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The ACB Cool 100: 20-11


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
90. Nate Tao
89. Tom Keyes
88. Mark Torres
87. Connaitre Miller
86. Meredith Strang
85. Selame Scarlett
84. Emily Flanders
83. Matt Caruso
82. Seth Johnson
81. Glynn Rankin and Michael Dyck
80. Sarah Vela
79. Katie Gillis
78. Noah Berg
77. Dave Longo
76. Danielle Withers
75. Oluwasegun Oluwadele
74. Therry Thomas
73. Sara Yood
72. Tom Anderson
71. Josh Chopak
70. Roger Thomas
69. Aaron Sperber
68. Mark Joseph
67. Myke Charles
66. Johanna Vinson
65. Sean Patrick Riley
64. Joan Hare
63.Kenley Flowers
62. Mike Jankowski
61. Jeremy Lister
60. David Pinto
59. Scott Henderson
58. McKay Crockett
57. Kenton Chen
56. Meg Alexander
55. Michael Marcus
54. Mike Tompkins
53. Schaeffer Gray
52. Stephen Harrison
51. Dave Sperandio
50. Florian Stadtler
49. Mitch Grassi
48. Allan Webb
47. Jake Hunsaker
46. Jim Diego
45. Thomas King
44. Jonathan Minkoff
43. Mark Hines
42. Elizabeth Banks
41. Lior Kalfo
40. Kirstie Maldonado
39. Chris Crawford
38. Sam Tsui
37. Brianne Holland
36. Christopher Given Harrison
35. Alfredo Austin
34. John Neal
33. Amy Whitcomb
32. Ben Bram
31. Nick Girard
30. Ingrid Michaelson
29. Rob Dietz
28. Andrea Poole
27. Kevin Olusola
26. Mickey Rapkin
25. Michael Odokara-Okigbo
24. Courtney Jensen
23. Ingrid Andress
22. Lo Barreiro
21. Ben Stevens

With out further ado, we present 20-11.

20. Avi Kaplan Make no mistake about it—Pentatonix is one of the most talented a cappella groups in the world. But a huge part of what lends them such a distinctive sound is their bass man, Kaplan. Kaplan’s low end not only adds richness and depth to every song his group sings, but his distinctive ability to sing overtones further sets him apart. In a group of just five people, Kaplan lends Pentatonix not only firepower, but the aural complexity of a small choir.

19. Jerry Lawson Many of the individuals included in this countdown have dedicated their lives to music. Very few, however, can say that they’ve been singing without a band for over 40 years. Indeed, when Lawson moved from Florida to New York in the 1970s with visions of a football career, he couldn’t have known he was taking the first step toward a truly iconic career in a cappella. Before long, Lawson sang with The Persuasions, a group that went on to record a variety of albums and tour with the likes of Liza Minnelli, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and other enormous acts of their time. After Lawson parted ways with the group, he went on to find a second chance at a cappella glory, singing with a group of men who had long idolized and emulated The Persuasions, known as Talk of the Town. The new group went all the way to the finals of season two of The Sing-Off. Lawson is still singing today, and stood tall at the center of attention for his most recent national performance, joining a crew of Sing-Off all stars for the 2011 Christmas special.

18. Randy Stine When Stine posted clips of college a cappella group on YouTube, you have to assume that he didn’t expect it to lead to a career as a professional musician. A contract with Atlantic Records later and his group, Straight No Chaser, has been more successful at touring the country and selling DVDs and CDs than just about anyone else in the a cappella game. While holiday music remains the group’s bread and butter (particularly their remix of “The 12 Days of Christmas”) the group has accomplished the improbable in truly crossing over to a mainstream audience and proving itself as more than a passing fad, remaining a viable attraction over a period of years.

17. Ed Boyer With a pedigree of having sung with such prestigious groups as The Beelzebubs and Hyannis Sound, I suppose one could expect big things from Ed Boyer. Big things he has accomplished, working behind the scenes at The Sing-Off, arranging for The Warblers (voiced by current ‘Bubs) on Glee, producing and directing musical numbers on the upcoming Pitch Perfect film. While it wasn’t his highest profile gig, Boyer was also a noteworthy judge at the 2012 ICCA Finals. The results of the show were pretty controversial, but Boyer was not one to hide from public opinion, hitting the blogosphere at CASA to explain why All The King’s Men deserved to place and why Voices in Your Head hadn’t taken the crown. While I may not agree with Boyer’s conclusions, there’s no questioning his sound judgment or the intricacy of thought he lends to the a cappella world.

16. Bobby McFerrin When we talk about a cappella people who have influenced other artists, who have helped shape the form, and who have brought vocal music to the masses, McFerrin is without peer. He has won eight Grammys, toured the world, and his late ‘80s hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” made him a true music star. McFerrin’s ability to create polyphonic effects and channel a crowd to complement his song stylings with its own vocals (including demonstrations of the pentatonic scale) have made him an innovator and an influence.

15. Julia Hoffman A cappella is growing. Between the number of collegiate and high school groups, the number of and attendance at major festivals, and public consciousness of the form, more and more folks are getting involved in music without instruments. The Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) stands at the fore of this movement, coordinating resources and major events for the community, and the woman who coordinates all that coordination is none other than Hoffman, the organization’s president. The position is well-earned—after getting her start with The Stanford Harmonics, Hoffman has long served as the director of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, and worked as an ICCA producer and judge.

14. Shawn Stockman Throughout 1990s, Stockman was a big part of Boyz II Men—a vocal act that fused R&B, soul, and, yes, a cappella to achieve remarkable success in terms of record sales and radio play. While the group is not quite so prominent today, Stockman carved a new niche for himself in the a cappella world, sitting on the judging panel for The Sing-Off. In that role, he established himself supporting, but critical; insightful and fun. Perhaps best of all, he lent a practical pop sensibility to the judging panel that transcended both pure musical artistry and personal preference to get at acts’ potential for success with a general audience and as recording artists for the years to come. As such, Stockman filled a unique role in one of the top judging panels in reality TV.

13. David Rabizadeh What can you say about the guy who went from founding one of the nation’s best all-male collegiate a cappella groups (Rutgers Casual Harmony) to heading up the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella? Under Rabizadeh’s leadership as the director of the competition, the ICCAs have undergone unparalleled growth, and, to his credit, Rabizadeh remains a constant presence at ICCA and ICHSA shows throughout the northeast, never afraid to get his hands dirty, speaking to crowds, administering awards and honors, and overseeing day-of-show operations at a full spectrum of events.

12. Bellatrix British Belle "Bellatrix” Ehresmann seems to make waves everywhere she goes, whether it’s electrifying the crowd at SoJam 2011’s pro showcase as part of The Boxettes, or earning the crown of World Female Beatbox Champion. Masters of vocal percussion and bass are some of the most coveted talents for a cappella groups, and a female artist who not only holds her own, but exceeds just about any of her male counterparts is truly something special.

11. Dave Brown Brigham Young University is a hotbed for a cappella, featuring not one, but two groups which have not only won ICCA championships, but also appeared on The Sing-Off. An alum of BYU, Brown sang with all-male Vocal Point, and went on to co-found and direct all-female Noteworthy. Since that time, Brown has served as a clinician and coach for numerous a cappella festivals and individual groups, served a term as president of the Contemporary A Cappella Society, an emcee for the ICCA and ICHSA Finals, and co-founded the popular a cappella podcast Mouth Off.

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