A cappella group performing on stage
The A Cappella Blog

Florida State University All-Night Yahtzee


Florida State University’s mixed sensation, All Night Yahtzee has performed at the highest level for years, including two consecutive appearances in the ICCA finals. On March 15, they will continue their journey through this year’s tournament, heading into the South Region semifinals. The group’s Music Director, Chris Diaz took the time to answer questions from The A Cappella Blog’s own Mike C.

The A Cappella Blog (ACB): In back to back years, your group has not only advanced to ICCA Finals in New York, but also taken the honor of winning Outstanding Soloist honors in both outings (not to mention an Outstanding Vocal Percussion award in 2007). What have these honors meant to the group? What has the group learned from its experiences in competition, how has competing affected the nature of the group?

Christopher Diaz (CD): Firstly, I'd like to say that we are always so grateful to receive honorable mentions at competition. Yahtzee is a group that prides itself on working very, very hard to reach a common goal, and in the ICCA we set our standard of excellence extremely high, working our hardest to maintain it. Personally, receiving the Best Soloist honor was a huge deal for me--in both instances I also arranged the song, and it was a song that had a special significance to me. Because of this, I instilled each with a profound sense of self, and since the group shared my vision with me we were able to achieve something that was and is for us, very cathartic. This is a competitive group of people, but that nature isn't driven by a selfish desire to "win", it's more driven by our selfish love of feeling like we've accomplished something really cool.

ACB: As the first collegiate a cappella group at Florida State University, how has All-Night Yahtzee affected the perception of a cappella music on campus? Does the group have a lot of supporters? What sort of opportunities to perform has the group found?

CD: In a typical school year, ANY performs two full length concerts and numerous gigs including opening for concerts and comedians, singing for charity events like Relay For Life, Heart Walk and Dance Marathon, and performing as part of different Artists' Series. The more that we sing, the more people we reach which is the coolest part about what we do. Four years ago, I could count *maybe* a hundred people who would consider themselves All-Night Yahtzee fans, on and off campus. Since our recent ICCA successes and group changes, we've established a substantial and invaluable fan base on campus that helps us thrive. The great sales of our recently released *Minor Adjustments* are a testament to the awesomeness of our supporters on and off campus. But while campus gigs are our bread and butter, our ambitions have led us to other venues like SoJam (what an AWESOME experience!) and recently, we were invited to sing with the UNC Clef Hangers and other top notch a cappella groups at their annual Winter Jam. It's all very flattering, and at each thing we strive to bring our best!

ACB: Is there a story behind All-Night Yahtzee's unique name?

CD: There is, but none of us tell it the same, and that's the fun in it. (Though I will say that it includes African children, retirement homes, homeless guys and yachts...)

ACB: How does your group go about deciding which songs to add to its
repertoire? Who is responsible for arrangements?

CD: I could be diplomatic and say that we decide as a group, but honestly, as of late we mostly do songs that I felt inspired to work on. Of course, I run everything by the group for approval, but we're very like minded when it comes to what would be artistically stimulating,  what would be a crowd pleaser, etc. I'm responsible for probably 85% of the arrangements, though Travis Smith (our vocal percussionist) and Dave Girtman, another group member, are both very talented arrangers who've done stuff for the group.

ACB: What would you say is the most important element to having a successful collegiate a cappella group?

CD: Dave Sperandio, owner of Diovoce Studios (and a very inspiring guy) told me when I met him in NC to start mixing our latest album, that the key elements to a good album come in threes: time, talent and money. There's a balance between the three, but they have to add up to 100% in any proportion for success to occur.  I think that all you have to add to that when talking about the success of an a cappella group in general is passion. Yahtzee is low on money and time, so all we really have to attribute our success to is talent and passion. In auditions, we let the singers know up front that this is a hell of a commitment, but that it's ultimately one of the most influential and rewarding things you'll do in this stage of your life. We have a genuine, sappy and almost nauseating love of making music and of one another, and that's what drives us to push our personal and musical limits. Even the richest, most talented group will fail if they don't love what they're doing.

ACB: What drew you, personally, to collegiate a cappella in the first place?

CD: The Music Director the year I entered, Katie Lauer, hounded me for two years straight while we were in choirs in musicals at FSU about auditioning. I finally gave in, almost missed my audition for a job interview at a sandwich place, and fell in love the first time I sang with the group on retreat (we sang “Ironic,” a song that won her Outstanding Solo and Arranging awards.) From then on, I was hooked, started arranging, found a strong desire to teach my arrangements and the rest is history!

ACB: What is your favorite song to perform with All-Night Yahtzee?

CD: That's a hard question to answer because we do a very broad range of repertoire- there are certain songs that I like singing for different reasons. I'd probably have to say “Chariot” though, only because it's such a passionate song and when we sang it at ICCA two years ago, I felt so inspired by the energy we shared when singing it together.

ACB: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of The A Cappella Blog?

CD: Firstly, PLEASE BUY OUR NEW ALBUM, “MINOR ADJUSTMENTS” at www.allnightyahtzee.com! Aside from that, I always find it important to say that we genuinely loving singing for it's own sake. We're not looking for glory or praise, just to touch people with music. If we can get one person to say, "I liked your version better than the original!" then we've done our job!

If you would like to learn more about All Night Yahtzee, you can visit them online at http://www.allnightyahtzee.com.

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