Life is full of lessons to be learned. When we’re thinking about how to best lead, promote, sing, or otherwise operate within the context of an a cappella group, it’s worth looking beyond the realm of a cappella itself to what other walks of life can teach us.
For the last few years, I’ve had the good fortune of spending several weeks of each summer working at The University of California-Santa Cruz. Maybe I’m just a northeast boy, easily impressed with some west coast nature, but I’ll be darned if the redwood trees, the views of the ocean, and all those deer running around the university campus don’t strike a bit of awe in me upon each visit. Equally impressive to the nature itself is the way in which it’s so seamlessly integrated with the campus at UCSC, with roadways that weave up and around hills of green, and academic buildings standing in the shadows of massive trees.
UC Santa Cruz’s lay out runs completely contrary to so many of the paved-over, brick and mortar schools I’m accustomed to seeing in the northeast. It’s not about a stodgy, professional academic atmosphere, or mowing down greenery to erect statues to celebrated dead white guys. It’s about taking the natural environment and complementing it to form an equilibrium that celebrates both human innovation and that which the land provides us.
When it comes to a cappella, consider what’s naturally available to you. On the most base level, there are your vocal talents. Are you allowing everyone to test the limits of their range to develop a complex, sprawling sound? Are you allowing everyone a chance to do what they do best in the context of performance, rather than pressuring them into preconceived roles?