<![CDATA[The A Cappella Blog]]> http://acappellablog.com/ The A Cappella Blog en Copyright 2018 2018-08-15T16:30:58-04:00 <![CDATA[Attention]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/attention http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/attention

Per tradition, in this final edition of Tuesday Tubin' for our 2017-2018 publication season, we present the reigning ICCA Champions. It's the University of Southern California SoCal VoCals performing Charie Puth's "Attention."

<![CDATA[On The Rocks, Sunset Blush]]>http://acappellablog.com/cd-reviews/on-the-rocks-sunset-blush http://acappellablog.com/cd-reviews/on-the-rocks-sunset-blush

There are all-male collegiate a cappella groups, and then there’s the all-male collegiate a cappella group. I don’t mean to put the University of Oregon’s On The Rocks on too high of a pedestal, nor do I mean to diminish the accomplishments of the many great all-male collegiate a cappella groups doing amazing things out there in the world. However, if you’re looking for an archetype of what this specific type of group is like, or perhaps should aspire to be like in 2018, I think we’ve got our platonic ideal right here.

On The Rocks Sunset Blush Front Extended

Some context. On the Rocks made one of the definitive viral videos of a cappella in 2008, with their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” They owned their identity as a prime example of what men’s college group looks like in representing their community on The Sing-Off in 2010. If these steps weren’t enough, 2012 saw the release of Pitch Perfect. It would be easy enough to think the great aca-movie of our time utterly unrelated to On the Rocks, except for the Barden Bellas being loosely based upon Oregon’s Divisi, which would make The Treblemakers a lot like Divisi’s all-male campus counterparts, On the Rocks (to be fair, The Treblemakers are probably more fairly assessed as an amalgam of On The Rocks, The Beelzebubs, and The Hullabahoos who were featured in the source book, but these identities are intertwined in party-hard, competition-winning, aca-institution).

Thus have On The Rocks shaped the world’s understanding of all-male collegiate a cappella, and thus can we understand their new album, Sunset Blush as the group’s honors thesis, both encapsulating and pushing a quintessential sub-genre of the a cappella form through keen song selection, sound, and multiple original song tracks.

On The Rocks benefits from a ton of raw vocal talent, arrangements from no lesser luminaries than Tom Anderson and Ben Bram, and mixing by veritable legends in the field Ed Boyer and Bill Hare. In short, the group has a ton of tools at its disposal and capitalizes nicely.

But let’s talk what makes Sunset Blush such a definitive album. There are the opening tracks to start—Justin Timberlake’s “Senorita,” followed by his “That Girl” and “Pusher Love Girl.” Like Timberlake himself, the guys ooze sensuality and charm, doing a brilliant job of translating live a cappella charisma and showmanship into a purely audio, studio format.

From there, it’s off to the races with Bruno Mars’s “Gorilla.” This is exactly the kind of song choice you’d expect college guys to go for, if only for the refrain of “you and me baby, making love like gorillas.” The group does one better, though with lush flourishes of sound that keep the track from being dismissed as comedy, not to mention the swank production effects to refresh the sound constantly and hook listeners over and over again.

While I could do without yet another a cappella cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” the guys offer up a sterling rendition of it, and the song choice does fit my suggestion of this album encapsulating the what groups are singing these days. Moreover, “Feeling Good” offers a fine transition to a pair of tracks written and with solos by music director Jasper Freedom—“You Lift Me Up” and “ Crown Royal”—each with a purity of sound and old school vibe that nicely encapsulate a classy, mature style .

“You Lift Me Up” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” each capture a key quality of today’s scholastic a cappella, too, for On The Rocks not silo-ing itself off from its campus community, but rather indulging in collaboration, first with University of Oregon Gospel Singers, then with sibling a cappella group Divisi for a particularly rich sound and fine spotlight on soloists Jordyn Brown from Divisi, and Clay Attig.

Speaking of Attig, he shines for offering both solo work and vocal percussion on a number of tracks, most notably his own original, “Embers.”

On The Rocks doesn’t shy away from in vogue tracks like “Colder Weather” and “Love on Top,” as well as a classic like Earth, Wind &Fire’s “September,” and comes across the better for straightforward, polished takes, without huge frills or surprises. Beyonce’s “Love On Top,” in particular, underscores why the On The Rocks franchise made such a smash covering Lady Gaga in the first place in 08. Sure, there were the bells and whistles of the guys going all in on comedy and dramatic interpretation, but all the more so, the group took the music seriously and demonstrated polish on an unconventional song choice for dudes. The song choice itself is the easy part; doing it legitimate justice is what distinguishes a group like this one.

I appreciated the group’s nod to Eugene, OR in the lead-in to its first track, and cover of Matt Kearney’s “Coming Home (Oregon)” for the acknowledgment of who the group is via where they’re from. It’s easy for a group of national standing to eschew these more personalized choices, but embracing them to, instead, explore the unique creative opportunities they afford is a fine choice for a group of this stature, and a step back toward more traditional collegiate style I’d love to hear more groups return to.

So it is that Sunset Blush arrives as far more than a flavor of boxed wine, but a stunning rendering of something equal parts nostalgic and forward looking—something unmistakably beautiful as it captures the present in moment in a cappella.

<![CDATA[The Great Escape]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/the-great-escape http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/the-great-escape

This week, we present the Claremont Colleges' After School Specials, performing P!nk's "The Great Escape."

<![CDATA[Front Row Seats]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/front-row-seats http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/front-row-seats

Reason #151: Front Row Seats

In the preceding edition of 200 Reasons To Love A Cappella, I referenced the pleasure of sitting in balcony seats to take in a the full picture of a performance. Little less appealing are seats in the opposite extreme—up close to the stage, or even so far as the front row.

Sitting up close at an a cappella performance affords an audience member the chance to take in every part of the performance in detail. For un-mic’ed performances, it gives the listener a chance to hear everything directly without the sound being diluted by the chatter of onlookers. And even for performances on a more formal stage, it allows a spectator to get a keener look at how the group operates—who’s giving the cues, how is the group configuring itself. Without being in the group, a spectator can’t know exactly what it’s like to be performing with them, but sitting up close offers one of the closest vicarious experiences a fan get, seeing and hearing every aspect of the performance from close proximity, and sitting close enough to really feel the energy of the performance.

I love it!

<![CDATA[R&B Medley]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/r-b-medley http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/r-b-medley

This week, we present James Madison University Note-oriety performing their R&B Medley.

<![CDATA[Balcony Seats]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/balcony-seats http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/balcony-seats

Reason #150: Balcony Seats

Conventional wisdom suggests that front row seats to a show are the best seats in the house. Others may seek out the acoustic sweet spot, often closer to the middle of the auditorium. But, particularly for a collegiate a cappella show, I’ve often found that nothing beats a good balcony seat.

As a cappella sound engineers continue to refine their craft and more groups move toward individual mic-ing, taking a balcony seat doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing sound quality. Moreover, from a visual perspective, I’ve tended to observe that a bird’s eye view affords an audience member the greatest potential to see everything that’s going on with a groups staging and choreography, which is increasingly on par with groups’ aural accomplishments. As such, good balcony seat can be one of the surest tickets to appreciating the bigger picture of an a cappella performance.


I love it!

<![CDATA[Elastic Heart]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/elastic-heart-2 http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/elastic-heart-2

This week we present the Hun School Edgertones performing Sia's "Elastic Heart."

<![CDATA[Humor]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/humor http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/humor

A cappella recording has become a big business within a budding industry. Indeed, given the improvements in recording and distribution technology, and the increase in professional services available to groups interested in recording, it seems like groups at all levels, from  small high schools to major universities to post-collegiate social groups to full-fledged pros are releasing new  recordings each year.

In Recording Recommendations, we offer our two cents on best practices in recorded a cappella.

In this edition, our focus is on humor.

Humor has its place in a cappella. After all, a form of music rooted in using your mouth simulate the sounds of instruments can't afford to take itself too seriously, especially at the scholastic or amateur levels.

Just the same, I get that people--myself included--have their reservations about humor. If a group tries to be funny and falls flat, it can come across as a particularly uncomfortable kind of failure. Moreover, comedy doesn't land with every audience, or every audience member the same way. When a group depends on inside jokes or referring to current events everyone isn't up to speed on, or old jokes that are over-exposed among a particular demographic, they run the risk of alienating the crowd. On top of all that, there's the issue of being taken seriously by others--judges, critics, and discerning audience members. It's not at all fair, but there does exist a preconceived notion that the group that plays for laughs doesn't take anything seriously--that they aren't as musically proficient (even if they, objectively, are) or that they won't care whether they take home an award.

Groups can fall into the trap of going too far for a laugh, at the expense of musicality or otherwise thinking out its recording. If a group's sole intention is to entertain, and that's the group's wheelhouse, then there's no reason to back away from it. But, troubling as it may be, groups do need to be more careful about how they deploy humor when they are seeking acclaim. This might mean only including but so much humor to ensure your overall work is perceived as professional. It may also mean thinking critically about track order--not kicking off an album with a comedy track that will set a tone you weren't aiming at; not embedding comedy between more somber and intense tracks in such a way that undercuts their impact, but rather using it as the appropriate release valve at a critical point in the album to "reset" and switch gears, or using it for a fun closing number to send your listeners home happy.

There are exceptions to all of these rules. Established acts get a lot more leeway with comedy (Pentatonix can record all the comedy they want and still be taken seriously), there are acts that have successfully made comedy a cornerstone of their careers (e.g., Mr. Tim) and there are well-crafted albums that use humor in creative ways. That said, comedy is a gamble in serious a cappella recording, and groups need to consider why and how they intend to use it before diving in.

<![CDATA[Zero to Hero]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/zero-to-hero http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/zero-to-hero

This week we present the Harmelodics performing "Zero to Hero" from Hercules.

<![CDATA[Transitions on Your Playlist]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/transitions-on-your-playlist http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/transitions-on-your-playlist

Reason #149: Transitions on Your Playlist

My first true love in music is not so much any individual artist or genre, nor the act singing or playing an instrument, but more so the act of making a mix tape.

Mix tapes gave way to CDs, which gave way to playlists. I can no more imagine what might come next than I could have prognosticated I would one day carry several hundred times the amount of music on a 90-minute audio cassette via a phone of similar size (not to mention that that phone would also serve as my camera, email client, and, well, phone—but I digress).

One of my favorite games to play in the practice of mix tape development has long been subverting expectations via an abrupt departure from the preceding song, in a way that fundamentally works. Sometimes it’s a matter of hopping genres from Top 40 to Broadway, or acoustic ballad to rock and roll, but maintaining a thematic thread. Sometimes it’s hopping time periods but preserving a melodic or rhythmic through line. Oftentimes, it’s much more arbitrary than all of that, but the sudden shift still feels just right.

There are few greater tools in this trade than a cappella which allows facilitates sticking with sort of the same genre, artist, or theme, while fundamentally shifting from conventional instrumentation to purely vocal music. Contemporary a cappella is largely about reinventing popular music through a new lens, whether it’s simple transcription into human vocals or true reinvention. As such, it allows for some wonderful, and wonderfully unexpected transitions on a playlist.

I love it!

<![CDATA[I Miss You]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/i-miss-you http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/i-miss-you

This week, we present Berklee College of Music Upper Structure performing Adele's "I Miss You."

<![CDATA[Law School Groups]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/law-school-groups http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/law-school-groups

Reason #148: Law School Groups

While there are certainly people who make it work, let’s be honest—between financial concerns, professional and academic aspirations, and personal obligations, few people can truly make a cappella their number one priority. And that’s not on a knock on a cappella—in reality, I think one of the most admirable qualities of the form is that its practitioners are so often amateurs who make time to pursue their personal passion, and to make music with their friends.

From that perspective, there are few endeavors in a cappella more laudable than law school a cappella groups. Law school students are notoriously busy—engaged with high stakes curriculum as an entry point to a challenging career. That these people still make time for a cappella is a testament to their commitment to their music. Moreover, I find it admirable that so many approach the form with the same brand of quirky, tongue-in-cheek good humor as undergrads, with group names like Harvard’s Scales of Justice, Yale and Northwestern’s Habeas Chorus groups, or Duke’s Public Hearing.

I love it!

<![CDATA[I Don't Think About You]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/i-dont-think-about-you http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/i-dont-think-about-you

This week, we present Berklee College of Music On the Vox performing Kelly Clarkson's "I Don't Think About You."

<![CDATA[Incorporating Foreign Languages]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/incorporating-foreign-languages http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/incorporating-foreign-languages

Reason #147: Incorporating Foreign Languages

A cappella is all about the sounds the human body can generate, and principally from a vocal perspective. You can have a killer solo, innovative syllables, and great perc. But you can add an entirely different dimension if you incorporate foreign languages.

The well-timed, clever usage of a foreign language can diversify the group sound and lend a song a more global feel. Used in the right song, it can tap into core of the music. Moreover, it’s a great way for a group to make clear to its listeners that the group hasn’t gone on auto-pilot, regurgitating a very literal translation of a song, but rather has taken the time to make a song its own spicing it up with splash of Spanish, tapped into another dimension of the narrative by employing a South African dialect, or stayed true to its roots by singing a verse in Hindi.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Evolution of Hollywood]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/evolution-of-hollywood http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/evolution-of-hollywood

This week we present Legacy A Cappella, based out of Los Angeles, performing their "Evolution of Hollywood" medley.

<![CDATA[Originals]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/originals http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/originals

In the contemporary a cappella landscape, it’s not unusual to look at groups as cover bands—acts that arrange and often recreate popular music, but that, just the same, depend upon performing someone else’s material.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the past five years, we’ve heard all-original albums from acts including Pentatonix, Arora, Forte, and The Octopodes, and individual original tracks from dozens of other groups, some of the most successful including UCD Mix’s “Water,” and Brandeis VoiceMale’s “Phoenix.”

Using original songs in recordings is a gamble. There’s the chance that listeners won’t as readily seek out or enjoy a cappella music that they don’t already have a degree of familiarity with. Moreover, it’s fundamentally harder to not only arrange, but create new music.

That said, there are very real rewards to recording originals. Most prominently, there’s the glass ceiling effect for both individual groups and the a cappella genre on the whole. Think about a cover band that you may have heard at a bar, club, or on campus. You may have liked them perfectly fine, but in resigning themselves to only playing cover songs, the band has relinquished any meaningful shot at ever become as notable as the acts that they are imitating. Similarly, it’s difficult for a cappella to ultimately be taken as seriously as music with instruments for as long as the genre is so dependent on covers.

Originals open new opportunities. They provide the chance for an a cappella group to achieve a breakaway hit on the group’s own merits. Moreover, they afford group members creative outlets. If we liken arranging an established song to problem solving, then assembling an original is more like the process of invention. And for those groups concerned that not filling their albums with covers will hurt their sales, consider how excited people who know and care about you may be to buy something that is wholly your creation. If the work is good, the word will spread from there—among your social networks, and among the a cappella world.

Recording original music is not for every group. If you don’t have songwriters in your midst, or don’t aspire to anything but cover music, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that. But for groups that do wish to make the leap to recording their own original songs, there are myriad opportunities blaze a new trail and thrive.

<![CDATA[Adele Medley]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/adele-medley http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/adele-medley

This week we present UCLA Resonance performing their Adele medley.

<![CDATA[Transitions]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/transitions http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/transitions

In this edition, the focus is <b>transitions</b>.

Telling a Story

While a group should undeniably bring its A-game to competition, and settle for nothing less than the twelve best minutes of music it can bring to the stage, there’s also something to be said for telling a story. If a group can cultivate a sense that they are taking the audience on a cohesive journey with them, it builds emotional engagement with the performance, makes the set more memorable, and keeps the performance feeling streamlined. The last thing a group wants is for audience members to be looking at their watches in the dim of the auditorium, thinking, really—they’re going to sing another song? The group’s objective should be for songs to build upon each other, riding waves of emotion, and developing an arc such that every single piece of the performance feels indispensable.

Not Breaking the Illusion

Every time the audience breaks to applaud, it breaks the illusion of the performance. Think about the experience you had the first time you watched your favorite movie. Were you consciously thinking about the fact that you were watching a movie, or were you so wrapped up in the presentation that you felt like a part of the movie, and temporarily forgot about your normal life? By the same extension, you want for the audience for your competition set to get so wrapped up in the performance that they forget about time, space, and uncomfortable seating, you want for them to exist within your music. Transitioning between songs fluidly—not stopping to reset your formations, hand mics to new soloists, drink water, and blow a new pitch between each song is an excellent way to preserve that illusion.

Seamless Sets

Some groups have taken fluid transitions to the extreme by embracing completely seamless sets—no breaks between songs, just one piece bleeding into the next. When it’s done well, the results can be pretty phenomenal, lending the sense of a twelve-minute expertly woven medley. When done poorly, it can feel like the song that never ends.

If your group can get away without blowing pitches, awesome. If you can’t, you shouldn’t sacrifice your tuning for a more fluid set. Similarly, if you can hand off microphones to new soloists and percussionists in an organic or unnoticeable way, that’s great. If you can’t, you shouldn’t force something that’s going to look contrived. A seamless set for which audience members can hear and see those seams, isn’t really seamless at all.

What sort of transitions have you seen work in competition. Let us know on social media @acappellablog.

<![CDATA[Technicolour Beat]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/technicolour-beat http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/technicolour-beat

This week we present University of Central Florida Mixed Mode performing Oh Wonder's "Technicolour Beat."

<![CDATA[Raw Solos]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/raw-solos http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/raw-solos

Reason #146: Raw Solos

When I think of premier soloists in the a cappella world, I’m often drawn to folks with silky smooth vocals, impressive range, or all-around perfect musicianship. But there are other solos worth celebrating. One of the great under-recognized styles is the raw solo.

The raw solo is all about emotion. It’s about being willing to growl, to scream, to whimper; to wince, to grimace, to cry. Mind you, just because a solo is raw does not necessarily make it good, but when a skilled performer sings the right song and connects with just the right moments, something truly emotionally gripping can evolve.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Boy Problems]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/boy-problems http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/boy-problems

This week we we present the New York University Vocaholics performing Carly Rae Jepsen's "Boy Problems."

<![CDATA[Connecting With a Song]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/connecting-with-a-song http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/connecting-with-a-song

Reason #145: Connecting With a Song

A cappella groups cover songs for any number of reasons—whether they happen to be popular at the time, sit well with the group’s identity or vocal talents, or just happen to strike the arranger’s fancy. Just about any song can “work” a cappella, but I’d argue that groups are most prone to thrive when the group members connect with the music on a personal level. I recall sitting in on a rehearsal once, in which two group members who had arranged a version of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” went verse by verse to talk about what the lyrics really meant, how they connected to story of the song, and, in more general terms, how other group members might connect as well. The difference between the song before this rehearsal and the way the group sang it afterward was palpable, because the group approached it with an entirely different energy, conviction, and authenticity.

Look back at so many of the richest, best a cappella performances you’ve heard over the years and you’re likely to find that one of the common links is a sense that the group is not just covering a top 40 hit, but rather telling its own story through music that the group has made its own.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Latch]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/latch http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/latch

This week we present University of Texas at Austin One Note Stand performing Sam Smith's "Latch."

<![CDATA[BOSS]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/boss http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/boss

Reason #144: BOSS

In 2012, The Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) started a new a cappella festival, Boston Sings, more commonly referred to as BOSS. It made sense for Boston to have its own major festival—a city that’s been a longtime hub for a cappella, particularly at the collegiate level, with major groups coming out of Berklee, Northeastern, Tufts, Harvard,  Boston University, Boston College, Brandeis and other schools in the area.

In just a few years, the festival has grown into one of the most celebrated in the a cappella world. When it comes to live competition, it features one of the most electric one-night contests in the country, which has seen scintillating performances from the likes of Voices in Your Head, Reverb, and Ithacappella. Moreover, it’s become one of a cappella’s grandest stages for recognition with the live announcement of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (CARAs) becoming a black-tie affair. Add onto all of this a growing tradition of brilliant pro performances and excellent workshops, and you have one of a cappella’s most inspired weekends.

I love it!

<![CDATA[There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/theres-nothing-holdin-me-back http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/theres-nothing-holdin-me-back

This week we present the Vanderbilt Melodores performing Shawn Mendes’s “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”

<![CDATA[A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-well-executed-choral-arrangement http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-well-executed-choral-arrangement

Reason #143: A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement

Bringing a choral piece to a contemporary a cappella show may seem counter-intuitive. After all, the form has garnered much of its popularity by eschewing traditionalism in favor of covering cool music in cool ways, and what could come across less innovative than singing something soft and slow in the same style as your high school chorus or the college’s madrigal choir?

The thing is that the excellent execution of a choral arrangement highlights so many of the core elements of what great a cappella is all about—seamless blend, intentional use of dynamics, compounding harmonies upon harmonies to reimagine a piece of music.

Yes, star soloists can go a long way toward captivating an audience, but a choral arrangement casts a spotlight on a group as a united whole, and there are few sounds in the a cappella world more magical than a choral arrangement executed to perfection.

I love it!

<![CDATA[To Build a Home]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/to-build-a-home http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/to-build-a-home

This week we present Central Washington University Nada Cantata performing the Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home.”

<![CDATA[Attire]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/attire http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/attire

In this addition, the focus is on attire.

Does it really matter?

The biggest question about attire in collegiate a cappella may well be whether it really makes a difference at all. After all, if a groups sound sensational, and incorporates a professional-grade visual show via choreography and staging, is anyone really going to care about how a group dressed?


The thing about attire is that it goes a long way toward making a first impression and informing the audience’s understanding of group's identity. There are opportunities to play with and subvert such expectations. For example, consider the seemingly stodgy group wearing tuxedos with tails that proceeds throw down a high-octane set with a hip hop bent. Even if you’re not trying be satirical, it is worth thinking about what message your group’s attire is sending.  


It’s exceedingly rare to see a group in t-shirt and jeans compete in the ICCA Finals.

Don’t get me wrong, casual attire is fine and perhaps even preferable for a casual show on campus. But when a group takes the stage in competition, the choice of outfits should reflect thought, preparation and coordination. Professional threads tend to play better with grown-up judges, and communicate a tone that a group takes itself seriously.


There are exceptions, but, in general, if a group doesn’t take the time to coordinate at least a general color scheme or min/max standard for how formally they will dress, the group ends up looking sloppy on stage, and are often more difficult for judges and audience members to distinctively remember, because they can’t point to “the women who wore black dresses” or “the mixed group that wore purple.”


Within the context of uniformity, it’s ideal if a group can find opportunities to celebrate individual characters—the hipster, the nerd, and the jock can all co-exist within a color scheme of black and yellow; group members can go with or without ties, and in blue skirts or blue jeans and still look like a unit, without looking like clones.


Can you perform your choreography in those blazers? In those heels? Does your director have a pocket to carry her pitch pipe? Is that skirt too short to be anything but distracting on stage?

Attire does more than communicate group identity—when a group doesn’t carefully consider its threads, it runs the risk of hindering the groups ability to effectively perform by becoming a functional inhibitor or distraction for the performers or the audience.

How have you seen attire affect a group’s performance in competition? What helps? What hurts? Let us know in the comments.

<![CDATA[Glitter in the Air]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/glitter-in-the-air http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/glitter-in-the-air

This week we present Penn State University Blue in the FACE performing P!nk’s “Glitter in the Air.”

<![CDATA[Update On A Cappella Blog Event Reviews]]>http://acappellablog.com/open-letters/update-on-a-cappella-blog-event-reviews http://acappellablog.com/open-letters/update-on-a-cappella-blog-event-reviews

Dear Readers,

Since we started The A Cappella Blog in 2007, the cornerstone of this site has been live event coverage, and in particular reviews of Varsity Vocals competitions. Indeed, the idea to start the site at all came up in 2006, in recognition that reviews weren’t happening elsewhere—no one was archiving, let alone offering evaluation of all of the awesome a cappella going down at competitions.

And so we began. At the site’s peak, I would personally go on the road for as many as eight-to-ten consecutive weekends in a season, putting thousands of miles on my Civic each spring.

Times have changed.

In my mid-to-late twenties, I lived in Baltimore, within a couple hundred miles of just about any Mid-Atlantic ICCA or ICHSA show including Finals and a number of festivals. I was a bachelor, worked a respectable office job, and lived in a hole-in-the-wall apartment—a recipe for expendable time and money to hit all of these shows and make it down south or into the Midwest a couple times a year (not to mention actually write a several-thousand word review in the days to immediately follow each event).

Regular readers likely noticed that the site’s live event coverage dipped in 2015. I’d left the job behind in favor of a second round of graduate school. I wound up in Oregon, in reasonable driving distance for two or three events a year, and making an annual flight out to New York for Finals. Money and time were tighter. And I got engaged.

Fast forward to now. I’ve settled in Georgia where I teach college composition courses. I’m married and, in my most recent life transition, am now a father.

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Being a father was always a long-term goal, and I always said that I didn’t want to be a father until I was ready to put my child ahead of anything else.

I toyed with the idea of making it to the few Varsity Vocals shows happening this year within an hour or two of my home, or of going to New York again in April. At this particular moment, however, the time away from my family—for travel, for shows, for writing—simply doesn’t feel worth it.

I’ve always taken pride in being transparent about how The A Cappella Blog operates, for example, publicizing our annual off-season so as to not mislead readers that they should check back to our site when we’re not going to be active. And so, I want to be open here and now as well that I do not anticipate covering live events for the foreseeable future.

That’s not to suggest we’ll never have another event review, and in particular it’s not to indicate that the site is closing. We will continue our regular columns (stay tuned as we get to each and every one of those 200 Reasons to Love A Cappella!) and special features for the foreseeable future. For the time being, however, the live event reviews are on the shelf. I appreciate your understanding, and in case you haven’t encountered them, would like to refer you in particular to FloVoice and Acaville which, via their sites and social media, are among the leaders in live a cappella event coverage, doing so much of what we set out to do with the ACB from the beginning.

Keep singing, and I’ll see you down the road.