While a cappella is typically a group endeavor amidst a niche, but large community, For Your Own Good focuses on what individuals can do for their own betterment in this realm.
It’s easy to watch from the sidelines. You get eliminated from the ICCA tournament and forget about the competition—at most, scanning the results after the Finals are over. You see the next aca-viral video and enjoy it like everyone else, then move on to something else.
There’s a place for appreciating the art other people make, but there’s also a lot to be said for not letting anyone else—judges, fans, un-ambitious group mates--subjugate you, and instead making yourself a part of the action.
Be present. OK, so you didn’t make the ICCA Finals, or your group wasn’t selected to perform at SoJam. If you can drum up the money for tickets, travel, and lodging—which presumably you can, since you would have gone had you been chosen to sing there—why not go anyway? Check out what the best groups in the world are doing and learn from them. Form your opinions who should win the superlative awards. Network in the lobby or at the after party to build a body of contacts to better integrate you into the a cappella world and keep you abreast of what aca-people are talking about.
Be a part of the conversation. With Facebook and Twitter in such widespread use nowadays, anyone can take part in a conversation with anyone from Deke Sharon to Bill Hare to Amy Whitcomb. See what people are talking about and put your opinion forth. So what if your opinion is dismissed or you come off foolish? Entering the conversation shouldn’t be about coming off as an a cappella genius, but rather learning and bettering yourself. As a parallel example, a number of universities now offer video of lectures online. It’s a cool idea and it can be educational to watch, but no one will ever get as much from one of these lectures on tape as they do from having participated in the class discussion in real time.
Strive for the next level. While the points above have largely been about active participation even if you’re not quite at the level you’d like to be, don’t forget to keep an eye toward the future. Where might you take your group two years down the line? Or what might you be able to contribute to the a cappella world, as an individual, after college? The possibilities are limitless, but all have a common starting place—by refusing to be a passive observer, and instead doing all that you can to play the game.