A year ago this weekend, CASA officially launched the first ever VoCAL Nation in NYC. It represented a lot of firsts for CASA, but also a lot for me personally and professionally.
CAL, as a program, had been chugging along for several years, with notable success, gradual growth and a handful of member only conferences and seminars. But then a group of motivated ladies from NYC, Treble, approached CASA about 'SoJam'-ifying an event aimed at CAL and adult a cappella. Since I was the CAL director at the time, Dave Sperandio (you may know him as Dio) asked me to step in as Executive Producer. VCN was born, creating the first CAL focused festival that not only would promote the league internally, but would showcase it to the a cappella and music communities on a much larger scale.
The production team worked hard. Seriously....the ladies of Treble made my life so easy! They took a lethal combination of talent, urgent sense of responsibility and an awesomely connected network and knocked off the list of tasks with a sense of ease. It allowed me to focus on the little details of how to really distinguish this festival from the rest and make it truly special for CASA's fastest growing population.
We developed classes around the adult group mindset and challenges. We created a peer/pro review system that allowed league groups to capture unique feedback from each other and a cappella pros. And then we picked a different kind of headliner. We knew a sophisticated audience needed an act that would, without a doubt, blow them away.
We settled on our dream group and then I did what every other professional event manager does. Well, not really. I sent a Facebook message. What transpired next was one of the best social media success stories I've ever witnessed, much less experienced. The message was to Clare Wheeler, who, at the time, I had only had limited social media interactions with. Long story short, that message sent led to The Swingle Singers making their their first-ever appearance at a CASA festival. Their show was incredible - many attendees left saying (and are still saying) that it was the best musical performance they'd ever seen, a cappella or otherwise. And on an even more special note for me, I now call Clare and all of the Swingles my friends. I'm ready to do a promo for Facebook any time, Mr. Zuckerberg!
Then, in what I can only call a twist of fate, my own CAL group won the video contest to open the professional showcase (no, I wasn't on the selection committee ;) ). This was the first time we'd 'won' anything, after a long stretch of almosts. It spurred a fire in each member that I'd never seen before and the hard work paid off with a notable performance on Saturday evening. But more than that it gave my group something intangible and magic that has created a remarkable and long term positive energy. And this magic, whatever it might be, led us into a series of events culminating with us opening for The Swingles again at the 2012 London A Cappella Festival a few weeks back. Truly unbelievable. The best part is momentum hasn't let up yet! If you had asked me prior to VCN last year if I thought any of what we are doing now was possible, not only would I have said no, I would have laughed at your somewhat cruel joke. :)
VCN 2011 was an inspiring weekend that grew from a series of great ideas, a hard working production team and a little bit of whimsical hope and prayer. And it changed lives.
So what's in store for this year? CAL is bigger and stronger than ever, so we of course plan on bringing you a bigger and stronger VCN! I've handed the lead reigns over to Ms. Kristin LoBiondo who has booked the main event at the beautiful Strathmore here in DC. We'll be bringing back some of the same great masterclasses and performance opportunities, then adding more. And, in what now is established as a requirement, we reached out to Cluster, this year's headliners via Facebook (hi Erik! ;) ) so the magic is already brewing. Come share in it with us!
See you in July!