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The ACB Cool 100: 60-51


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

With out further ado, we present 60-51.

60. David Pinto Season one of The Sing-Off included recent ICCA champs Noteworthy, a turbo-powered collection of SoCal VoCals alumni performing as The SoCals, barbershop queens MAXX Factor, and a minor, little collegiate outfit known as The Beelzebubs. So in a field of a cappella’s truest stars, what chance did six guys from Puerto Rico with no mainstream reputation have at winning it all? While the odds may have seemed slim going into the first mini-season, by the fourth episode, Nota had made believers out of most of America. While each of the group’s six members more than carried his weight, there’s a fair argument that none connected more with the American audience than Pinto, an uber-likeable, tremendously talented soloist who took the lead most Nota songs, including their iconic cover of Jay Sean’s “Down.” Since their run on NBC, Nota has performed across the country, including a run touring with Shakira.

59. Scott Henderson In the 1990s, a The EarthTONES saw five of their songs hit the top 20 on the Canadian charts, and enjoyed a period of years when they performed over 200 dates a year at colleges and universities across the US. The group took a break for some time, but came back with a vengeance in 2010, recording great music with a bit more experience and clout. Henderson has been a key member of each incarnation of the group. Furthermore, he’s served as a coach on Canada Sings, a show on which he helps whip amateur vocal groups into competition shape. Though Henderson is criminally low profile stateside, he’s quite arguably Canadian a cappella’s brightest star.

58. McKay Crockett Brigham Young University Vocal Point went from finishing second in the ICCA Finals to reaching the final four on The Sing-Off in 2011. Crockett was a major part of both runs, taking the lead on the group’s celebrated rendition of “Jump, Jive An’ Wail” and arriving as one of the ensembles most recognizable personalities. Cooler yet, he’s now a part of a new group called ReMix, which has already achieved a unique milestone by running a week-long summer camp for pre-college kids interested in a cappella.

57. Kenton Chen On season two of The Sing-Off, Chen was portrayed as the mastermind behind The Backbeats—a super group featuring alumni of groups like The SoCal VoCals and Noteworthy. Since then he’s remained front and center as a key member of the group which has subsequently recorded a CD and performed at many locations across the country. Outside of his most famous group, Chen has an ICCA championship to his name from his days at USC, and the distinct honor of having opened for Ben Folds for numerous tour dates, as a solo a cappella act with a loop pedal.

56. Meg Alexander SMACC. BOSS. Acappellafest. Name an up and coming major a cappella festival in the last few years and there’s a very good chance Alexander had a hand in organizing it. An alum of The Syracuse University Mandarins, Alexander currently serves as the CASA program manager for business and program development.

55. Michael Marcus The current technical director for The Recorded A Cappella Review Board has written his share of reviews for the site, just might listen to more recorded a cappella than just about anyone else you’ll ever meet, and has quietly become one of the most respected critics in a cappella. On top of all of this, as an undergrad Marcus founded Columbia University Nonsequitur, through which he won a 2004 Contemporary A Cappella Publishing award for Best Collegiate Arrangement.

54. Mike Tompkins Though Tompkins may not have risen through the scholastic ranks in the style of many of a cappella’s big names, he did get his start in vocal instrumentation at a young age, reportedly beatboxing at the age of eight. Now in his mid-20s, he’s gone on to bigger things—including an audience of over 500,000 YouTube subscribers for his channel, featuring a series of one-man band videos, splicing together the sounds of Tompkins on multiple vocal parts, lead, and, of course, percussion. Some of his most celebrated selections include a cover of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” and a mashup of “Teenage Dream” and “Just the Way You Are.” It’s easy for traditionalists to dismiss to Tompkins’s act as a novelty; but there’s every chance of his star shining all the brighter in years to come.

53. Schaeffer Gray Those who take home the accolade for Outstanding Vocal Percussion at the ICCA Finals have a claim to their place among the world’s elite. People who do it twice enter some truly rarefied air. Gray, the drummer for The University of Georgia Accidentals has been a huge part of the group’s success in recent years, providing the rhythmic foundation and his share of visual moments, including a backflip mid-drum solo in 2010. Though Gray’s collegiate career may have finished up, he represents a unique talent with plenty of opportunity to continue to shine in the a cappella universe.

52. Stephen Harrison After a noteworthy collegiate career singing with Washington University After Dark, Harrison went on to kick off a fictional blog about (what else?) the collegiate a cappella scene. The fictional blog grew into a full-fledged novel--AcaPolitics--a remarkable snapshot of one year in the college a cappella scene. The book has sequels on the way, and Harrison seems as likely a candidate as anyone to be the greatest aca-storyteller of his generation.

51. Dave Sperandio As if founding SoJam and the Sing! compilation weren’t enough, Sperandio’s day job sees him producing some of the premier a cappella recordings today through his company diovoce. Sperandio has his hands in so many good things in a cappella—BOSS, VoCALnation, VocalSource, and Vocal Mastering, not to mention pro groups Transit, Almost Recess, and Vocal Tonic, besides having his aca-roots in the much celebrated UNC Clef Hangers.

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