The a cappella world is full of cool people, but those individual identities are so often lost in the broader scheme of a cappella groups or institutions. In this 10-part feature we are listing 100 of the coolest people in a cappella.
I based this list on many and varied rationale including overall impact on a cappella and the degree to which people have innovated. There’s a “lifetime achievement” element of it, but also a healthy dose of “what have you done for me lately?” This isn’t just about the greatest a cappella performers (though that certainly plays a role) but equally, if not more so about how much a person has given to the a cappella world, and how cool those contributions have been.
On a side note, if you get too bent out of shape about where someone ranks, or if someone’s omitted, please also keep in mind that you have a guy who voluntarily writes a blog about a cappella evaluating how cool 100 people are—there is some dissonance up in here.
Did we forget some people? Almost certainly. In brainstorming for this countdown, the initial list ran well over 150 names long. Tough decisions had to be made, and besides that, there’s little doubt that we forgot some very cool people. Please feel free to let us hear about it and give your favorite folks their just desserts in the comments section, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
As much as it pains us, and surely invalidates the list to an extent, we have opted to not to include anyone on the regular A Cappella Blog staff on this list.
Here’s the list so far:
100. Heather Newkirk
99. John Baunach
98. DW Routte
97. Laura Long
96. Angela Ugolini
95. Marc Silverberg
94. Warren Bloom
93. Kari Francis
92. Ben Spalding
91. Corey Slutsky
With out further ado, we present 90-81.
90. Nate Tao After a distinguished collegiate a cappella career, singing memorable leads on sings like “Isn’t She Lovely” and “I Want You Back” for Ithacappella, Tao has shown no signs of slowing down, rocking show with Hyannis Sound, and now lighting up stages as a solo artist in LA. Tao is the sort of special vocal talent who transcends the a cappella genre; while I doubt he’ll ever leave the form behind entirely, he’s also quite likely to be an excellent ambassador for the form in the broader music world for years to come.
89. Tom Keyes Some major players in the a cappella community lead from the stage, others from planning rooms. Keyes is among those multi-talented individuals who can do both, lighting up stages with his Contemporary A Cappella League group Frequency in addition to serving as the director of The Contemporary A Cappella League and the CAL program manager for CASA. While scholastic a cappella groups may represent the future of the form, more and more, semi-pro groups are becoming the here and now, and folks like Keyes are at the fore of that movement.
88. Mark Torres In an increasingly visual culture, in which social networking is king, Torres's pet project, SIN3G took the a cappella community by storm last fall, offering a site dedicated to a cappella videos with a sampling of blog posts to boot. An alum of the Yale a cappella scene, Torres is passionate about a cappella and well connected to new media--as such, definitely a player in pushing the broader a cappella community forward.
87. Connaitre Miller Can jazz a cappella be cool? For years, plenty of folks thought not, balking at the groups who brought their jazz stylings to ICCAs or dared to even try and lure a general audience to their shows. The perception shifted with Groove for Thought's run on The Sing-Off, and fell flat on its behind with the rise of season three's surprise audience favorite, Afro-Blue. The group's take on songs like "American Boy" set the show on its head, challenging the contemporary paradigm with a jazz-pop fusion that darn-near set the show on fire early in the group's run. The mastermind behind the group concept was faculty director Miller who has clearly trained and rehearsed her proteges with an ear toward musical precision. It's yet to be seen if the group will spawn a wide body of imitators or disciples, but for the time being, Miller's vision has at minimum carved a very cool niche for a crew of promising young singers.
86. Meredith Strang NYC's Treble is quite arguably the coolest post-collegiate all-female a cappella group in quite arguably the coolest city in the world. Strang serves as co-musical director for the group, in addition to appearing as a very regular face on Varsity Vocals judging panels throughout the Mid-Atlantic, as well as a judge for the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. On top of all of this, she's an alum of the Sing-Off-featured Deltones and arranges at NYC A Cappella. A part of what's so impressive about Strang's contributions to the a cappella world is not just what she has accomplished, but what she has empowered and paved the way for others to do.
85. Selame Scarlett Scarlett performed with Capital Green in her undergraduate career and has gone on to serve as an arranger for hire, ICCA judge, ICHSA producer and more. A presence at just about every major aca-gathering you can think of, Scarlett has made some of her most profound and unsung (no pun intended) contributions to the a cappella world as a videographer. To date, she has captured over 100 major aca-moments for YouTube—clips that will only become more valuable to a cappella historians as more time goes by, and that are tremendous fodder for all of us looking to tell a buddy about the amazing act we caught at the ICCA Finals, SoJam, or elsewhere.
84. Emily Flanders After cutting her aca-teeth with The Washington University of St. Louis Amateurs, Flanders has served as director of promotions for Varsity Vocals, the producer for the ICCA Midwest Region, and as an organizer for events like Boston Sings (BOSS). Always opinionated, and boasting a mean set of pipes herself, Flanders is a collegiate a cappella alum who just keeps giving back and helping the community evolve for the benefit of future generations.
83. Matt Caruso The mastermind behind ACappellaPsych, Caruso has more than just a nifty blog to his name--after graduating from The Ursinus College Bearitones, he has served as director his CAL group, Stay Tuned, worked with the CARAs, and offers arranging, production, live sound production services and more through his website. Caruso is a budding jack of all trades who is sure to develop an increasingly pronounced impact on the a cappella world in the years to come.
82. Seth Johnson When The Vanderbilt University Melodores ascended to the ICCA Finals in 2011, they arrived as, quite arguably, the single coolest college a cappella group on the planet. Sure, they had a cool range from hip hop to alt-rock, and, sure, their slick dance moves helped sell them to a general audience, but quite possibly the coolest part of their act was the chipmunk-stylings of the one and only Seth Johnson. Johnson was the star of The Melodore’s set in 2012 as well, riffing on “Sexyback” and more. Besides appearing on stage as the group’s most recognizable star, Johnson also functions as the president and general manager for the group. As he enters his senior year, expect big things from Johnson and company in the months ahead.
81. Glynn Rankin and Michael Dyck OK, I’m cheating a little on this one, but both of these guys earn placement for the same reasons, so they get to share a spot on the list. Rankin and Dyck sang together as part of Effusion at McGill University. Based on their experience competing and networking with other groups in the ICCAs the two decided to launch Canada’s biggest a cappella show to date, a festival infused with the musical tradition of Montreal—Montreacappella. The first-time event this past April featured 18 groups performing in a cappella marathon throughout the day. The success of the event provides plenty of hope that it will continue for years to come, spreading the a cappella love north of the border.