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The ACB Cool 100: 50-41


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

With out further ado, we present 50-41.

50. Florian Stadtler As the founder of Vocal Blog, Stadtler has emerged as one of the foremost figures in a cappella education worldwide. The site, and by extension the Facebook community and Twitter page attached to it, are all about sharing ideas and building connections bringing together an increasingly large a cappella community through the use of tools that community feel all the more intimate. Stadtler also heads up Acappellazone, a major international outlet for music sales and sheet music.

49. Mitch Grassi While every member of Pentatonix has a pretty solid claim to cool in the a cappella world, Grassi carved a unique niche on season three of The Sing-Off as the group’s secret weapon—a vocal talent who remained in the background for most of the group’s songs, with the occasional explosion of clean tenor sound to make good songs great. Growing up with Scott Hoying and Kirstie Maldonado, Grassi is part of the original musical vision that evolved into quite arguably the hippest a cappella group in the world today.

48. Allan Webb Too often, we contemporary a cappella fans overlook the world of barbershop. While this list, in a sense, only reaffirms that failure to fully acknowledge an important form, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge Webb, a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society for over 25 years, a certified choral director, and winner of the Barbershop Harmony Society International Contest in 2002 with the The Masters of Harmony. Most recently, Webb was a big part of seeing the documentary American Harmony to fruition, first as an investor, and then as a key liaison between the Barbershop Harmony Society, its chapters, and the makers of the film.

47. Jake Hunsaker Vocal Point’s star tenor turned in the most memorable solos of the group’s run on The Sing-Off last fall, most notably a pure class rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight." Vocal Point had the very best of all-male, high-octane showmanship going for them from the first moment they hit the stage, but Hunsaker offered a whole different dimension of old school charm to the group, making them more than just cool, but an act that could transcend contemporary a cappella to accomplish something that was timeless.

46. Jim Diego After a distinguished undergraduate career with Univeristy of Michigan Gimble, Diego went on to co-found the much-celebrated CAL group, The Red States. In addition to these group efforts, this past spring Diego realized a truly remarkable vision in the relsease of The Whitney Project, a multi-track a cappella EP full of Whitney Houston covers for which he collaborated with luminaries from Liquid 5th as well as Tat Tong. On top of his inspiring, and ever-evolving career as a performer, Diego has served as clinician at several major a cappella festivals, and an esteemed judge for the ICCAs.

45. Thomas King “TeKay” has been an a cappella fixture for decades, serving as one of the first CASA regional ambassadors in the 1990s, and now functioning as the CASA program manager for ambassadors. He works with the Sing! a cappella compilation, nominated and judged for the CARA awards for a number of years, writes reviews for the RARB, and can currently be heard singing with Memphis-based CAL group DeltaCappella.

44. Jonathan Minkoff Minkoff has been involved in the a cappella world since the 1980s, sung with Blue Jupiter since 2005, and served for multiple years as the president of the Contemporary A Cappella Society. He may not have reached the peak of his a cappella career, though, until 2009 when he founded SingStrong. The annual DC festival features The Aca-Idol pan-a cappella competition, workshops, performances by major pro groups, and, best of all, serves as a fundraiser for The Alzheimer’s Association. Putting great music toward a great cause may be just about the noblest calling a cappella has to offer.

43. Mark Hines As the executive producer of SoJam, Hines is responsible for quite arguably the biggest and mostly highly reputed a cappella festival going today. In addition to all of the responsibilities that come with organizing November’s big event, Hines owns and produces recorded a cappella at The Vocal Company and has served as an ICCA judge and worked behind the scenes with the Sing! compilation.

42. Elizabeth Banks Known primarily for her work as an actress, Banks might seem like an odd selection for this list. And, no, she’s not a celebrity alum of an a cappella group. Next month, movie-goers will (hopefully) flock to theaters for a quirky movie about collegiate a cappella. Five years ago, a cappella was all but absent from the general public’s consciousness. The Sing-Off’s run on network TV was huge in building the a cappella brand; Pitch Perfect’s debut on the silver screen will bring the form to a whole new audience, and hopefully immortalize what we all hold dear in a very public, permanent way. Banks is not solely responsible for this happening, but as a producer she has had a major hand in bringing the project to fruition.

41. Lior Kalfo It seems only natural that a cappella would have its own musical, and yet the kindred forms never really merged until Kalfo, the creator and director of The Voca People gambled on bringing his vision to the stage. Teamed with Shai Fishman (composer, arranger and musical director) and Eva Price (executive producer) Kalfo launched his show off-Broadway in February 2012. The show has had runs in San Francisco, and abroad in France and Germany. While the review have been mixed, few can question the ambition, the vision, and the sheer excitement of a cappella taking the stage in such a unique form.

Edit: Avenue X and Toxic Audio's Toxic Audio pre-dated The Voca People as a highly successful off Broadway musical.

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