2011 has been a huge year for a cappella, and there’s plenty of potential for 2012. In this post, we look ahead to the next 12 months, and list 12 people who are likely to be major players. As is the case for any such list, this is very much subjective and sure to have a glaring omission or two. My apologies for that, and please be sure to weigh in with your own picks on our Facebook page, Twitter, or in the comments (please note that you must now be a registered user on the site to do so—registration is free).
Honorable Mention: The following individuals remained in consideration until the very late stages of whittling down the list: Dave Brown, Benjamin Stevens, Mark Torres, Julia Hoffman, Dave Rabizadeh, Ben Bram, Robert Dietz and Ed Boyer.
1. Deke Sharon In an age when a cappella has never been more mainstream, it seems that Sharon has a hand in every mainstream a cappella enterprise, whether it’s running the music side of the show behind the scenes on The Sing-Off, bringing a cappella tune-age to Monday Night Football, working on the production of the Pitch Perfectfilm, judging the ICCA wild card round, or, you know, touring abroad with the world-renowned House Jacks, Sharon has, quite justifiably become the go-to guy for big time a cappella. The question is not whether Deke will still have a place on a list of this ilk 12 months from now, but rather what new ground he’ll have broken to further cement his place as a leader in the community in the year to come.
2. Ben Folds In so many ways, Ben Folds is the star of The Sing-Off--the on-air personality who makes sure the focus stays on music, the judge most willing to be critical, perhaps the most respected voice on the show, and the perform who will most reliably bring the house down when he hits the stage. What’s doubly cool about Folds is that he has also used his own live tours as a way to further promote a cappella, bringing along groups like Street Corner Symphony and The Back Beats to open for him on stages across the country, in so doing, giving the a cappella form an extended platform to thrive for a general audience. On top of all of this, if The Sing-Off does go away in the US next year, there’s still plenty of potential for Folds to record another University A Cappella album, or grow more aggressive about how he incorporates a cappella in his live act. Folds is one of the most important friends to the a cappella community.
3. Amanda Newman Varsity Vocals’ scholastic competitions have grown bigger and bigger with each passing year, setting new records for number of contestants in 2011, and re-setting that record heading into 2012. The ICCA Finals sold out Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in 2011, pushing the event to the larger Town Hall stage for the coming year. The addition of the online wild card round for collegiate competitors set a new precedent for how a cappella competitions happen. In short, the ICCAs and ICHSAs still set the bar for scholastic contemporary a cappella competition, and the woman at the helm of all that, Executive Director Amanda Newman, deserves all of the credit in the world for her efforts to grow the brand.
4. Bill Hare Recorded a cappella innovations did not stop with The Beelzebubs’ Code Red--though it’s worth noting that Hare was the mastermind behind that album’s most innovative stuff. Hare has continued to set the standard for a cappella recording and has been involved in more CARA-award- winning productions than most other producers been involved in a cappella recordings, period. Factor in Hare’s perennial placement as a judge for big shows like the ICCA Finals and SoJam, and his involvement with The Sing-Off, and the Pitch Perfect film and you have one of a cappella’s most deeply-entrenched power players.
5. Elizabeth Banks Though Banks may be best known for acting, and the general public may consider The Hunger Games her most anticipated film of 2012, Banks’s work as a producer for Pitch Perfect means that she’s playing a key role in bringing collegiate a cappella to the silver screen. Will the film honor the Mickey Rapkin book on which it’s based? Will it make a cappella accessible to the largest general audience yet? Will the music sound right? Will the movie be any good? All of these questions hang in the balance, but if we end up with more affirmatives than negatories, it bodes very, very well for the long-term future of a cappella in the mainstream.
6. Hannah Juliano At the close of 2010, it seemed as though Juliano’s time in the a cappella limelight may have been cut altogether too short after a mere one-episode run on The Sing-Off with Pitch Slapped. Little did we know that the Berklee College of Music student’s star would shine all the brighter as we round the bend into 2012. She was a big part of Pitch Slapped winning the 2011 ICCA Finals and was among the leading ladies for Delilah--a big time players for The Sing-Off season three . As music director, she led Pitch Slapped to win the SoJam 2011 college competition, and was a major player in Musae—an all-female super group that made a name for itself this year and threatens really explode on the national scene in 2012. One thing remains certain—we haven’t heard the last of Juliano.
7. Scott Hoying There is probably only one man who has ever been able to say he left The SoCal VoCals after his freshman year, and traded up in the a cappella world. With all due respect to the other serious talents of Pentatonix, the most frequent soloist for the Sing-Off champions is quite arguably now the face of contemporary a cappella for the general public, and at just 19 years old, Hoying and friends are set for a huge future in music.
8. Michael Odokara-Okigbo Although Pentatonix ultimately beat out The Dartmouth Aires for the Sing-Off crown, there was no bigger individual star on the show this year than Odokara-Okigbo, whose soulful, electric, balls-to-the-walls solos were rarely anything short of astonishing. Whether he takes his a cappella chops pro, or goes to Broadway, this a success story waiting to happen with clear roots in the collegiate a cappella community.
9. Sara Bareilles The newest addition to the Sing-Off judging panel offered up one of the show’s most likeable personalities, but even more important than that, she was the face of collegiate a cappella alumni. Yes, there is a place for a cappella talents in the music world, and yes, such folks can be commercially successful, likeable, well-adjusted, and beautiful. Bareilles has emerged as an archetype to the extent that in his debut novel, Acapolitics, Stephen Harrison quite rightly identified her (through major character, Dani) as the role model to which thousands of American a cappella singers can aspire.
10. Christopher Diaz The co-founder and co-host of the Mouth Off podcast had a pretty big year for himself, with the podcast not only growing more popular, but Diaz himself joining the music staff at The Sing-Off, judging the ICCA Finals, and playing emcee for the professional showcase at SoJam 2011. Not unlike Bareilles, Diaz serves as an example for how the collegiate a cappella dream can transition to a meaningful career in a cappella after graduation.
11. Lo Barreiro The all-female a cappella revolution will not be televised—it will happen at SoJam. If you heard Barreiro speak or watched her perform at the annual a cappella festival, you know what I’m talking about. After a much-celebrated tenure with The FSU AcaBelles, Barreiro has been nothing if not ubiquitous in the post-collegiate a cappella world, bringing all-female super squad Musae to fruition, taking a leadership role at CASA, and presenting in a multitude of sessions at SoJam. Perhaps the most shining moment for Barreiro came when she moderated a panel discussion on the status of all-female a cappella, holding court with members of Delilah, The Boxettes, Musae, Divisi, Pitch Slapped, and Kinfolk 9 for a talk in which the energy was palpable and I can’t help feeling that everyone in the room saw a not only bright, but distinctive future for all-female a cappella.
12. Andrea Poole New high school a cappella groups seem to pop up with each passing year, and with groups like Soul’d Out, Eleventh Hour, and Glee’s Warblers continuing to spread the word, there’s every chance that the field will only grow wider and richer in 2012 and beyond. Poole serves as the Director of Varsity Vocals’ International Championship of High School A Cappella, and as such, stands at the fore of a cappella’s largest growth market for 2012. As an alumna of the Midwest collegiate competition scene, Poole has a great sense of what makes scholastic competitions successful. Keep an eye out for what she facilitates in the year ahead.