There are many questions you must ask yourself (and your fellow founders) before you start an a cappella group. In this series, we will explore some of those questions.

What is the charter of this group? (Why am I starting an a cappella group?)

In the spring of 2008, I was finishing freshman year of college and had decided to start the first a cappella group at my school. After quickly deciding that I had no idea what I was doing, I decided to reach out to a couple of groups who had had a great deal of success after being around just a short while. At the top of that list was BYU Noteworthy who, after just a couple years of existence, had recently won the ICCA Championship.

The director of Noteworthy at the time forwarded my email to Dave Brown, then President of CASA, now one of the brilliant voices of the Mouth Off podcast. Dave’s formula for perfect auditions is to date one of the most brilliant pieces of a cappella knowledge I’ve ever heard.

Brian, get to the point already. Alright. Here it is.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of what Dave told me was centered around one question that I answered at the beginning of the conversation:

Why are you starting an a cappella group?

This question may seem like an inconsequential one, but it is more important that many questions you’ll ask and be asked. This question will determine the direction your group takes for the foreseeable future and starting with the wrong charter is something that many groups never recover from.

This is not to say that there is a wrong answer to this question. The answer to this question can only be wrong if it is not what you truly want.

Are you starting a group for the camaraderie and the friendships? A cappella people are a lot of fun to hang out with (especially if you like drunkenly singing showtunes.) If you are, be prepared to start rehearsals late and for learning music to at times be slow and unfocused. These are generalizations, but it is harder to keep discipline amongst friends and people who come to rehearsal to hang out with friends.

Are you starting a group because you want to express yourself as a musician? Better make sure that you find other people that are there for the music first. Rehearsals will be tense when you’re prepping for competitions or big shows, but you’ll sound good. Perhaps you’ll record a CD that gets nominated for a CARA and is purchased by more than just your family.

Undoubtedly there are pieces of each that sound good. Everyone wants to have a group of friends who they cannot only hang out with but also produce amazing music with. Most college groups start out attempting to walk this line – few succeeding in producing amazing music. The post-collegiate world is most likely a similar case, although the intention to hang out and sing tends to be the prevailing feeling that I’ve seen.

So again I ask, why are you starting an a cappella group? This question can very well change the path you take and the success you have. Once you know what you’re looking for in your new group, you’ll have to make sure you follow through, but knowing is half the battle. We’ll discuss that and other questions later in this series.