Play By Your Own Rules, Lessons from The Hunger Games

Not So Different

In this special, three-part series, we are working through the The Hunger Games trilogy, 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 OF ARTICLES INCLUDES SPOILERS.

In The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins introduces readers to a cold, dark world in which districts submit their children to a lottery, out of which the chosen ones will fight to death while their families and friends look on.

The purpose of these “games?” To prove the absolute power of the people who run them.

Indeed the, concept of The Hunger Games may seem alien to plenty of readers, but in an age of progressively more ludicrous reality TV concepts, is it really so far-fetched to imagine a snuff show?

OK, the idea that it features children is probably creepy enough to hold off the FOX Network.

For now.

A part of what makes Katniss, the protagonist of The Hunger Games, special is that she not only recognizes her own plight as a participant in the Games, but also seems to consistently understand that the Games themselves are more her enemy than any given competitor she’s matched against. And so, upon the death of her little ally, Rue, she breaks convention to sing on her behalf, and gather a wreath of flowers around her. When the powers that be press her and star-crossed lover Peeta to fight to the death, she floats the idea of a double suicide, rather than giving in to what the ominous Capital desires.

The a cappella world is nowhere near as stark as the one Collins writes about. Nonetheless, it is full of rules and guidelines.
If you want to win a competition, you need to choreograph.

If you want to win a CARA, you need to go through Bill Hare.

If you want to win The Sing-Off you can’t sing jazz.

There’s no shortage of advice available to a cappella groups, and a lot of it is valuable. Still, the most objectively successful a cappella groups are the ones that are happy with themselves. They sing what they want to sing, how they want to sing it and chase the goals of their choice with heart and vigor.

The fact of the matter is, there is no tried and true lone way to succeed at a cappella. And so, it’s important for group leaders to bring their groups together to talk about what matters most to them, specifically. Don’t be afraid to take advice, but also don’t be afraid to do what feels right. Do what will achieve the effect you’re looking for, but also what will just plain be fun.

As the ending of this first volume in Collins’ trilogy suggests, sometimes you can’t change the world, but in the process of defying the system, you can arrive at your own little victories.