Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Cappella Groups - "Rock Stars" on the College Circuit

For me, the fascination started with two amazing performing groups: the classic Christmas mash up from "Straight, No Chaser" and the extremely talented a cappella groups at the high school where I work. And, with the amazing success of a movie - and book - called Pitch Perfect, as well as the run of the Fox show Glee, "a cappella" singing is coming into its own in a whole new way. And, as a recent AP story recently explained, "College A Cappella: [it's] Not your Grandfather's Barbershop Quartet."

These days the a cappella groups on college campuses are competing in increasingly popular competitions, and the top groups are achieving the status "of rock stars." With incredible singing talent, intricate mash-ups of popular songs from the likes of Beyonce, and complicated choreography, the kids singing a cappella are winning over ever larger audiences. And, this development in the arts is very exciting.

The Super Bowl of a cappella competitions was expected to draw about 3,000 people to New York to see eight groups this weekend, a far cry from the paltry crowd of 200 that watched the national finals more than a decade ago. "Now the larger world is seeing that it's awesome," said Amanda Newman, executive director of Varsity Vocals, the event's organizer. "Everyone's just over the moon. It wasn't a secret that we wanted to keep." This isn't your grandfather's barbershop quartet. Covering pop songs like Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and Hozier's "Take Me to Church," the groups earn the adulation of cheering fans through their complex harmonies and choreography. "People used to think of vocal music as boring choir stuff," said Isaac Hecker, a member of Amazin' Blue at the University of Michigan. "Once you figured out that you can do crazy beat-boxing, awesome bass lines (and) throw everything together, you just have really cool music." This weekend's contest is the 19th International Championship of Collegiate A cappella, or ICCA. In its early years, Newman said, only 35 groups competed in the rounds leading up to the finals. This year, about 320 groups in the U.S. and Britain vied for a spot.

While high school and college are, obviously, for academics and career training, and athletics are a huge multi-billion dollar business, it's the arts that really connect with us on a deep emotional level. For that reason, I love seeing the attention showered on these talented performers.

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