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Welcome to a New Season & the Celebration of our 5 Year Anniversary!

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The wait is over. Welcome to The A Cappella Blog’s 2012 publication season!

This isn’t the start of just any season, though. This is the start of season number six, which means that this January marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of The A Cappella Blog.

The idea first sparked in my mind in early 2006, under the title of Average Joe’s A Cappella Blog. The idea was to review ICCA shows and write columns from an everyman’s perspective—getting to the heart of performances rather than getting lost in musical technicalities. I first shared the idea with Mike Scalise that March, over a six-hour-plus car ride to Rhode Island to watch my then-girlfriend’s group perform at an ICCA quarterfinal at Brown University.

The weekend ended with the girl and I not speaking to one another, after I was a bit too candid with my appraisal that, no, her group didn’t deserve to win that night. Hurt feelings aside, after discussing the idea of an a cappella website with Mike, I felt all the more certain we were on to something.

Fast forward a few weeks and Mike and I took a spring break train ride to visit my sister and my brother-in-law in Chicago. We spent hours of the overnight journey in the dining car sipping coffee and mapping everything from website-related travel ideas, to our homepage design, to marketing schemes. When we arrived in the Midwest, we had a legal pad full of ideas to pull from.

The following summer and fall we met a couple times a month in coffee shops, Chinese restaurants, and Paneras in-between where we were living in Syracuse and Utica, NY, respectively, at the time to further iron out our plans. We emailed nearly 100 a cappella groups to seek interviews for our fledgling site. Though nowadays it’s not unusual to have a number of groups contact us in a given week to seek coverage of their show, a CD review, or help with a fundraising campaign, back then, it was slow-going finding support for two unknowns with a new blog. Fortunately, we did find a bit of traction. Hot off a trip to the ICCA Finals, Oxford Out of the Blue agreed to one of our first high profile interviews, and Oregon’s On the Rocks and Divisi, and the Brown Derbies were quick to follow. We managed to catch Tulane University’s THEM for an inspiration word as the group and its local community rebounded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We were off and running.

In addition to interviews, we reviewed five ICCA shows in that first season, including a controversial review of the Mid-Atlantic Semifinals at Rutgers that quite easily set a record for site traffic at the time and drew over 50 comments. Plenty of folks disagreed with our appraisal of Syracuse University Orange Appeal as the rightful champions, and our support of Penn State Shades of Blue and Drew University 36 Madison Avenue as runners up (none of these three groups actually placed). But perhaps most significantly of all, this review proved the power of a blog and a singular event review to facilitate conversation, and demonstrated the liveliness of the a cappella community.

Over the years that followed, we introduced regular features like Tuesday Tubin’, Measure for Measure, Dos and Don’ts, Friday Factoid, Statistical Findings, Absurdist A Cappella and more. We had guests like Nancy Cheng and Eric Talley join us for various spells, in addition to guest columns by the likes of Amanda Newman, Deke Sharon, Mickey Rapkin and Bill Hare, and interviews with Ben Folds, Dave Brown, and other major a cappella personalities.

February 2010 marked a new milestone for the ACB when we had the opportunity to host an ICCA quarterfinal at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. This behind the scenes look at the workings of a show lent us new perspective, and turned out to be one of the most fun ventures we’ve ever had with the website. Best of all, ticket sales, paired with the sale of wristbands, gave us the opportunity to donate hundreds of dollars to The VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

And so, we arrive at the present. We have a brand new site design, courtesy of of dear friend, design consultant and photographer, Will Browar. Like years past, in 2012, we will bring you ICCA event reviews, opinion pieces, videos, and the latest news. We’re excited to facilitate the third annual ACB ICCA Bracket contest. In addition to all of this, keep eye out for these new features:

Not So Different: Life is full of lessons to be learned. When we’re thinking about how to best lead, promote, sing, or otherwise operate within the context of an a cappella group, it’s worth looking beyond the realm of a cappella itself to what other walks of life can teach us. In this column we will explore how TV shows, musical artists, sports franchises and more can inform how an a cappella group operates.

The Unauthorized History of the Acapocalypse: Every a cappella group has a story. In this unique, eposidic, narrative feature we will trace the formation and first, tumultuous year in the history of the fictional Acapocalypse.

Dynamics: All kinds of people want to be involved in collegiate a cappella groups. But when it comes to running a student organization, the leadership needs to think about how new personalities will affect the group dynamics. In this column, we take a candid look at the stereotypes associated with various sorts of people, and explain what these people may contribute to a group. And we do so with web comics.

In addition to these new pieces of content, we’re excited to have Andrea Aquino and Stephen Hutchings join our full-time staff as Regional Coordinators for the West Coast and Southeast, respectively.

Thanks so much for spending a part of your day with us. We’re looking forward to a fantastic 2012 season, and sincerely hope for another five fantastic years ahead!

12 A Cappella Power Players To Keep an Eye On In 2012

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2011 has been a huge year for a cappella, and there’s plenty of potential for 2012. In this post, we look ahead to the next 12 months, and list 12 people who are likely to be major players. As is the case for any such list, this is very much subjective and sure to have a glaring omission or two. My apologies for that, and please be sure to weigh in with your own picks on our Facebook page, Twitter, or in the comments (please note that you must now be a registered user on the site to do so—registration is free).

Honorable Mention: The following individuals remained in consideration until the very late stages of whittling down the list: Dave Brown, Benjamin Stevens, Mark Torres, Julia Hoffman, Dave Rabizadeh, Ben Bram, Robert Dietz and Ed Boyer.

1. Deke Sharon In an age when a cappella has never been more mainstream, it seems that Sharon has a hand in every mainstream a cappella enterprise, whether it’s running the music side of the show behind the scenes on The Sing-Off, bringing a cappella tune-age to Monday Night Football, working on the production of the Pitch Perfectfilm, judging the ICCA wild card round, or, you know, touring abroad with the world-renowned House Jacks, Sharon has, quite justifiably become the go-to guy for big time a cappella. The question is not whether Deke will still have a place on a list of this ilk 12 months from now, but rather what new ground he’ll have broken to further cement his place as a leader in the community in the year to come.

2. Ben Folds In so many ways, Ben Folds is the star of The Sing-Off--the on-air personality who makes sure the focus stays on music, the judge most willing to be critical, perhaps the most respected voice on the show, and the perform who will most reliably bring the house down when he hits the stage. What’s doubly cool about Folds is that he has also used his own live tours as a way to further promote a cappella, bringing along groups like Street Corner Symphony and The Back Beats to open for him on stages across the country, in so doing, giving the a cappella form an extended platform to thrive for a general audience. On top of all of this, if The Sing-Off does go away in the US next year, there’s still plenty of potential for Folds to record another University A Cappella album, or grow more aggressive about how he incorporates a cappella in his live act. Folds is one of the most important friends to the a cappella community.

3. Amanda Newman Varsity Vocals’ scholastic competitions have grown bigger and bigger with each passing year, setting new records for number of contestants in 2011, and re-setting that record heading into 2012. The ICCA Finals sold out Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in 2011, pushing the event to the larger Town Hall stage for the coming year. The addition of the online wild card round for collegiate competitors set a new precedent for how a cappella competitions happen. In short, the ICCAs and ICHSAs still set the bar for scholastic contemporary a cappella competition, and the woman at the helm of all that, Executive Director Amanda Newman, deserves all of the credit in the world for her efforts to grow the brand.

4. Bill Hare Recorded a cappella innovations did not stop with The Beelzebubs’ Code Red--though it’s worth noting that Hare was the mastermind behind that album’s most innovative stuff. Hare has continued to set the standard for a cappella recording and has been involved in more CARA-award- winning productions than most other producers been involved in a cappella recordings, period. Factor in Hare’s perennial placement as a judge for big shows like the ICCA Finals and SoJam, and his involvement with The Sing-Off, and the Pitch Perfect film and you have one of a cappella’s most deeply-entrenched power players.

5. Elizabeth Banks Though Banks may be best known for acting, and the general public may consider The Hunger Games her most anticipated film of 2012, Banks’s work as a producer for Pitch Perfect means that she’s playing a key role in bringing collegiate a cappella to the silver screen. Will the film honor the Mickey Rapkin book on which it’s based? Will it make a cappella accessible to the largest general audience yet? Will the music sound right? Will the movie be any good? All of these questions hang in the balance, but if we end up with more affirmatives than negatories, it bodes very, very well for the long-term future of a cappella in the mainstream.

6. Hannah Juliano At the close of 2010, it seemed as though Juliano’s time in the a cappella limelight may have been cut altogether too short after a mere one-episode run on The Sing-Off with Pitch Slapped. Little did we know that the Berklee College of Music student’s star would shine all the brighter as we round the bend into 2012. She was a big part of Pitch Slapped winning the 2011 ICCA Finals and was among the leading ladies for Delilah--a big time players for The Sing-Off season three . As music director, she led Pitch Slapped to win the SoJam 2011 college competition, and was a major player in Musae—an all-female super group that made a name for itself this year and threatens really explode on the national scene in 2012. One thing remains certain—we haven’t heard the last of Juliano.

7. Scott Hoying There is probably only one man who has ever been able to say he left The SoCal VoCals after his freshman year, and traded up in the a cappella world. With all due respect to the other serious talents of Pentatonix, the most frequent soloist for the Sing-Off champions is quite arguably now the face of contemporary a cappella for the general public, and at just 19 years old, Hoying and friends are set for a huge future in music.

8. Michael Odokara-Okigbo Although Pentatonix ultimately beat out The Dartmouth Aires for the Sing-Off crown, there was no bigger individual star on the show this year than Odokara-Okigbo, whose soulful, electric, balls-to-the-walls solos were rarely anything short of astonishing. Whether he takes his a cappella chops pro, or goes to Broadway, this a success story waiting to happen with clear roots in the collegiate a cappella community.

9. Sara Bareilles The newest addition to the Sing-Off judging panel offered up one of the show’s most likeable personalities, but even more important than that, she was the face of collegiate a cappella alumni. Yes, there is a place for a cappella talents in the music world, and yes, such folks can be commercially successful, likeable, well-adjusted, and beautiful. Bareilles has emerged as an archetype to the extent that in his debut novel, Acapolitics, Stephen Harrison quite rightly identified her (through major character, Dani) as the role model to which thousands of American a cappella singers can aspire.

10. Christopher Diaz The co-founder and co-host of the Mouth Off podcast had a pretty big year for himself, with the podcast not only growing more popular, but Diaz himself joining the music staff at The Sing-Off, judging the ICCA Finals, and playing emcee for the professional showcase at SoJam 2011. Not unlike Bareilles, Diaz serves as an example for how the collegiate a cappella dream can transition to a meaningful career in a cappella after graduation.

11. Lo Barreiro The all-female a cappella revolution will not be televised—it will happen at SoJam. If you heard Barreiro speak or watched her perform at the annual a cappella festival, you know what I’m talking about. After a much-celebrated tenure with The FSU AcaBelles, Barreiro has been nothing if not ubiquitous in the post-collegiate a cappella world, bringing all-female super squad Musae to fruition, taking a leadership role at CASA, and presenting in a multitude of sessions at SoJam. Perhaps the most shining moment for Barreiro came when she moderated a panel discussion on the status of all-female a cappella, holding court with members of Delilah, The Boxettes, Musae, Divisi, Pitch Slapped, and Kinfolk 9 for a talk in which the energy was palpable and I can’t help feeling that everyone in the room saw a not only bright, but distinctive future for all-female a cappella.

12. Andrea Poole New high school a cappella groups seem to pop up with each passing year, and with groups like Soul’d Out, Eleventh Hour, and Glee’s Warblers continuing to spread the word, there’s every chance that the field will only grow wider and richer in 2012 and beyond. Poole serves as the Director of Varsity Vocals’ International Championship of High School A Cappella, and as such, stands at the fore of a cappella’s largest growth market for 2012. As an alumna of the Midwest collegiate competition scene, Poole has a great sense of what makes scholastic competitions successful. Keep an eye out for what she facilitates in the year ahead.

Hmm... Something's Different

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This January marks The A Cappella Blog's fifth anniversary. To celebrate, we have completely redesigned the website from the ground up. We knew we wanted to freshen up the look and feel of the site and, in the end, we wound up making some changes behind-the-scenes which will allow us to include some great new features down the line. After almost a year of hard work, we're really excited to roll out the new design today. I'd like to take you through some of the new features of our website.

The first goal we wanted to achieve with the new design was to make the content on the site accessable on all devices. We've noticed that more and more users are visiting the site from their smartphones and tablets, so we set out to make the reading experience consistent from the largest computer monitors down to the smallest mobile phone screens. Whether you are checking out the group directory on your phone from the seats of an auditorium, or reading articles on your 27" iMac, we want you to feel right at home.

Our next objective was to make all of the sections of the site more user-friendly and more functional. We've reworked our Group Directory and our Events section to be more relevant and up-to-date. We also added a new menu—which we're calling the Reader Menu—to make it easier to perform actions around the site. Going from page to page, the reader menu will change based on the type of content you are viewing. For example, on an article page, you can use the reader menu to share an article you like on Twitter or Facebook.

In order to eliminate spam and further discussions between users, we have replaced the old user registration system with a newer, more secure platform, and we've made it mandatory to become a registered user in order to post comments on articles. With the new system, we have fixed issues from the past, and you may now post comments or register as a new user, again.

Adding the new login system is better for the future of the website, but it does have one down side. We've properly imported all usernames and email addresses tied to our user accounts, however, as a security measure, we've not imported any passwords. Therefore, upon your first login, we ask that you request a new password to update and secure your account. During this process you'll receive an email with a one-time login with which you can manage your account. If you need any assistance, please let us know.

We hope that you enjoy using the new A Cappella Blog. We're looking forward to a 2012 full of great a cappella music, and wish you all of the best for a happy new year.

2011: The Year in Review

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2011 was a great year for a cappella, and we at The A Cappella Blog had a great time writing about it as the year went on. In this wrap-up post for the year that was, we're taking a quick look back at some of this site's key content from the past twelve months.

In January, we debuted a new column known as Absurdist A Capella which included a tutorial on how to propose using a cappella. We kicked off our coverage of the ICCA season with a review of the ICCA quarterfinal atClemson.

When February rolled around, we explored the ins and outs of all-male a cappella, reviewed ICCA shows at Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, Penn State, and Berkeley, in addition to exploring how one might use a cappella to stave off a zombie apocalypse.

Come March, we analyzed the turnover rate for leadership in collegiate a cappella groups, took an in-depth look at all-female a cappella, and reviewed ICCA semifinals from the South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions.

In April, we profiled ICCA Finalists The Buffalo Chips, looked at the statistics on groups hosting alumni shows, and, of course, reviewed the ICCA Finals.

May included a review of Johns Hopkins University's Battle of the A Cappella Groups, a treatise on air guitar solos and our picks for best of the ICCA season.

The summer months included the debut of Keith Tripler's Who's Singing and news about new a cappella sites and new appearances of a cappella on TV.

September kicked off with an exploration of whether it was OK for UNC Psalm 100 to kick out a gay group member. We also had interviews with Sing-Off alumns, MAXX Factor and Kenton Chen, and kicked off our coverage of the third season of The Sing-Off with full reviews of each episode, and the introduction of the ACB Power Rankings.

In October, we continued coverage of NBC's Sing-Off, while also stopping in to cover a live sing-off competition at The Rochester Institute of Technology.

We wrapped up coverage of The Sing-Off season three in November with a review of the live finale, and contemplation of how we might keep the show alive for another season. In honor of their new film, we took some time to look at The Muppets' place in the a cappella world, in addition to calling attention to five reasons for the a cappella community to be thankful.

In December, we covered the Sing-Off Christmas special, and took part in a campaign to encourage NBC to keep The Sing-Off going for another year. We also reviewed Stephen Harrison's Acapolitics, interviewed the faculty director of Afro-Blue, and explored how one might provoke a holiday revelation using a cappella. We wrapped up the year with a uniquely a cappella holiday greeting and a ranking of the top 10 American collegiate a cappella groups of 2011.

It has been quite a new year, but just you wait--The A Cappella Blog has some huge developments in store for 2012. Our new publication season, which will include new content every weekday, will begin next week. Until then, a safe and happy new year to you all!

A Cappella wedding proposal, new album pending from No Strings Attached

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- A funny thing happened at a Jabberwocks arch sing on the Brown campus last week. Silver bells just might have turned to wedding bells as a result of this special performance.

-University of Illinois No Strings Attached has a new album, In Sync, due out in January. You can check out a teaser video promoting album, featuring a cover of "Tallulah" by Company of Thieves.

Comments and New User Registration Temporarily Suspended; New Video

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-The A Cappella Blog is currently undergoing some maintenance on our new user registration and commenting systems, and so these utilities will not be available for approximately two weeks. We apologize for any inconvenience.

-As part of Jim Knable's The Sons of Dionysus project, the following came out last week:

Next Page
Welcome to a New Season & the Celebration of our 5 Year Anniversary!
12 A Cappella Power Players To Keep an Eye On In 2012
Hmm... Something's Different
2011: The Year in Review
A Cappella wedding proposal, new album pending from No Strings Attached
Comments and New User Registration Temporarily Suspended; New Video
The Top 10 American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2011
'Twas the Night A Cappella
ICCA brackets are out; the BOCA 2012 track list is up; a barbershop convention scholarship; a fundraiser for UWEC a cappella festival
SING ON - Campaign Update
SING ON
Who's Singing? December 2011
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 11
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 7
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 9
Preview of Revival, a new album from The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers
SoJam College Competition, Huffington Post Article, A Cappella Novel Online
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 6
5 Tips on How to Succeed at a College A Cappella Audition
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 8
The A Cappella Holiday Season - Gift Ideas & Video Selections
Sing-Off #1 on iTunes, ICCA and ICHSA dates, Pitch Perfect film news, and The Whiffenpoofs on The Daily Show
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 5
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 7
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 4
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 6
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 3
The 3 Gs of The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 5
ICCA and ICHSA Deadline Approaching, UK A Cappella Blog, Sonos Interview
The ACB Sing-Off Power Rankings, 2011: Round 2