Give It the Old College Try

Collegiate a cappella groups have the chance to undertake a variety of endeavors, projects and adventures. Give It the Old College Try highlights opportunities a group may have overlooked or not thought of up to this point.

In suggesting these ideas, we openly acknowledge that there are groups with greater experience and knowledge on the topic than we can share. We welcome readers to chime in in the comments section.

In this edition, we suggest groups try…competing.

It’s no secret that competition—and most particularly, the ICCAs, are the cornerstone of this website. It’s what drew both of the co-founders to the wacky world of collegiate a cappella, and, to this day, site traffic still sees a serious bump every time we post a report from a competition. But what does a group have to gain from participating in competition?

For one, competing gives a group a clear purpose and reason for polishing and refining its act. It’s all well and good to practice hard before a big show, but competition brings an entirely different element to performance. In heading off to the ICCAs you know that you’ll be putting on your show in front of other a cappella aficionados. What’s more, you know that you will, quite literally, be judged. What more incentive could there be to put your best foot forward?

Beyond scores, placements and awards, competitions carry the inherent benefit of giving groups the opportunity to get earnest feedback. The adjudicators have a background in music, if not a cappella specifically, and can offer an objective and informed opinion on what you’re doing—let you know what is and isn’t working. What’s more your peers in the crowd won’t necessarily all be the friends and family you’re accustomed to performing in front of—on the contrary, they will be people without a stake in your personal feelings, who can share honest opinions on what you’re putting out there.

As an extension of receiving feedback, heading out to a competition also affords you the opportunity get ideas from other groups and network, whether its through simple conversation, or just by watching what others do on stage. Regardless of your group’s level of talent and experience, there is always something to be learned by watching others ply their trade, and competition offers a wonderful chance to see several other groups in the same night.

On top of all of the performance oriented benefits of competition, competing also provides some really different opportunities for your group to bond. There’s nothing like piling into a car and driving long distances, or cramming six to a hotel room, or walking around a foreign city to draw people together and create a common sense of experience. Traveling to a competition is a great way to build community within your group.

And so, competition provides your group a common goal, the chance to get earnest feedback, a chance to network and time to bond. We suggest you give it the old college try.