To say that Phoenix, a new all-female a cappella in Boston, has lofty ideals might be understatement. In explaining the group’s name to me, founding member AJ Marino explained, “We chose the name Phoenix for the mythical bird by the same name, because we don't want to reinvent female a cappella. We see ourselves as being born from the "ashes" of the all-female a cappella world that came before us, and hope to build on the strengths that we see there. Musically, we hope to be able to break the stereotypes of what all-female a cappella can do, and be defined not as ‘good for an all-female group,’ but just plain good.”
Bri Holland is currently promoting The Vocal Company’s Find Your Voice original music competition, for which entries are due March 15. The following interview was conducted via email between Holland and A Cappella Blog Content Manager Mike Chin.
I first met Peter Hollens at a gathering in Manhattan, after he had served as a judge for Varsity Vocals’s Finals weekend, and after I had sat in the crowd taking feverish notes about the evening’s proceedings. Mind you, this was after Hollens accrued hundreds of thousands of subscribers for his regular releases on YouTube, after he had appeared on The Sing-Off, and after he had co-founded one of the most influential collegiate a cappella groups in the world, On the Rocks, at the University of Oregon.
Upon such an interaction, you might expect Hollens to have been brash, boldly charismatic, or a touch arrogant.
Hollens was none of these things.
He’s the sort of talent who doesn’t seem to realize how famous or celebrated he is. Or if he does realize it, he demonstrates no interest in cashing in on any associated rewards beyond having a broader platform to share his music and get other people involved.
This spring, The A Cappella Blog reached out to all of the ICCA finals to ask them some questions heading into their big night. We're proud to present a round table interview with the following groups:
Berklee College of Music Pitch Slapped, the ICCA Northeast Champions
The St. Louis University Bare Naked Statues, the ICCA Midwest Champions
University of Delaware Vocal Point, the ICCA South Champions
Since it's slow, subtle roll out began last month, AcaRank has quickly emerged as one of the most controversial new institutions in scholastic a cappella. The idea is to use clearly defined criteria, including performance in live competition and achievement in studio recording, to measure and comparatively rank a cappella groups.
Some parties have met the idea with excitement—particularly those that have been pleased with their groups’ high rankings or who are happy to be ranked at all. However, much of the attention focused on the project so far has been far less positive, with critics decrying a furthered sense of competition rather than collaboration in the a cappella community and questioning how objective any set of ranking could be.
Patrick Hockberger and Matt Kania, who previously collaborated as part of The Northwestern University Undertones and for VoxLabs, an a cappella finance and consulting company, co-founded AcaRank. Hockberger was kind enough to sit down for an interview with me to clarify the intentions behind AcaRank, their practices, and where the project is headed.
Each year, it seems that there are a select few hot CDs that get the a cappella community buzzing. They’re typically the work of a professional group, or perhaps a particularly iconic college group or a prominent ICCA competitor that’s taken a year off from competing to get in the studio.
Rarely does a high school group set the a cappella world on fire.
Apparently, no one told Forte.
Forte is based out of Centerville High School, and operates under the faculty direction of Ben Spalding. The group placed at the ICHSA Finals this spring, and went on to stun a live audience at SoJam by putting the perfect cap on Ben Stevens’s Essential Listening workshop.
Then, there’s the CD.
Life’s So Lyrical is more than just any polished CD, featuring arrangements and production from top names in the a cappella community; it’s a CD composed exclusively of original music, written by the students.
Across the United States, the population of post-collegiate a cappella groups has grown significantly in recent years, through a combination more and more alums of college groups seeking to carry on the music; the support network offered via The Contemporary A Cappella League; and, of course, the success of The Sing-Off, Pitch Perfect, and the like inspiring musicians to continue their involvement in a cappella when they leave school or come back to it after a prolonged absence.
And then there is The Voice of Rock Project.
Originally founded in 2010 by Stephen Gale, The Voice of Rock Project currently consists of six members, only one of whom sung a cappella in college. They’re mixed gender and way-post-collegiate group (three members are over 50). Don’t let the demographics fool you into thinking this is an “oldies” or “doo-wop” outfit, though. On the contrary, much as the group name suggests, the group is all about rock and roll.