newman, I learned that one of the driving factors for the tournament expansion was the groups, directors, and families, who had previously been reticent to add more events to their busy students’ calendars, who by 2015 were the most eager supporters of moarrrr a cappella. The bigger and better high school a cappella gets, the better it bodes for collegiate a cappella, which bodes well for professional a cappella, which all adds up to bright future for the form. Thanks, Varsity Vocals!

3. The Vocal Company Particularly since The Vocal Company and Sled Dog Studios joined forces, some strange things have happened. You hear an awesome aca-album. You see an awesome aca-video. The live sound at an aca-show is pristine.

More often than not, you come to discover that The Vocal Company is involved.

With all due respect to companies doing similar (and similarly fantastic!) work, like our friends at Liquid 5th and A Cappella Productions, The Vocal Company has emerged at the fore of the most happening happenings in a cappella. They arrange. They record. They mix and master. They do live sound. And perhaps most impressively, they educate, under the leadership of aca-ed virtuoso Ben Stevens, providing in-person and video conferencing and their popular Next Level workshop events. The Vocal Company is among the key forces pushing a cappella forward in variety of directions.

4. Pitch Perfect 3 As I wrote in my review of Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel was weaker than the original. Just the same, it did have its moments, particularly when it comes to celebrating the value of original music to the a cappella world and getting that message to a mainstream audience. Now, part three is in the early stages of production, with writer Kay Cannon and director Elizabeth Banks back on board, and cast members including Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, and Hailee Steinfeld all signed. There is the possibility that the Pitch Perfect franchise will fall into the trap of movie series that overstayed their welcome into truly awful cinema, the likes of The Hangover or Godfather. But I remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a part three that’s worth our while—perhaps leaving the college a cappella scene behind in favor of a post-collegiate group? Regardless, a cappella is coming back to a national audience of moviegoers in 2017, and with that reality comes the potential to attract even more fans and practitioners of the a cappella form.

5. Our readers I conceded that we’re cheeseballs, right? Here’s the deal—The A Cappella Blog is a passion project. It has never yielded a significant financial profit. It has always been rooted in the principles of making information and insights about a cappella accessible to a general audience, and fostering a love of the form for anyone who might come across the site. That model only works if we have people coming to the site and checking out what we have to say. So thank you to our readers, our Facebook fans, our Twitter followers, and everyone else who has passed some time with our aca-musings. We appreciate you and wish you the best this Thanksgiving!

Tuesday Tubin': Brave

Each Tuesday, The A Cappella Blog presents a link to a scholastic a cappella performance, or related material, that we recommend to you.

We welcome clip suggestions from anyone who would like to submit them.

This week, we present Oakland School for the Arts Vocal Rush performing Sara Bareilles’s “Brave.”

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella: The A Cappella Walk

For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to understand why people love a cappella. Heck, even for those of us who do actively enjoy it, it can be difficult to put into words why we enjoy this art form so. While we’ll never have a truly comprehensive list of everything cool about a cappella, 200 Reasons to Love A Cappella is our best attempt at assembling a list of what makes it great.

Reason #92: The A Cappella Walk

Recording Recommendations: Album Covers

I won’t argue that album art is as important as it once was in helping would-be listeners judge your book by its cover. Just the same, it is not a detail to gloss over. Fewer groups are selling albums in stores or at tables after shows—fair enough. But those groups that have moved away from CDs are pushing digital downloads, and the front cover image is, as often as not, the first chance your group has to make an impression. A simple, professional, presentation goes a long way toward selling your group as a serious act. Unless you’re doing so very purposefully, the design you cooked up in ten minutes using Microsoft Paint is not contributing any ethos to your project

Campus Connections: Student Government

I’ve heard from any number of college a cappella groups that resist officially affiliating themselves with school government out of a fear of losing control of what their group can do, taking on unnecessary extra obligations, or simply because they’re daunted by all of the paperwork associated with officially registering their group. To be fair, I can’t speak for the situation at every school, and I’m sure that working within student government is more onerous at some institutions than others. That said, in those cases when groups can align themselves with a larger governing body, there are often some very real benefits.

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella: Photos of People Performing A Cappella

For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to understand why people love a cappella. Heck, even for those of us who do actively enjoy it, it can be difficult to put into words why we enjoy this art form so. While we’ll never have a truly comprehensive list of everything cool about a cappella, 200 Reasons to Love A Cappella is our best attempt at assembling a list of what makes it great.

Reason #91: Photos of People Performing A Cappella

The Competitor’s Edge: Choreography

There came a critical point in the last 15 or so years when choreography transitioned from a novelty and a nicety to a borderline necessity for competitive a cappella groups. After all, Varsity Vocals, the largest a cappella competition body, instituted the practice of 40 percent of a group’s score being evaluated on visual performance, and went so far as to make Outstanding Choreography superlatives an institutionalized part of most shows.