HomeBlogsLisa Forkish's blogWhy SheSings?

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As the Women’s A Cappella Association’s second annual SheSings Festival is fast approaching (May 23-24), I want to take a moment of pause from festival planning to reflect on why ---  why the festival is important to the a cappella community and meaningful for all of us involved in a cappella.

What do we think of when we hear the words "Women's A Cappella" or "Female A Cappella"? What excites me is that there is no longer an easy or straightforward answer to this question. When I first got involved in a cappella over twelve years ago, there was a very specific collegiate women's a cappella sound that left a lot to be desired, and the only prominent adult/pro all-female group at the tip of people's tongues was "Sweet Honey in the Rock" -- a group of women in a class all their own and completely distinct from what we call "contemporary a cappella." Twelve years later, I DO feel we've made some tremendous progress and am proud of how some of the stereotypes surrounding women's a cappella are being squashed. This past Saturday night, a women's group, Women of the World won the Harmony Sweeps Finals -- the second consecutive year we've seen an all-female group reign champions after Honey Whiskey Trio swept up in 2013. We are also seeing more all-female groups at scholastic competitions, and hearing from some fresh new pro/post-collegiate groups such as GQ, Lady Jaye, Traces, Musae and The Riveters, not to mention having solo artist phenom Julia Easterlin representing exquisitely what women can do with their voice. Some folks may not be clued in to all the amazing women's a cappella groups sprouting up, and that is where SheSings comes in, bringing powerful, beautiful, and unique women's a cappella groups to the forefront.

One of the primary aims of SheSings is to continue the exploration of our capacity as female singers. So many women's groups are simply trying to sound as much like an all-male or co-ed group as possible, focusing on singing as low and as high as possible, as loud as possible, as full as possible. These are great goals to have, but we mustn't stop there. I feel that we shouldn't be striving to effectively imitate or "catch up" with the male/co-ed groups, but rather re-define women's a cappella using our own unique "instrumentation," as it is sometimes called, to it's fullest potential.

Another goal of the festival is to further educate singers (women and men alike!) on the art of singing/performing/arranging/producing women's a cappella. Last year our educational workshops, panel discussions and clinics left participants feeling renewed and inspired, and this year is sure to bring about the same magic. Our instructors have a wealth of knowledge to share, and while the topics themselves are likely familiar to a cappella festival regulars, the SheSings workshops will be taught with a particular focus on women's a cappella, with a common thread throughout in celebration of the female voice. For me, this aspect of the festival is especially crucial as it is a hopeful breeding ground for future female leaders in a cappella.

While we have made great strides in the field of women's a cappella, we still have work to do! There are at least 10 or 15 pro all-male groups for every one pro female group, and only one female winner (that is one person, not one group) of The Sing-Off in its four-season history. And while Pitch Perfect brings the story of an all-female collegiate group to the big screen, it is arguable as to whether or not the film has actually perpetuated some of the same old stereotypes about not only women's a cappella, but women, period. As well, we are in need of more gender balance among the prominent or "go-to" a cappella arrangers, engineers, producers, coaches and educators. I believe, as does WACA, that it is paramount to have both women and men involved in this conversation and process in order to move forward in a positive and empowering way for all. So, come to SheSings 2014 and join the conversation!

About the writer:
Lisa Forkish is an Oakland-based vocalist/composer/educator and graduate of Berklee College of Music. She has been singing, producing, adjudicating and arranging for a cappella since 2002 and from '03-'06 served as music director for the University of Oregon’s award-winning female a cappella group Divisi, 2nd place winners at the 2005 ICCA Finals and featured in GQ editor Mickey Rapkin’s best-selling book “Pitch Perfect." Currently, Lisa is on Vocal Music faculty at Oakland School for the Arts where she is founder and director of the school's acclaimed a cappella group Vocal Rush,  2012 ICHSA Champions and winners of the Delta Rae a cappella video contest. Lisa's arrangements have been nominated for CARAs and performed by many groups around the country including Divisi and Vocal Rush. Lisa is giddy about returning to her all-female a cappella roots with her recently founded 5-woman group, The Riveters, as well as the beginning of The Women's A Cappella Association --  she is ecstatic about WACA, its mission, its team and its incredible potential! Lisa can be found at www.lisaforkish.com.