The Competitor's Edge

In this addition, the focus is on attire.

Does it really matter?

The biggest question about attire in collegiate a cappella may well be whether it really makes a difference at all. After all, if a groups sound sensational, and incorporates a professional-grade visual show via choreography and staging, is anyone really going to care about how a group dressed?


The thing about attire is that it goes a long way toward making a first impression and informing the audience’s understanding of group's identity. There are opportunities to play with and subvert such expectations. For example, consider the seemingly stodgy group wearing tuxedos with tails that proceeds throw down a high-octane set with a hip hop bent. Even if you’re not trying be satirical, it is worth thinking about what message your group’s attire is sending.  


It’s exceedingly rare to see a group in t-shirt and jeans compete in the ICCA Finals.

Don’t get me wrong, casual attire is fine and perhaps even preferable for a casual show on campus. But when a group takes the stage in competition, the choice of outfits should reflect thought, preparation and coordination. Professional threads tend to play better with grown-up judges, and communicate a tone that a group takes itself seriously.


There are exceptions, but, in general, if a group doesn’t take the time to coordinate at least a general color scheme or min/max standard for how formally they will dress, the group ends up looking sloppy on stage, and are often more difficult for judges and audience members to distinctively remember, because they can’t point to “the women who wore black dresses” or “the mixed group that wore purple.”


Within the context of uniformity, it’s ideal if a group can find opportunities to celebrate individual characters—the hipster, the nerd, and the jock can all co-exist within a color scheme of black and yellow; group members can go with or without ties, and in blue skirts or blue jeans and still look like a unit, without looking like clones.


Can you perform your choreography in those blazers? In those heels? Does your director have a pocket to carry her pitch pipe? Is that skirt too short to be anything but distracting on stage?

Attire does more than communicate group identity—when a group doesn’t carefully consider its threads, it runs the risk of hindering the groups ability to effectively perform by becoming a functional inhibitor or distraction for the performers or the audience.

How have you seen attire affect a group’s performance in competition? What helps? What hurts? Let us know in the comments.

Glitter in the Air

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Penn State University Blue in the FACE performing P!nk’s “Glitter in the Air.”

Update On A Cappella Blog Event Reviews

Open Letters

Dear Readers,

Since we started The A Cappella Blog in 2007, the cornerstone of this site has been live event coverage, and in particular reviews of Varsity Vocals competitions. Indeed, the idea to start the site at all came up in 2006, in recognition that reviews weren’t happening elsewhere—no one was archiving, let alone offering evaluation of all of the awesome a cappella going down at competitions.

And so we began. At the site’s peak, I would personally go on the road for as many as eight-to-ten consecutive weekends in a season, putting thousands of miles on my Civic each spring.

Times have changed.

In my mid-to-late twenties, I lived in Baltimore, within a couple hundred miles of just about any Mid-Atlantic ICCA or ICHSA show including Finals and a number of festivals. I was a bachelor, worked a respectable office job, and lived in a hole-in-the-wall apartment—a recipe for expendable time and money to hit all of these shows and make it down south or into the Midwest a couple times a year (not to mention actually write a several-thousand word review in the days to immediately follow each event).

Regular readers likely noticed that the site’s live event coverage dipped in 2015. I’d left the job behind in favor of a second round of graduate school. I wound up in Oregon, in reasonable driving distance for two or three events a year, and making an annual flight out to New York for Finals. Money and time were tighter. And I got engaged.

Fast forward to now. I’ve settled in Georgia where I teach college composition courses. I’m married and, in my most recent life transition, am now a father.

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Being a father was always a long-term goal, and I always said that I didn’t want to be a father until I was ready to put my child ahead of anything else.

I toyed with the idea of making it to the few Varsity Vocals shows happening this year within an hour or two of my home, or of going to New York again in April. At this particular moment, however, the time away from my family—for travel, for shows, for writing—simply doesn’t feel worth it.

I’ve always taken pride in being transparent about how The A Cappella Blog operates, for example, publicizing our annual off-season so as to not mislead readers that they should check back to our site when we’re not going to be active. And so, I want to be open here and now as well that I do not anticipate covering live events for the foreseeable future.

That’s not to suggest we’ll never have another event review, and in particular it’s not to indicate that the site is closing. We will continue our regular columns (stay tuned as we get to each and every one of those 200 Reasons to Love A Cappella!) and special features for the foreseeable future. For the time being, however, the live event reviews are on the shelf. I appreciate your understanding, and in case you haven’t encountered them, would like to refer you in particular to FloVoice and Acaville which, via their sites and social media, are among the leaders in live a cappella event coverage, doing so much of what we set out to do with the ACB from the beginning.

Keep singing, and I’ll see you down the road.



We Don't Talk Anymore

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present University of Florida Gestalt performing Charlie Puth ft. Selenea Gomez’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”

When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #142: When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them

Many of us grow up hearing that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—and yet how many of us honestly heed that advice? One of my truest pleasures as an a cappella fan has long been watching a group take the stage—a bunch guys dressed like scrubs, timid-looking young women, , people who otherwise look as though they’re not truly ready for performance—hand having them prove me dead wrong by knocking their performance out o the park.

 One of my favorite examples is Reverb, an ostensibly nerdy group of guys in powder blue bow ties who look about as cool or threatening as a pastel teddy bear and yet for every performance I’ve heard from them, demonstrate ambition in their song selection and a level of attitude and energy that’s nearly without peer in the contemporary a cappella landscape. Their brand of entertainment and undermining expectations was, perhaps, nowhere more evident than in their 2013 ICCA Finals run when they made it all the way to NYC and stunned the crowd with the highest of caliber mashups, slamming home a “Bad” and “This Is How We Do It.”

I love it!

Back to Me

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present University of Florida No Southern Accent performing Daya’s “Back To Me.”

Next Page
Glitter in the Air
Update On A Cappella Blog Event Reviews
We Don't Talk Anymore
When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them
Back to Me
Using Instruments
What Now
10 Reasons Every College-Aged Male Singer Should Audition for the Hyannis Sound
Cherry Wine
Breath as a Sound Effect
Death of a Bachelor
Seniors’ Last Show
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)
Greedy for Freedom
This Christmas
The Ten Can't Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2017
Small Groups
Bang Bang
Greek Life
Young Volcanoes
Dancing in the Rain
Super-Sized Groups
Lay Me Down
Singing in a Round
The Light That Never Fails
A Radical Arrangement
Mocking Women Isn’t Funny