Discover a Better You; Lessons from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Not So Different

In this special, seven-part series, we are working through the Harry Potter series, book by book, to discuss the lessons each book can teach a cappella groups. If you haven’t read the books before, beware—this series does include spoilers.

Most of us have days when we speculate what it would be like if our lives were different.

We wonder what would have happened if we were on a pre-law path instead of studying as music majors. We wonder if we had trained accordingly if we could have made the high school basketball team. We wonder what it would be like to spend a year abroad. And though most of us aren’t so bold as to wonder what it would like to be wizards, it is kind of neat to let our imaginations run wild every now and again.

In the first of the JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry lives a miserable life as an orphan in a family that neither understands nor appreciates him, alternately ignoring or abusing him. All of this changes on his eleventh birthday, at which point wizards whisk him to attend school at Hogwarts and capitalize on his magical potential.

Lots of a cappella groups are having lots of fun, and if that’s the case for your crew, congratulations! For a discouragingly high number of groups, though, a cappella is not fun. What starts out as a quirky extracurricular becomes more like a part-time job with rehearsals to sit through, songs that no one wants to sing, a routine series of annual performances that leave the audience and group alike yawning.

When a cappella isn’t fun anymore, it’s time discover a better you.

A better incarnation of a group might mean switching up the repertoire by arranging something radically different from the rote material the group has slogged through. It might mean spicing up the act with choreography. Conversely, if the group has been working too hard, it might mean it’s time to strip things down a little and get back to basics with a little less perfectionism, and a little more of the joy of just letting people sing. Looking past music alone, perhaps it’s time to switch gears to focus on recording viral videos for YouTube, or recording a funky theme album, or touring someplace the group never expected to go.

People generally only get to be a part of their collegiate a cappella groups for two or three years. That’s two short of period, too close to the prime of a musician’s life to waste time having no fun. Find your Hogwarts—the magic will follow.