I am not a football person. If you have ever met me, you'd know that I neither have the body type, nor the coordination to qualify as an "athlete." I watch football on Thanksgiving because my uncle refuses to let me change the channel and watch the Spongebob marathon.
Football is not really a mystery to me. I've had enough gym classes in high school to get the gist. But fantasy football...wow. I don't get it. I don't understand how teams are drafted, winners are determined, bets are made. The opportunity to be a coach of an imaginary football team is appealing to many, but stressful enough to compel me to find a nice quiet corner and rock back and forth, sobbing in agony.
So I looked it up. Call it intellectual curiosity. Call it a desire to fit in. Call it peer pressure. Call it a yearning to fulfill crushed dreams of dating a cheerleader. It turns out that playing fantasy football is not something you can just jump into. It takes a certain amount of skill, a tremendous amount of luck, and a butt-load (technical term) of advanced preparation to ensure victory. It's also a very social event. There are public groups you can participate in, or more commonly, there are private groups that require an invitation.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
That's right! A cappella groups are like fantasy football leagues! (You are so smart!)
The key to winning a fantasy football league, as I understand it, is preparation; more specifically advanced preparation, and the ability to maximize the assets you have. This translates well to your group rehearsal.
1) Advanced Preparation
This is actually so important to choral conductors that it requires two semesters of study just to master the skill. We in the choral conducting field call it "score study." The diligent marking of your score helps prepare you for the upcoming rehearsal.
What do choral conductors mark in advance?
-Dynamics and dynamic changes
-Cut offs and breaths
-Diction- when to hold vowels, when to attack and release consonants, etc.
-Difficult note passages you assume the choir will need help learning
-Extraneous musical markings made by the composer
-The intervallic relationship between parts for tuning purposes
-The translation and meaning of text (if in a foreign language)
-Phrase beginnings and endings
How many times does a question come up in your rehearsal about one of the above items? And how frustrated does your musical director get when too many questions are asked?
If the music was marked properly, your group could save precious time asking questions that didn't necessarily need to be asked. Your director would have a battle plan in mind going into rehearsal, so that each song was given its maximum amount of focus. The dynamic of the rehearsal would change, because everyone would come in more prepared, and leave more confident.
2) Maximize Your Time
Do me a favor. For your very next rehearsal, bring a stopwatch. You all have one because they come standard on every cell phone. Start the stopwatch every time your group isn't singing, talking about the song you are currently working on, or breaking into sectionals. Stop the stopwatch when these things happen.
Now, how much time have you clocked on the stopwatch? That's how much time is being wasted in your rehearsal not rehearsing. Many groups complain they need an extra hour or two to get their practicing done, and then I show them the stopwatch...and it turns out, almost an hour was wasted on not rehearsing.
I'm not suggesting that the stopwatch should be at zero. If a group had no social time, it wouldn't be an effective a cappella group. It would be a robotic factory of lifeless musicians. I'm directing my suggestion to the groups (you know who you are) that waste too much time not rehearsing, and then complaining that they don't have enough time.
3) Choose Your Members Carefully.
This is the biggest mistake made by fantasy football coaches: picking a bad roster. Selecting a member of your a cappella group that comes with risk (they are not committed enough, they need help staying on pitch) is inviting failure to rear its ugly head.
A cappella groups don't always come with a contractual obligation (though some do). Group members can quit at any time. You have a responsibility to motivate your members to regularly, and punctually, attend rehearsals to maximize your group's success. If music is constantly being made, the level of musicianship will rise, the level and number of performances will rise, and the motivation to attend will follow.
What is infinitely more difficult, but much more rewarding, is cutting off the problem. If your group knows full well that one member is causing more strife than success, it is the group's responsibility to invite that person to leave.
This will cause drama. LOTS of drama. Many will be angry. A few may resign in protest. Speaking as a music director who has done this before and taken all the heat, I'm here to tell you: It's one hundred percent worth it. At the end of the terrifying storm, there is glorious, musical rainbow that consists of truly committed members.
Besides...in this day and age, recording an a cappella record takes a minimum of ONE person. If your group only has three members, you already have triple the amount of people it takes to make a stunning a cappella album. And if the album is good, success and recruitment will follow.
Enjoy your fantasy football. Enjoy your time in rehearsal. If anyone ever figures out how to create a fantasy a cappella league, let me know.
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