Dear potential League director,
We're glad to have caught your eye. As you know (or can guess) directing a group can be one of the most rewarding (and occasionally maddening) things a person can do. It's an enormous source of musical fulfillment and pride, but at the same time a potential drain on your time and resources.
The information below should give you some insight into the nature of our program, and our suggestions as to how you might structure a League group. Unlike many affiliate programs, we do not own League groups in any way, nor would we be dictating how you should structure yours. Some people like to own their groups outright, others prefer to form a non-profit and have a board of directors make decisions. Some charge annual fees, others make enough money that they pay their director and singers. The choice would be yours. But first, some info:
About The League:
There are approximately 5,000 experienced college a cappella singers each year, and most of these folks have little or no opportunity to continue singing.
That fact alone is reason for the League. And that's just the beginning, with hundreds of thousands of Americans who would like to sing more yet have no outlet that appeals to them. There are thousands of potential members in every city, just waiting for an opportunity like this.
Groups in this league are by in large audition only with an average size of 12-20 members and generally fall in the range of “amateur/recreational/semi professional”. This is generally not your grandmother’s community chorus. For lack of a better description, imagine a post-collegiate group modeled after and built from the best college groups.
Your group can be all-male, all-female, or mixed. Your choice. If you’re not certain, you might consider mixed, as it doubles the number of potential members. Plus, if you find you’re overwhelmed with great singers, you could in time split into two groups: one male, and one female. That's right: you can direct more than one group. Should you be particularly successful, you could direct a number of groups of varying styles and levels, providing yourself with a full-time job and salary. But first things first! Start with one group, and see where it takes you.
In most cases, groups rehearse once a week and perform on evenings or weekends. The point is to have these ensembles exist such that the members can have day jobs. The reason for 12-20 members is so that individuals can miss the occasional rehearsal or performance and the group will not be hindered (impossible in a quintet, for example).
And although groups are welcome to expand beyond 20 members, we find there's a difference in the experience for singers and the audience between a collegiate-sized group (12-20) and a full chorus. If you have that many people interested, you might decide to create multiple groups. Or, have one central group with a number of break-out groups, ranging from quartets to ensembles.
Groups exist in a community (often a major city or large suburb where there's a concentration of population) and become known in their area as "the" contemporary a cappella group. Performing the National Anthem at sporting events, appearances at street fairs, parades, farmer’s markets, and so on helps to build a name, and then eventually groups are invited on radio morning shows, local TV, etc.
All that publicity will help drive interest in hiring the group for private parties, company events, etc. As each group’s reputation and quality increases, so does their performance fee.
Groups might travel a couple times a year, most importantly to an a cappella event (like the Summit, and certainly to our annual conference) where they can receive coaching from a well-known acappella artist, a chance to perform for others, and a chance to attend variety of workshops and concerts. CASA extends multiple opportunities to each league group to attend events, with performing opportunities for groups who are interested.
In addition, CASA provides a central meeting place online for all league directors/leaders (both via an email list and on casa.org), sponsors an annual retreats (currently scheduled in conjunction with our annual conference, so as to minimize travel expenses), provide a place online to list your group and network (our directory) and generally serve as a source of information and help whenever you need it. You’re not alone.
League groups are owned by an individual, at least when they start. One person to make the final decision when necessary, one person to drive the group forward as founder and leader. Driven, self-motivated leaders who will be able to find talent, create a great group, motivate members, resolve disputes, and not burn out before the group is stabilized.
In time, the group can be converted into a nonprofit corporation or other legal structure, giving ownership over to a board of directors or the group members themselves. This decision we leave up to the founder. Every group is different, and we again stress that CASA does not own these groups in any way. CASA is the owner of the League, offering a number of benefits and opportunities, but you own your group and are ultimately responsible for it.
Initially, you should not expect to be making money from this group, and you’ll most likely be spending money (phone calls, printing posters, traveling around town, paying for music, perhaps renting a space to hold auditions). However, we do believe that you will need to make at least enough money to cover group expenses initially, and for this you might consider charging a monthly or annual fee to your singers (to cover music, demo recording, web site maintenance, etc.).
Also, if you’re not the music director, you might also want to find a way to pay your director a stipend as well. This is your group, and every group situation will be different, so we can’t offer you a single solution that will perfectly fit your needs. We will say this: people who are paid for their work tend to be more motivated and place a higher priority on getting it done well. If you can be paid for your work (and your director be paid, if not you), you’ll most likely be increasingly motivated, especially as the years roll on.
In time, your group will likely be generating more money from performances and other activities than you spend.
There is no cost to being a member of the league other than having each of your group members be a paid member of CASA. They will receive all of the benefits of CASA membership, and in addition all of the benefits of the League. Plus, membership money from league members will go directly into league benefits. This is important to stress: every penny goes right into programs, as we don't pay our board or staff members, which keeps membership fees low (some singing organizations charge upwards of $200 a year per member), and insures we get the most from the money paid to CASA.
What we expect from a founder:
Above all, character is essential. A charismatic leader is needed to act as figurehead for the group. Honest, trustworthy, respected. Much of what will happen on in the early stages will come as a result of people trusting what you say and being interested in following your lead.
Secondly, self-motivation is essential. It’s not easy to create a group from scratch, and if you’re the kind of person who requires deadlines set by others and a lot of hand-holding, this is not for you. CASA will be available to answer questions, but you shouldn’t be planning to call every day.
Thirdly, the ability to pace ones self and not “burn out” quickly. This process will take time, and as such our founders will need to be marathon runners, not sprinters. You should plan on your group being a significant part of your life outside of work for at least a couple years. The first stages will be the most difficult, as you’ll be on your own. Once you have a group of singers you’ll have some help and support from others, but you’ll still carry responsibility.
You do not have to be a musical director, but it does help. If you’re not, it would be essential for you to identify a “second-in-command” music director ASAP.
So, please fill out the form below. The questions are open ended, and you should feel free to write as much as you’d like: