HomeStarting A Group (In A Non-Major City)

nicolemariemil's picture

You’ve got it all planned out.  You’re graduating in May, and you’ve already decided where you want to live: wherever there’s a CAL or post-collegiate a cappella group you can join!  As soon as you get that account coordinator position at that NYC ad agency, you can reach out to the Red States about auditioning.  Or, maybe Treble!  You’ve never sung all-female before.  What a fun adventure this will be!

Then... it happens.  You don’t get a second interview for that account coordinator position -- and you don’t even get a first interview for the next five NYC jobs you apply for.  Eventually, you land in... Bethlehem, PA?  Rochester, NY?  You panic.  How are you going to continue singing in a city where there are no established vocal groups?

The answer is simple: you start one yourself.  It’s easier than you think.  Here are some tips for starting your very own a cappella group in a non-major city:

Don’t underestimate your talent pool.

The talent pool in your city may be smaller than that of D.C. or Los Angeles.  That’s to be expected; but it doesn’t mean that the singers in your city are less talented.  You may just have to work a little harder to find the really good ones.  Matthew Zager, founder of a semi-professional a cappella group in Rochester, NY, tells us that he has found some of his group’s most talented members online.  Twitter, Facebook, and even simple Craigslist ads have helped connect Zager to “aca-people” who’ve turned out to be great assets to his group.

Look to local colleges.

Most cities are close to at least one or two small colleges, including state and community schools.  Many of these colleges have at least some kind of music program, so reaching out can’t hurt.  Zager and I are lucky -- our city boasts least four colleges, all of which have a cappella groups and one of which is home to a former Sing-Off competitor -- but chances are, you can find at least one near you.  Ask if you can post some flyers around campus.  See if there’s a mailing list you can reach out to.  You never know who you may find!

Take advantage of CASA resources.

This one’s a no-brainer.  Maybe you’re a pro at managing your new group, but none of your members have any arranging experience.  CASA can connect you to others who will be able to help.  Reach out via Facebook, Twitter, or CASA.org.  What’s more, CASA’s ambassador program can connect you to locals who may be interested in joining your group.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help -- that’s what we’re here for.

Just do it.

Founding your own group won’t be easy.  You’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone and talk to people you don’t know.  Solidarity will ebb and flow until you find a core group of members that you can rely on.  In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, just keep swimming!  It will get easier.  There are some key advantages to starting a group in a smaller city that will help you be successful.  For one, it’s likely that some of your members will have connections to media, performance venues, or photographers.  You may find it easier to get gigs and promote yourself in Toledo than you would in Los Angeles.  Just be patient, be persistent, and never let anything stop you from singing.

Today, a three-person rehearsal in someone’s basement.  Tomorrow, a full-length album and several CARA nominations.  The future is yours!

About the author:
Nicole Marie Milano is an all-around arts advocate who began her a cappella journey singing with the Syracuse University Mandarins.  She connected with CASA through her work on the Social Media and A Cappella Conference, and the rest was history.  She now helps design the curriculum for CASA festivals such as SoJam, LAAF, BOSS, and VoCALnation.  A native of upstate New York, Nicole spends her free time eating spiedies, cheering for the Syracuse Orange, and trying to stay warm.