The weekend of November 11-13, 2011 is a special one that I’ll never forget. Why? Well, for starters, It was my very first time experiencing SoJam first-hand. But most importantly, it was the weekend that reignited my passion for a cappella and this community. Let me explain.
A cappella is what defined my collegiate experience. I was accepted into The Trojan Men my second semester at the University of Southern California and in a university setting where you often feel like just one insignificant person out of thousands, this group is where I found identity and affirmation. I had a group of guys who quickly were becoming some of my closest friends. We were dedicated to our music and took what we did seriously while still having a blast. It was awesome.
I went on to direct the group for two years while diving deeper into the world of contemporary a cappella. After attending festivals, touring around the country with The Trojan Men and meeting singers from all over, I really began to appreciate the larger a cappella community and felt excited to be a part of it. Then I graduated.
To keep all of this in my life, I joined CASA and eventually stepped into a Program Manager role, became a producer for the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival and even did some contract work for A Cappella Records. I wanted to give back to a community that I felt gave me so much. However, at some point, life started to take over.
I landed my dream job, working for a startup business, putting in over fifty hours a week. There was very little time to browse YouTube clips of collegiate groups covering “Fireflies” or “Fix You” (a task that would take HOURS, by the way) nor was there any time to try to start a group, let alone find one to audition for. I was losing my enthusiasm and my love for the art. My aca-related duties started to feel more like a chore than a joy. I knew I had lost something.
I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to go to SoJam. I just randomly happened to be available that weekend and knew it would be pretty fun. Plus, I figured it would be nice to finally meet some of my Internet friends. I’m glad I bought the plane ticket. Clearly, a lot went down. A search on twitter for #SoJam2011 will bring about an onslaught of tweets that, upon first glance, seem to describe somewhat of a catastrophic disaster where people either died or left with their faces melted off. It was that epic.
But aside from all of that, what resonated most with me was reliving what made me fall in love with a cappella in the first place: people coming together over music. I was honestly moved to see folks from completely diverse backgrounds and all walks of life singing together and sharing a deep passion for this art form that we all find so special. There was so much aca-love going around in the form of smiles and hugs (I’m looking at you, Ted Trembinski). People were forming random vocal drum circles around Duke’s campus with others they had never met; practicing their best Bellatrix lip buzzes. It was beautiful.
All of this brought back to mind why I volunteer for CASA and why I continue to support a cappella. It’s not because I love singing or because it’s cool to hear popular songs rearranged creatively. It’s because of weekends like SoJam where people can put aside any differences and for just a couple days, completely support each other and connect over a shared love. I needed a reminder and I got it.
I can’t count the number of times I overheard people saying (or tweeting) something along the lines of, “This is where I belong.” Everyone needs community. Ours is strong and vibrant and I’m 100% proud to be a part of it. So thank you, SoJam, for reigniting my fire, not only for a cappella, but for people. I can't not go every year now. You know I’ll be back.
About the author:
Cy Serrano's first encounter with a cappella was watching a Duwende concert in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2003. Unbeknownst to him at the time, it would be that singular event that served as the tipping point for his dive into aca-nerd-dom. A proud alumnus of the University of Southern California, Cy directed the campus’s only all-male a cappella group The Trojan Men. His current aca-roles include Creative Director for LA/AF, Graphic Artist for ACR and now Membership Program Manager for CASA. Outside of a cappella, Cy is a Sales Operations Analyst for BetterWorks, an online startup focusing on providing great perks in the officeplace.