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You guys may recall in the fall that I wrote a post about why I was looking forward to AcappellaFest. Well, Chicago’s got two amazing a cappella festivals this year and here’s what I’m looking forward to at the new addition to the SingStrong family, SingStrong Chicago.

1) Doing some good beyond music. Some of you may be familiar with the SingStrong story, but this is an event for charity. Here’s what SingStrong.org has to say about the event:

SingStrong is an international a cappella music festival with over 200 Singers and presenters! Beatbox, barbershop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, doo-wop, classical, throat singing, comedy and more! This year, 100% of SingStrong’s profits will be donated to charity. The overwhelming majority of the money raised will support the Alzheimer’s Association while a smaller portion will be donated to support the local choral program.

So all of the aca-knowledge you’ll absorb during the weekend and amazing concerts you’ll see will not only benefit you, but they’ll help others.

2) Aca Idol. Some of you may know that I’m coordinating this event this year, but that’s not why I’m so excited about it. This is one of the few competitions that has both collegiate and post-collegiate groups competing and has a cash prize. Plus, three judges have a great equalizer in determining the winner – a 4th vote coming from a call in vote by the audience after all of the groups have performed. I bet there’s a lot of ICCA performers who wished they had that.

Also, I’ve heard all of the groups that are performing, and I gotta say, they’re good. Real good.

3) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how awesome it’s going to be to see Nota, Swingle Singers, Julia Easterlin, Blue Jupiter, THUMMp, Traces, New Tradition Chorus and a bunch of amazing VPs rock the SingStrong stage. (I’ve most certainly forgot someone. Suspension will be there too.) I’ve only ever seen most of these groups on TV or YouTube and can’t wait to experience each act live. Even without the classes a weekend pass is so worth it.

But of course,

4) WHY WOULD YOU NOT GO TO THE CLASSES? Let’s just talk about who will be talking about arranging. John David Maybury, Tom Anderson and Ben Bram. In case you think you’re unfamiliar with their work, here’s a youtube video with some snippets of just a couple of Ben’s achievements:

I got a chance to chat with Tom Anderson at AcappellaFest and see him host an arranging panel and I must say, if you arrange for your group or are thinking about arranging for your group, this guy has quite a mind. And he’s now the president of CASA. Oh yeah, and John’s talking about the future of arranging and rehearsals with some pretty impressive technology.

Coincidentally, if your group is thinking about auditioning for the Sing Off, you’ll probably be able to pick up some helpful tips from one of the dozen or so people that either performed or worked on the show that will be at SingStrong.

There’s so many other things that I can’t even begin to explain them all. Just go check out the schedule: http://chicago.singstrong.org/index.php/seminars

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Yeah, it’s going to be an incredible event and you should probably be there. For more information on all aspects of the event, visit http://chicago.singstrong.org

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ICCA season is upon us again and this year it is full Pitch Perfect references and new groups rising to collegiate a cappella glory. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend enough ICCA events in my lifetime thus far, so when I had the chance to head down to Normal, IL for the event at ISU, I had to take advantage. Here’s a quick review of the performances.

Host Group: ISU Acafellaz. This classic all-male group (with a classic all-male group name) had some of their best moments during judging deliberation but gave us a good warmup for the night and a heads up that the mic’ing for the hall was going to be less than adequate for most of the groups. More on their performances later.

In Competition Order:

The University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) Xtension Chords. Same outfits they’ve been wearing every year that I can remember, these guys opted not to run out on stage this time around. The choreography, arrangements, and set order all felt really familiar from the last time I had seen the Xchords perform at ICCAs. The started off their set with Babel (Mumford & Sons) using a bass soloist. I’ve been recently thinking about some Mumford arrangements and the “jim ba da” syllable choice seemed to be a good one, if not the common one. It worked for them and the opener had great energy. The Xchords opted to key change at the end of the piece, rather than stop and take a new pitch from the pipe. This is a great way to literally connect your set together, but make sure your change is clean or it will do more harm than good. A tenor soloist stepped out for Swallowed in the Sea (Coldplay) and based on the range he showed in his background parts in the first song, I was more excited to hear what he would do. Unfortunately the key was just too low and the song took a long time to let him really get in his wheelhouse and flex some vocal muscle. Closing with Some Nights (Fun) could have been a bold choice this year, especially since they ended up having to perform first (again), but the lead carried them to close out a very solid all around performance.

The Northwestern University Undertones. I was looking forward to seeing this group perform after hearing good things about their set from the year prior. The came out strong with the first Pink song of the night in Raise Your Glass. The soloist had a fantastic sincere quality in her voice and backed by the rest of the 17 member group, they put out quite a sound. The shout out to the tv show Cheers to close it was clever. Next up was Follow Me Back Into the Sun (The Rescues) and there was a trio that surrounded a single female lead who would turn out to be one of my favorite soloists of the show. The arrangement had some great moments and flowed smoothly into the closer, another Rescues song, You’re Not Listening. As I noted during my live tweeting, they took a note out of the Voices In Your Head playbook from last year by bringing the songs back together to close out the set. There were some pitch issues here and there, but it was overall a good set.  Many (good) sets don’t have 3 songs that truly fit together, but in this case the final two were so melded that I couldn’t help but feel like the first song didn’t fit in which may have hurt them overall with the judges.

Illinois State University Secondary Dominance. Clear hometown favorites from the second they stepped onto the stage. Leading off with a Jessie J song in Domino, was one of the many head nods to Pitch Perfect by the all-female groups in this competition. Warwick Avenue (Duffy) was the second song of the set and one of the things that was really clear about this set was that these girls knew how to end a song. The final chords of both of the first two songs were aca-awesome (couldn’t resist). Closing with Hate (I Really Don’t Like You) (Plain White T’s) left this set with lots of power belting and high hopes of what would come from the rest of the all-female groups in the evening. Side note: There were 4 all-female groups and only 1 all-male. Feel free to fact check me on this, but I’m pretty sure that’s a first in an ICCA competition. What hurt Secondary Dominance the most in the end was the typical all-female troubles – lots of highs and not enough lows – something which the next group would handle spectacularly.

The University of Illinois (Champaign Urbana) Rip Chords. The second of 4 U of I groups to hit the stage, these girls made their low altos and strong VP known from the get go with Valerie (Amy Winehouse). I rarely notice costuming unless it’s a groups standard (Xchords) or terrible, but the ladies of Rip Chords looked extremely classy in their matching tops, dark jeans, and blazers. We All Need Saving (Jon McLaughlin) was the slow/tone poem piece of this set. One thing I noticed in the first two arrangements was the gaps when the soloist wasn’t singing. I don’t think everything needs to have a filler, but We All Need Saving felt very square and at times empty. These concerns were all but forgotten when the Rip Chords entered their closer, No Light, No Light (Florence + The Machine). An outstanding soloist rose back by a very full arrangement and some outstanding percussion made this one of my favorite all-female performances of all time.

Intermission – I’ll take a moment to comment on how strange it was to see an All-Illinois quarterfinal. With separation of the Midwest Region into Great Lakes and Midwest, logical grouping of universities was sure to follow. It will probably make for several rough quarterfinals this year with the U of C groups all going head to head, and likewise for Illinois, Michigan, Missouri State, WashU, Northwestern, and other traditional midwestern powerhouses I’m forgetting about at the moment.

Illinois Wesleyan Silence Interrupted. The first of two groups form Wesleyan rounds out the Illinois school represented in this competition. I heard this was this group’s first year, and they should be commended for getting accepted to and putting together solid ICCA set after just one year. While this set wasn’t quite of the same caliber of the rest of the groups (partially hampered by only having 10 people vs. the normal 15), there are definitely big things to come from this energy filled bunch. One comment on the set was that they performed A Team by Ed Sheeran which I’ve been expecting to hear all year, but had not heard before this show. I’m a big fan of this song, so if anybody else has done a cover, send me a link.

University of Illinois (Champaign Urbana) Girls Next Door. Try and find this group on twitter some time – NSFW. Just sayin. First Adele tracks of the night, and with all of the all-female groups, I must admit, I was expecting many more. These girls lead off with a mashup of Duffy/Adele with lots of energy. I don’t have a whole lot of notes on this set except for their second song. Hide and Seek (Imogen Heap) came out in 2005 and was consequently performed by every a cappella group in America (and other nations as well) for about the next 5 years. Then Jason Derulo sampled it for a song and people started singing mmm whatcha say, again. The Girls Next Door sang a very clean and beautiful version of this song, but there was nothing original about it and it’s place in a 2013 ICCA set is borderline unforgivable. They closed with I’ve Got Soul But I’m Not a Soldier (The Killers) wrapping up a well sung, but very long feeling set.

Illinois Wesleyan Touch of Class. The final all-female group of the evening. Leading off with a very strong version of Mama Who Bore Me, I could help but think the VP was unnecessary. I recalled a moment in the pitch perfect book where someone was talking about whether or not to have VP on a Beelzebubs track and they decided that they would quietly mix the VP in the background, which was “no decision at all.” This song left me wanting to hear it again without the drums, which speaks to the quality of the singing, rather than against the quality of the VP. The next song was Bottom of the River (Delta Rae) and it was mashed up with Skyfall (Adele) – a mashup which thematically made a lot of sense. The soloist on Skyfall was really outstanding as well and made this one of my favorite songs of the night. Touch of Class closed their set with Perfect (Pink) and swapped soloists about every 8 bars. This is great for showing off your groups talent and making people feel involved, but I feel like it often hurts continuity (unless you do it like the SoCal Vocals). All around I was very impressed by the all-female groups of the evening, despite my initial uneasiness that one of them would come out as the first version of the Bellas. (Enough with the Pitch Perfect references already…)

University of Illinois (Champaign Urbana) No Comment. I heard good things about this group’s sound check and had been looking forward to their set all night. I was not disappointed and consequently took very few notes on the set because of it. They lead off with Dance with Somebody (Whitney Houston) and all I wrote down on the page was “Damn.” Great soloists and great arranging made this set all around amazing. Those of you watching my live tweeting probably saw my commentary on the set, but the second song Breathe Again would’ve made Sara B proud. The final song included an unnecessary dub step drop, but it didn’t take away from song.

As the judges deliberated, the Acafellaz came out and sang a short set before bringing some random audience members on stage to play a funny a cappella version of Don’t Forget the Words (with the songs they had just sang). The soloists for the Acafellaz were very strong across the board, especially their bari-tenors. The judging deliberation was pleasantly short, thanks in part to the length of the evening I’m sure. Here are the results (as written on VarsityVocals.com:

1st: No Comment, Univeristy Of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (423 points)
2nd: Xtension Chords, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (369 points)
3rd: Undertones, Northwestern University (311 points)

Outstanding Soloist: Kelsey Stanker of No Comment for “Breathe Again”
Outstanding Arrangement: Xtension Chords of Alex Blomarz for “Swallowed in the Sea”
Outstanding Choreography: No Comment for the entire set

No Comment was the clear winners, but that second place slot could have gone to any number of groups in my opinion. The judges opted not to give out best VP but it could have easily gone to either Rip Chords or No Comment. In general, poor mic technique hurt what were probably perfectly capable beatboxers and I encourage all groups to make sure you get in some good practice with mics. I’m sure I missed some things that I’ll think about later and I have some additional thoughts on the ICCAs and competing that I will try and get down in the coming week. For those of you that have tweeted/messaged me in some way about the live tweeting, I’m glad I was able to connect you to the event, even minimally. I will be at the U of C quarterfinal, but this time as a judge, so I won’t be able to tweet up a storm like last time. Hopefully somebody else is willing to take my place – I’ll even offer up my handle. This post as a lot of words. Maybe some videos in the next post…

Listen to the Music is the section of AcaMidwest in which I’ll let you know what I’m listening to each week, both videos on YouTube and songs in my iTunes. I’ll also include reviews of different albums as they come out.

Playing on my iTunes this week: So it has been an admittedly long time since I have done one of these posts. I believe almost a year. This means that there has been a tremendous amount of a cappella added to my iTunes and even more released worldwide. For honesty’s sake, this week I’m still listening to Voices Only Forte II which I picked up last week. I’m working on a post in tandem to this one about the state of a cappella compilations, but I’m a big fan of this one and I think you should probably do yourself a favor and check it out: http://bit.ly/WKnK7W

What I’m Watching on Youtube: Collegiate a cappella groups have long used Youtube as a way to share their music with the world when they’re not doing arch sings and song grams for Valentine’s Day. Only recently have they started producing music videos, and many of them seem to have a sci-fi type theme. This week’s video comes from The Amateurs of Washington University in St. Louis. Their take on Bruno Mars’ The Other Side takes some quality singing and mashes it up with the ability to shoot phasers from your palm. What’s not to love?

 

Decided to make a vlog to follow up on a previous post about arranging mashups. That post was my most viewed post of 2012 and highest number of both inbound and internal searches were about 1) arranging and 2) arranging mashups.

Yes, the second half of this review is admittedly very delayed. I apologize. It will also be relatively short, but I’m going to thoroughly cover all three groups performances. There are some of you who weren’t there (or who were) who are probably saying, 3 groups? Yes, The WashU Stereotypes, winners of the college competition the previous night, did a one song encore in between Sonos and Edge Effect.

First, the basic details. The concert was held in a completely different place on University of Chicago’s campus from the rest of Saturday’s festivities, taking place in Mandel Hall instead of the Logan Center. Mike Chin of The A Cappella Blog was the MC for the evening and spoke eloquently about all of the people he had met and the things he had learned during the day. He also made a great joke about the now infamous “list” that only a half-dozen people in the audience seemed to understand. On a different note, he just cowrote a book about a cappella and I got my copy from donating to the kickstarter in the mail the other day. A review will come after I finish reading it. (At this rate it’ll be after Christmas, I’m only on page 4.)

SONOS

I will be the first to admit that having only seen a couple of videos on YouTube of Sonos and seeing them on the Sing Off, I was far from in love with them. I was definitely curious to hear them live, but had no high hopes for enjoying the performance. Their first song completely changed my mind. The first three songs made me fall in love with Sonos, and what they do, especially their execution. Sonos debuted five new songs off of their upcoming studio album, a treat for the unfamiliar and for the Sonos faithful alike.

Sonos also mixed it up with a couple of tracks sans-effects, proving they have some vocal chops and don’t need to hide behind the pedals (or their fancy new looping software). However, the best moments of their set came when they were doing what they do best – octavizing, looping, and generally making things sound like they’re not made by the human voice. I just hope the bass translates on their new album.

THE WASHU STEREOTYPES

These guys apparently put on quite the show the previous night, taking home the top prize and earning the chance to have Sonos open for them. Or open for Edge Effect. The guys probably prefer to say they did both and make it sound like it happened on different nights.

One song – Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5. Very solid performance with some mediocre mixing. Having never done it, I imagine it’s hard to mix that many individual mics live, but all I wanted was to hear the lead more. I had the same problem with Sonos’ talking inbetween songs and most of Edge Effect’s set. I’m a Stereotypes fan, so you’ll here more about them from me the next time I have a chance to see them live. (ICCAs this year maybe?)

THE EDGE EFFECT

I was not familiar with this group prior to seeing them in the lineup for the Professional Showcase. It’s probably because I pretty much despise America’s Got Talent. Not because of the talent, but because of the judges. I’d say more on this later, but no, I’m never going to blog about my general distaste for Howie, Howard, and Sharon. Nick Cannon, one saving grace of the celebs on the program. Those are my feelings – take em or leave em.

Edge Effect did an opener and then immediately went into a lengthy live sound check. That’s embarrassing for everyone involved. Of course I was also blinded by the spots behind all of the groups as they swept down into the audience and directly into our eyes about ever 2 minutes during the entire Edge Effect show.

If you’re not familiar with The Edge Effect, think Straight No Chaser (their non-Christmas songs) meets Nota (SingOff Season 1 winners). They have an incredible bass, 4 outstanding tenors and Troy Dolendo. Picture painted? I think so. Their set was filled with top 40 hits of different years, but there was one clear highlight. Cluster (look them up) did an amazing 5-person arrangement of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. The Edge Effect took it and added a 6th part, resulting in this:

Song of the night in my opinion. Overall the night was filled with great music, strong audience participation and growth of an already tight-knit community. I look forward to seeing this event grow in the coming years.

After a week to reflect on the incredible event that was AcappellaFest, here I finally write a promised review. There will be a great deal of information to follow – things learned, things affirmed, and things that a great deal more discussion is still required about.

First, I was not able to attend the Friday night collegiate competition. This was very disappointing for me, especially after hearing several of the groups that competed perform during the day on Saturday. Also disappointing is that I can’t report on it for my readers. This I know – The WashU Stereotypes were the winners and it was a narrow victory over tough and talent competition.

Now, for the main day itself:

8:30 AM – Registration

– Nothing overly interesting to report here, except I’m sure it’s the first time that AcappellaFest has scanned tickets with an iPad.

9:00 AM – (Live) Sound Check with Amanda Aldag and Charlie Friday

– First workshop of the day. There were four overlapping workshops every hour and a half and I wish I could’ve attended all of them. Knowing relatively little about live sound, I opted to check out this workshop with the Clear Harmonies team. This is a topic that I’ll be writing a separate post about later, so I’ll keep it brief. If you are on the east coast and you perform live, you should hire these two. They very clearly know what they’re talking about from both a sound engineering standpoint and a musical one as well. Everyone wants their performance to sound it’s very best and Clear Harmonies can do it for you.

At 10:00 AM my schedule said there was supposed to be an “acabomb,” one of several mini-performances scheduled through out the day. If somebody actually performed in that slot and I missed it, I’m saddened. If somebody missed their opportunity to perform, I’m also saddened.

10:30 AM – Arranging Panel with Sonos, Edge Effect, and Tom Anderson

– Some of you who read my blog know that I occasionally post arranging tips, so it should be no surprise that I will also be writing a full post about this topic. I spent quite a while at the end of this talking with Troy and Solomon of Edge Effect and Tom Anderson of Random Notes LLC. Here’s the two moments that have stuck with me. 1) You need to listen to a great deal of non-a cappella to truly become a good arranger. Vary the genres (mix in a lot of jazz and classical) and break down your favorite moments. 2) I walked to the acabomb with Tom and Solomon and as we got to the stairs we could hear the Bare Naked Statues performing Who You Are by Jessie J. It was good. Real good and the arrangement was pretty incredible. Tom was raving about a lick going into the first Chorus and then he stopped and goes, “Wait, which group is this?” He jogged up the stairs a moment and came back and told us that that was his arrangement he had done for the group just months earlier. Unless you are a world class arranger like Tom Anderson, you should be listening to other groups. Even the pros pick up things from each other (and sometimes themselves.)

(This was the best version I could find. Sorry.)

Lunch Break – The Qdoba on University of Chicago’s campus makes the worst burrito of any Qdoba/Chipotle type establishment in existence. Don’t go there.

1:00 PM – Open Masterclass with Sonos

– The UofC Ransom Notes had a pair of songs broken down by the incredible artists in Sonos. First they did this:

Yeah, that happened. Sonos gave great advice surrounding dynamics and really pulling out the key moments in the arrangement. Ransom Notes also did a version of The Other Side, but they did it with out soloists. This is a great way to really listen to everything that’s happening in the background and really focus on tuning and blending. My one note on this is that the Ransom Notes “let” their point man talk to Sonos the entire time and then he “translated” Sonos (unnecessarily) back to the group. Music directors, I know that sometimes it seems like your members don’t know the difference between piano and forte, but you can give them the benefit of the doubt in workshops. Besides, if they mess up, professionals get to correct them (and tell them some of the same things you’ve told them a million times before.)

2:00 PM – Vocal Chaos acabomb

– I’ve seen Vocal Chaos several times over the years including when they hosted AF last year. The newest version is probably the one I’ve liked the best and now is 6 folks including a female. I think this is the first time I’ve seen any of them with a woman. Ooooo. Just kidding, but I don’t recall a coed version of this group before. Looking forward to hearing more of them in the coming months.

2:30 PM – Aca-Jedi Mind Tricks

– Matt Caruso, the man behind A Cappella Psych, aca-blew mind mind and about 50 other peoples in a very small room. AF organizers, much larger space next year for this talk lest somebody’s brain should actually explode. That and probably fire code. I will also be writing a full post on this talk and now that I’ve used a couple of the warm-ups Matt taught, I’ll be able to better vouch for their awesomeness. (I’m fully aware that I’m quickly running out of adjectives to mean awesome/incredible/amazing. Bear or bare with me. Whichever suits you.)

3:30 PM – Rhythm and Jews acabomb – Yes, UofC’s all-Jewish group. One of my favorite Jewish/A Cappella pun combinations.

4:00 PM – Songwriting: Don’t Refuse the Muse with Jon McLemore

– I’ll be writing a post about this workshop separately. Yes, there’s that much to say about. There was only about a dozen attendees for this one, and I find that to be a shame, but all the more reason for me to post all of the things we talked about.

And with that the workshop portion of the day was over and I went out for dinner before the Professional Showcase in the evening. For sake of readability, I have decided to stop here and will post a second half to this review on another day. Til then, thanks for reading.

-Brian

Businesses in this post that you should familiarize yourself with:

Clear Harmonies – http://www.clearharmonies.com/

Random Notes LLC – http://random-notes.com/

A Cappella Psych – http://www.acappellapsych.com/

I spent the day yesterday at AcappellaFest at University of Chicago. A full day of masterclasses and acabombs (mini-performances) topped off with a Professional Showcase with Sonos and The Edge Effect. Jealous yet?

Across the next couple weeks I’ll be posting a review and multiple posts around tips and topics discussed at the event. I had chances to speak to Charlie Friday and Amanda Aldag about mic technique and purchasing sound equipment, Tom Anderson about arranging, and Matt Caruso about the psychological side of music. Those are just some of the bigger names I picked up tips and tricks from. The other people – amazing people that you just haven’t heard of yet – asked wonderful questions and created remarkable conversations ranging from why we should document everything in contemporary a cappella to why (or why not) to bench your altos for half a song if you don’t have something good for them to seen. Yes, that second one was a very specific conversation.

Here’s the main point:

If you find yourself with an opportunity to go to a major a cappella festival, take it. SingStrong, SoJam, LAAF – to name a few of many amazing festivals being put together by CASA and others this year – provide amazing opportunities to sing, learn, and network.

I’ll put together a longer post on the numerous benefits of these festivals in a later post, but it was on my mind and I thought I’d say hello to my 5 readers (counting my family). More soon, everyone.

Best,

Brian

Overboard is perhaps best known for their Free Track Tuesdays where, every week for a year, the group released a free download of a newly arranged and recorded track. Several of those tracks remain staples in my a cappella collection. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to see the group perform live when they were on their midwest tour this past week. I must admit that, as a fan of their recorded work including tracks like Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter, I was some what doubtful about the live performance that this group would put on. I was pleasantly surprised.

First, Uncommon Ground (on Clark in Wrigleyville) has a great personal feel to their performance room and great food and drinks. I would definitely recommend it for either a nice dinner or a show.

Now for Overboard

For those of you unfamiliar with the current version of Overboard, the members that performed on this stop of the tour were founder Nicholas Girard, Hyannis Sound alum Alfredo “Fredo” Austin III, hilarious Bari-tenor Caleb Whelden, local deep bass Donovan Davis, and the newest member of the group, Alex Margarite. Each of these guys was amazingly talented and I’m now convinced that being a member of Overboard requires you to have a massive range. I’m not 100% sure on these pitches, but I’m pretty sure I heard Nick sing a low E and a high B in full voice – not too mention his awesome VP solo.

The set list contained everything from a mashup of a majority of the top 40 hits of the past 5 years, to lesser known (but better) tracks like Skullcrusher Mountain by Jonathan Coulton (if you don’t know him, check him out), to a song sung entirely in Icelandic. The balance of the set was great for non-a cappella fans, and the different takes on well known songs kept it more than interesting for those of us who have heard a million versions of You Give Love a Bad Name. (By the way, if you want your group to massively expand your repertoire, learn a song a week for a year.) Most of the set was sung with mics, although my favorite pieces were done au natural. This photo is of the group performing “Freebird” as their encore.

Overboard performing “Freebird” live in Chicago.

The soloists of Overboard are truly impressive and that is what really made the evening. At times the bass and vp (by virtue of the mixing) overpowered some of the intricate backgrounds, but their soloists really took control of the room. Alex has some amazing talent and is a great pick up by Overboard. His duet with Nick (who sang bass and played his body as a drum set) on Watching You Watch Him by Eric Hutchinson was one of the best moments of the evening. See a youtube video of it here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Fredo’s series of incredible solos, including rapping some Ludacris on How Low early in the show.

It was a great night of fantastic music and if Overboard ever comes to your town, don’t miss an opportunity to see these guys perform. Also, check out their tracks on iTunes. Their all-Beatles album “Help!” is one that should be apart of every Beatle and a cappella fans collection alike.

So we’re smack dab in the middle of audition season right now. I was looking at some of the stats on the blog the other day and noticed a couple of searches surrounding how to recruit for a cappella groups. Hence a post on recruiting talent.

Here’s my top tips for recruiting to auditions:

1) Scout the Local Talent:

Karaoke Event put on by the freshman orientation counsel? You better be there to see what could be walking into your auditions. What’s more, if you hear something you want in your group, extend a personal invitation. No karaoke event? Host one. I hope I just changed a group’s recruiting forever. (If you do this, let me know how it goes.)

2) Advertise Everywhere:

Plaster your campus with posters and flyers, but make sure they have two things – A memorable graphic or phrase and the audition information. Sounds simple, but I once had an assistant director bring me a wonderfully eye-catching poster that did not have the audition date and time on it. Also, make sure you’re postering during daytime hours. Give people a chance to see you posting and ask you questions. My college group made a mistake of posting after rehearsals on Sunday nights. 9pm on Sunday is not exactly a high traffic time at most Universities.

Don’t underestimate Facebook events, but don’t count on them either. Make sure you get the word out on social media sites and invite you friends. Even that friend who you know can’t sing. They may have friends who can and could pass along the information about your auditions.

3) Personal Invitations and Follow-Up:

The power of a personal invitation cannot be truly measured. As I mentioned in #1, if you hear somebody you like, ask them to come to auditions. Same goes for friends of yours or that person you sing with in University Choir. And once you’ve asked them, follow-up with them before auditions. The saying  “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is especially true about auditioning for a cappella. I’ve known many people who have said they wanted to be a part of a singing group but in the final weeks decided they might be too busy, not good enough, or they just forget about auditions because they didn’t write it down. A simple email, text message, wall post, or even *gasp* conversation in person can be what it takes to guarantee that next great soloist shows up at your auditions. I really can’t over state this point: Extended personal invitations and follow-up before auditions.

I hope these tips help your group find the talent you’re looking for. I’m definitely using the ones that apply to my post-collegiate efforts right now. If you have more tips, post them in the comments. I and my readers always appreciate additional insight.

 

So since I last posted information about auditions, some things have changed. First, the date and time. The new audition date and time is:

Saturday, September 15th at 2pm

Additionally, the location has been moved. Some of you who have inquired were told that we would be hosting auditions at one of our member’s homes in Andersonville. Now auditions will be held at Vocomotion Studios in Skokie. What’s more, this will be where a majority of our rehearsals will be held.

I will follow up by email with those of you who have already contacted me about auditioning. If you’re interested in being part of the group, please email us at suspensionacappella@gmail.com.

Finally, we settled into a musical direction last night. Our goal is to sing more indie style/lesser covered music as well as different takes on more popular songs. An imperfect simile is to think Sonos with 10 people or so. We’ve got a bit of talent in our founding members including a cappella producer Freddie Feldman on vocal percussion.