A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing


Proverb: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

With each passing year new leaders arise in the world of a cappella, whether it’s a dynamo freshman getting into an a cappella group for the first time, a veteran moving into the director’s chair, or a brand new group that shakes the a cappella world, by all indications, out of nowhere.

The new leaders tend to be charismatic. They come out firing with a new sound, new ideas, a new presentation. They devour information and turn it around toward their own ends.

This is all good. The trouble with a new leaders, though, isn’t what they know; it’s what they don’t know.

Gaining a bit of experience, a bit of insight, and a bit of success can go a long toward boosting someone’s confidence and making him feel like a star or an expert. But those who don’t take their time and learn their craft and their history more fully are bound to miss nuance, do something taboo, or repeat mistakes of years gone by.

By its very nature, a cappella is a performance art, and I’ve long held that there’s no substitute for experience, be it in the rehearsal room, in the studio, on stage, or in front of a camera. But those who push too hard to quickly have every chance at exposing their own shortcomings in very public ways. So find mentors. Read up. Get on YouTube. Develop your experience, but do so in measured ways, and never stoop learning. True leaders in the field aren’t born; they evolve over an extended period of time.