HomeBlogsbspaldin's blogBen Spalding's High School Blog: Why Start A High School A Cappella Group?

There’s no better time than the present to start a contemporary a cappella group at your high school. I’ve found that more and more kids are gravitating toward my high school choral program because of contemporary a cappella. With shows like “Glee”, “American Idol”, “The Voice”, “X Factor”, and “The Sing-Off” on television, now is the time to get things going. Kids are looking for a way to perform the kind of music that they are hearing on the radio these days. And let’s face it, singing is starting to seem a little cooler because of these types of shows. In fact, my high school program doubled in size this past year. With the hopes of making it into my top a cappella group Forte, kids are auditioning for my choir program like crazy. I had over 70 kids audition to be in Forte this past year alone and I had only 71 students in my entire choral program the year prior! So why should you start a contemporary a cappella group? Below is a list of reasons why I think it’s a great time to start a group at your high school. 
One of the things that really helped contemporary a cappella become more successful as of late is the availability of arrangements. Only a couple of years ago, there seemed to be only a limited number of people arranging a cappella (or at least it seemed like that), but now arrangements are easily accessible and more people are showing their talents in that area. You can get arrangements any place that sells choral music (jwpepper.com, a-cappella.com, etc). The cost of purchasing an arrangement isn’t much more than buying all of the copies you need of one piece of choral music.
Second, there are festivals and competitions out there for contemporary a cappella that are exploding. The two most successful festivals and competitions currently are Kettering Fairmont’s High School Festival in the Midwest and ICHSA (through Varsity Vocals). Kettering Fairmont’s A Cappella Festival has grown from 5 groups participating 3 years ago to 19 groups participating last year. I will have more information about this festival in a future blog. Varsity Vocals is the main competitive festival for high school groups around the country. Competitions are held throughout the country. You can get more information about ICHSA at www.varsityvocals.com
Third, it’s getting easier and more affordable to record a CD. I can’t tell you of a better way to get kids excited than to put them through the recording process and create a CD with them. There are recording studios out there like Liquid 5th, JAG Recording Studios, Overboard, diovoce, and many more that will come to you to record. They can set up shop in your own school and record you there. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that. I started recording my first CD with my group Forte within the first month of having the job and rehearsing my group. It turned out great and was a fun experience for all! Your kids don’t have to be perfect to record. They grow tremendously through the process! If you get someone that knows what they are doing, they will make the process pain-free for you. I know what you are thinking... can we afford to do that? Well, chances are with some effort you can easily afford to do it. You can do a fundraiser that is CD-specific. I require each of my kids to pre-sell 20 copies of our CD for $20 each. Each person that buys the CD for $20 gets their name in the CD jacket as a producer of the CD. Money can start to add up quickly and before you know it, your kids feel like rockstars. 
Fourth, I’ve never seen kids grow as much in musical independence as I have with contemporary a cappella. My kids can switch back to choral music and knock out a class A piece in a rehearsal or two. It’s amazing the growth that occurs musically and the passion that has grown within them for singing. 
Contemporary a cappella has been so awesome for my program at Centerville High School. If you have a passion for music and love working with people and seeing them grow, I can think of nothing better than starting a contemporary a cappella group. I love what’s happening with my students and choral program and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. 

About the author:
Ben Spalding is the head Choral Director at Centerville High School in Dayton, Ohio. At Centerville, Ben directs all of the choirs and the a cappella group Forte. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. Ben’s a cappella roots go back to college, when he was a member of the University of Kentucky AcoUstiKats and a semi-professional group called 5 by Tuesday.  His love for music goes as far back as elementary school and music has and always will be a major driving force in his life.