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Now, this might just rub some of you the wrong way. It does get old having our beloved college groups dragged through the mud on a regular basis.

I was thinking about this recently, and realized that this isn't cause for alarm, it's a reason to rejoice!


Because back in 1990, when I started CASA, no one joked about collegiate a cappella, because it was essentially unknown.

A joke would have about as much power as a jab at an Ivy League lacrosse rivalry.

But now, a cappella is getting attention. Lots of it.

Lest you think this is entirely bad, think about what the word "a cappella" meant to most people a decade ago. I'll guarantee you it was some combination of barbershop, doo wop and/or choral music.

You'd be lucky if one out of a hundred people had heard of Rockapella or Take 6. Heck, when I explained in some detail what I do for a living, the closest most people would get was "oh - so kinda like a group full of Bobby McFerrins?"

That's no longer the case. In the current, modern vernacular, "a cappella" now largely means "contemporary a cappella."

And this is cause for significant celebration!

Need more proof?

Well, let's start with the fact that Straight No Chaser's 8 million youtube hits last December landed them a record deal on Atlantic Records. That's right, the legendary home of Ray Charles and Led Zeppelin. And in the press packet I received last week announcing their debut album, the word a cappella is splashed all over it unabashedly. A decade ago, any group looking for a record deal intentionally steered clear of the term. I should know: when the House Jacks were signed to Tommy Boy Records (a Warner label) we avoided the word, and any associations, like the plague. It was essentially publicity suicide. Now it's a proud moniker.

Exhibit A - the first paragraph of their bio: "If the phrase 'male a cappella group' conjures up an image of students in blue blazers, ties, and khakis singing traditional college songs on ivied campuses, think again. If, on the other hand, it conjures up campy college ensembles singing joke versions of 'Like A Virgin' in boxer shorts... think again."

Do you see what they did there? Our two choices, options A and B are both collegiate a cappella. And one of 'em is unabashedly contemporary. That's a major paradigm shift.

Whoo, boy. I'm gettin' drunk tonight to celebrate!

But to create a movement, we need more than just one wave, right? Grunge wouldn't have existed with only Nirvana; Pearl Jam, Soundgarden et al were essential contemporaries.

Exhibits B and on:

The king of reality television, Mark Burnett (Survivor) is working on an a reality show called "A Cappella Nation," and he's not the only one. Sony also has a program in the works (built around the Harmony Sweepstakes) and there's a third focusing on collegiate a cappella competitions... and that's just what has surfaced thus far (projects in the works tend to stay under wraps so that they won't be scooped).

The silver screen is in play as well, with "Pitch Perfect" having been optioned by Elizabeth Banks (hot on the heels of her appearances in "W" and "Zack and Miri" this month), with another collegiate a cappella buddy comedy being bounced around as well.

MTV decided to start a new reality show "Next Top Pop Group" and a cappella powerhouses Mosaic won. That's right, a cappella got the most votes on MTV, week after week. Amazing.

And the book Pitch Perfect continues to get press, with author Mickey Rapkin continuing to make appearances, blog, and write a cappella themed articles for the New York Times. And the AC100 celebration in the spring is... well... I can't say yet. Gonna be big.

Anyhoo, we've come a long way, and every time a cappella's mentioned on a major network show, we're just becoming that much more significant in the various arms of the main stream media. The jokes open the door, and then we have Mosaic, Straight No Chaser, Mark Burnett, Elizabeth Banks, Mickey Rapkin and a host of others showing the public the breadth and depth of our style and sound.

The early 90's were an exciting time for a cappella, with something like twenty Top 40 hits between 1987 and 1993. But since then, save for the occasional Taco Bell ad or Cosby Show theme song, a cappella fell out of the public eye. We were growing, but most people didn't seem to know or care.

Now, with a very healthy collegiate a cappella scene and plethora of fantastic pro groups, people are starting to take notice.

And if it means the occasional laugh, I say laugh away! No one is laughing harder than I am. And the smile lingers.



ooohhhhhh man. paradigm shifts and reality TV. I am so exicted for the future of this subculture-gone-craze!
and every time I feel like an a cappella nerd, I just have to go and read Deke Sharon\'s stuff, and I feel better :grin

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