HomeAn Interview With Brody McDonald About His (Upcoming) Book

One of my biggest goals when writing blogs for CASA is to help people get ideas and excitement for contemporary a cappella out to the masses. If there is just one article or blog that I write where knowledge or even excitement has been gained by the reader then I would consider this a success. My goal is to take my love for a cappella and pay it forward. We don’t get to the point where we are in our careers without profound influence and guidance. One of the people that has certainly helped to shape the lives of many, including my own, is Brody McDonald. The first time I truly started to realize what high school groups were capable of achieving was at Brody McDonald’s Kettering A cappella Festival. His group Eleventh Hour blew my mind. Then they went on to be on the NBC show “The Sing-Off.” No big deal right? Well, let’s just say that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to a cappella. The reason for this blog is to let you know about Brody’s upcoming a cappella venture. He has a book that he’s writing and it’s coming out soon. Brody is taking what he knows about a cappella and paying it forward as well. If I can give everyone one helpful piece of advice it would be this…go and run to buy it when it comes out! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Enjoy my interview with Brody about his upcoming book. 

1.  What made you want to write a book?
I originally got the idea from Dave Brown when he was in charge of CASAcademy. He wanted me to write a small pamphlet to help music educators who were new to the style. Unfortunately, it was right around the time Dave transitioned out of that job, so it fell through the cracks for a while. After presenting at OMEA several times, then ACDA Central Division, then appearing on “The Sing-Off”, I was getting tons of emails asking for help. I realized that more and more groups were forming and more directors were looking for guidance. So many people helped me when I was trying to learn the ropes that I wanted to pay it forward.
2.  Can you explain what the book is about?
The book is essentially a guidebook to a cappella. Actually, I think of it more as a handbook. With an art form as complex and rapidly evolving as a cappella music, it would be nearly impossible to write a book that covers every detail. If such existed, it would likely be intimidating to newcomers. I realized that part of learning a new style is to dig in, get your hands dirty, and explore. Unfortunately, many who are new to a cappella are so intimidated that they don't know where to start. This book covers all the angles enough to get people up to speed. It tells them what they need to know to get from zero past “square one” into discovering their own identity.
Having said all that, there is a lot in the book that is applicable to those who are already versed in a cappella. I have "test piloted" the material with directors who are brand new, in the early stages, and even seasoned directors to great response. The content would also apply to collegiate groups with internal leadership. The material from the guest contributors is worth the price of admission for ANY aca-person, but more on that later.
3.  When is it projected to be released?
Summer 2012

4.  What is the price?  
I don't know yet, although most other similar books on the market range from $12-25. It will be reasonable, for sure. I buy a lot of books because I look at it like this: if I learn just ONE THING from a book that cost me about what I spend for dinner at the Olive Garden, that's a win. When I'm done eating, all I am is full for 2 hours. When I learn even one thing from a book I buy, I have that knowledge at my disposal forever.
5.  Where will it be available? 
The book is being published by Alfred (www.alfred.com), who has been the #1 educational music publisher since 1922. That means it will be in music stores, at conventions, and also on the internet. I don't know if it will be available digitally (we are finalizing layout right now), but we are discussing some web-hosted audio examples to supplement the reading material. This would be especially useful for the section on vocal percussion, for example.
6.  Anything else that you want people to know about the book?
I want them to know... hmm... a few things...
1) This book is the culmination of a decade's worth of trial and error. While there aren't many published resources now, there were fewer 10 years ago. My hope is to save you some steps in getting closer to being the group you want to be.
2) I really appreciate everyone in the aca-community who helped me in my journey over the last 10 years with Eleventh Hour. Hopefully this book will "pay it forward" so more and more great a cappella comes into being.
3) The professional aca-people who contributed to this book are AWESOME! More on them later... I know, such a tease...
4) Please buy this book. Your purchase of this book tells one of the largest music publishers on the planet that they are doing the right thing by promoting a cappella. More sales of aca-anything means more aca-products on the market. Let's be fair - there are a LOT of teachers who will only get involved when they have helpful materials readily available where they shop. If you want to grow a cappella, support Alfred in bringing it to the schools. FEED YOUR PASSION!
7.  Did anyone help you with the book?
I had a lot of help with this book. It would be impossible to list everyone, but I'll try. When we were getting started, Brad Rees of Tiffin University and Deke Sharon were huge resources for me. In terms of actually contributing to the book... I wrote most of it, but there are chunks contributed by names you know. Deke Sharon wrote the foreword. Trist Curless of m-pact helped with the chapter on bass singing, Freddie Feldman of VOCOMOTION has a great chapter on the recording process, Christopher Harrison of SONOS has a chapter on pedals, John Gentry of JAG Studios has a chapter on live sound reinforcement, Nate Altimari of Firedrill! has some material on solo singing, Jake Moulton and Ben McClain have been working with me on vocal percussion, and more. Our assistant director at KFHS, Alex Phan helped a lot by contributing some classroom exercises and also by reading all my ramblings to keep me sane. Another huge help came from my former student Jeffrey Delman, who is in grad school at LSU now. He's really plugged into the "ivory tower" side of choral music and helps me remember just how foreign this style can be to many choir directors. He also pushed me to get this thing off the ground, and for that I'm grateful. I owe a lot to Michael Spresser, pop editor at Alfred, for taking a chance on this project. I thank ALL these people and so many others. This book is really a synthesis of knowledge that came from a large community of helpful people over 10 years.
Thank you all for reading, and thanks in advance for your future support.

About the writer:
Ben Spalding is the head Choral Director at Centerville High School in Dayton, Ohio. At Centerville, Ben directs all of the choirs and the a cappella group Forte. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. Ben’s a cappella roots go back to college, when he was a member of the University of Kentucky AcoUstiKats and a semi-professional group called 5 by Tuesday.  His love for music goes as far back as elementary school and music has and always will be a major driving force in his life.