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Much as I hate to reference the band 311, the lyric holds true.  We're now into ICCA season, and while the majority of groups are busy crafting and honing their three new songs to razor-like precision, I'm sure more than a few are reusing music from competitions prior.  Come on guys, recycling is for cans, not Ke$ha songs.

I hesitate because I have friends I respect in groups I love who have reused songs from sets past, so I'll just say at the outset this isn't directed at any one group or person, but rather at the a cappella community as a whole.

Now, I definitely get the appeal of reusing a song from a previous year.  You've already put a ton of work into it, so it takes comparatively much less time to get it competition-ready.  It may have been a crowd favorite.  It might have won a Best Arrangement award.  Could be all three judges wrote how much they loved it on your comments sheet.

But consider this: if you have a different soloist the second year, comparisons will always be drawn between the two, and if the new soloist doesn't deliver the same oomph, those comparisons won't be good.  It takes a special kind of singer to wail out stuff like Gaga or OneRepublic, and vocal lightning rarely strikes twice in two years.  And even though we program our ICCA sets for the judges, think about the fans of yours that will be at your quarterfinal.  They'll be there, eager to see what you've been working on for the year, and then they'll be treated to a great set... that sounds a lot like what they heard the year before.

You might say, so what?  Your fans will come to your other shows and see what else you've been working on.  You program your set to the judges because they're the ones determining your ICCA fate.  You use the songs that you perform best.  Fair and reasoned points, but it all boils down to this:

ICCA isn't a competition.  It's a means to advance our art form.

Isn't that really what it's all about?  Isn't that why we spend all summer thinking about and arranging a set that has a thematic arc, is heavy on emotional connection, and does something unexpected?  Isn't that why we attend workshops on competition sets at events like SoJam, LA/AF, and SpringSing?  If everything, literally everything you do is about bringing something new and fantastic to the stage, why go 98 yards down the field just to take a knee on the 2 by reusing a song?

The prestige of an ICCA win is a huge motivator, but try to see the forest, not the trees.  Do something daring.  Do something unexpected.

Come original.

Comments

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