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.
In a theme that would recur throughout the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore tells young Harry that help will always be available at Hogwarts to those who ask for it. The lesson is proven when this, the second volume in the series, closes on Harry in dire straits on the verge of death via giant snake, when he pleads for assistance, and Dumbledore’s trusty phoenix saves the day.
What JK Rowling doesn’t explicitly write, but that’s fair to derive from the text is that the benefits of asking for help in a time of need transcend the walls of Hogwarts and the realm of fiction. Indeed, they extend as far as your very own a cappella group.
It’s easy to slip into a mindset that your group needs to make it on its own, and that its victories will be all the sweeter for shoving it in the faces of doubters, and for surprising everyone around you with your hard work and talents. Self-made success stories are great—they’re the very stuff of the American dream. But the fact we too often overlook is that success is all the more accessible when we have someone give us a helping hand.
Are you starting a new group without a bank of arrangements to work from? Find a group you admire and ask if you can borrow some of the stuff they aren’t using anymore to help your squad learn the form. Is the role of musical director your first real leadership position? Don’t be afraid to ask group alumni, or the leaders of other student organizations for help. Having trouble booking a venue for your show? Head on over to the student activities office or make an appointment with the head of the music department to talk over your options.
On the one hand, given the combination of inexperience and busy schedules, there are few greater challenges than making a collegiate a cappella group work. On the other hand, colleges and universities are environments set up for the very purpose of helping people learn. Take advantage of the resources around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Dumbledore may not send you a phoenix, but just the same, you just might be pleasantly surprised with the warm reception you’ll get when you ask for a little help.