Roles--play your part

Members Only

Nancy Cheng is an English major and pre-med junior at Duke University, where she is also a member of the group Out of the Blue. She enjoys shower-singing, hemiolas, and funk. Nancy writes Members Only once a month for The A Cappella Blog.

As a member of an a cappella group at Duke University, I am no stranger to the possible troubles student-run groups can tangle with. From setting up concerts to learning music and CD sales to coordinating the group, the group has to learn how to take charge of things and take care of itself.

Here's a quick overview of roles, both official and unofficial, I think are absolutely vital to maintaining and promoting your group on and off campus.

The President should be good at administrative duties. They should answer rogue emails about try-outs, book venues on campus as early as possible, and help the music director rein in rehearsals when they aren't going as smoothly as planned. In Out of the Blue, the President is usually a senior, since seniors are generally easily respected and tend to have the experience to get through sticky situations.

The Music Director (and possible assistant) should also command the respect of the group. How will the group learn music if it doesn't respect its teacher(s)? A music director should at least know how to read treble and bass clef, and a background in music theory is very helpful. Those who have played in band or orchestra or sung in a choir will find that those skills are easily translatable to the a cappella world. The better ones I've seen are able to coax different sounds and emotions from people, allowing for a better rehearsal and later performance.

The Business Manager is responsible for all things fiscal. If you're in an a cappella group like me, you know yours is poorly funded (or not at all) by your college or university. Currently we are in the laborious process of applying for "nonprofit" status at Duke, which will help tremendously in terms of donations. It's easiest for the Business Manager to mail out CDs and keep the group's account(s) balanced, especially during recording season. Somebody has to pay for all that studio time!

The Concert Manager manages concerts. Duh. The girls in my group who take charge of this love to be on top of emails, schedules, and phone calls, and they're on the lookout for any venue we can been seen (and paid). I know most groups already have the national anthem down pat, so good places to start out with would be sports games! Duke basketball, anyone?

The Secretary takes down notes during rehearsal and keeps track of upcoming events and concerts. Ours likes to use bright colors in email to color-code and organize our agenda. If you're on a listserv, it's easy for the secretary to email and gently remind people of the Christmas concert next week or a mixer with another group the next day. Speaking of which…

The Social Chair arguably has one of the most fun positions in the group. Ours generally sets up party time with other groups on campus. Of course, it's very important that you spend some QT with the members of your group outside of rehearsal. Being fellow musicians is all very well and good, but when you're friends as well, rehearsals become much more fun!

The unofficial roles, like "show-taper" or "ticket-maker" or "choreographer" don't necessarily have to be relegated to just one person, but it will definitely help make your shows better. You can upload videos to YouTube and impress the parents who visit, increasing the likelihood of donations, and increase your visibility both on and off campus!