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Last April, I did a very brave thing.  I got on a plane to Boston from the west coast to attend CASA’s inaugural Boston Sings A Cappella Festival (BOSS) -- alone.

Why would you do such a thing, you ask? I did it because I wanted to meet all of the groups and individuals whose names have become familiar to me as I’ve navigated the online “a cappella community.” I did it because I watched the livestream videos and saw the excitement and enthusiasm from a cappella festivals past.  I did it because I love a cappella and wanted to take my fan status to the next level.

Mission: Accomplished.

First, I recommend the VIP Pass to all a cappella fans.  In addition to up-front reserved seating at the concerts, which is a minimum requirement for most fans I know, the VIP experience includes all kinds of opportunities for access to the performers and other aca-folk throughout the weekend: evening cocktail reception, lunch with the pro groups, concert after-parties, participation in the collaborative recording, plus attending the workshops of your choosing with accompanying “aca-bombs” between sessions.  You should definitely be able to get all of the meet-and-greets and fan photos you need with this option.

Over the course of my BOSS weekend, I met an amazing number of people, which I documented in an appropriately fangirly manner by texting and DM-ing my fan friends every five seconds.  I am nothing but grateful for all the times I got to say, “Hi, I’m Christine. I follow you on Twitter.”  It made the online world real.  Some of you even remembered me and stayed in touch, which is wonderful because I would much rather be your friend than just your fan.

And yet, when I was asked at the end of the weekend, “So, did you feel treated like a VIP?” I wasn’t really sure how to answer.

I was alone in a city I had never visited before.  To say I was overwhelmed and nervous would be an understatement.  I received a few emails telling me when and where to be for the VIP-entitled events, but I didn’t understand what was supposed to happen when I got there.  I was at the distinct disadvantage of “knowing” a whole lot of people who had no idea who I was.  So, I guess I was expecting the VIP experience to include a lot more one-on-one introductions and connections from the people who already knew everyone there.

Interestingly, the times I felt most like a VIP actually had nothing to do with the VIP ticket package...

•    Being introduced to Jim Diego, who then made sure I was in his red carpet photo so I didn’t have to take one alone, and who also went and found out where my seat was in the theatre and came out to tell me.
•    Sitting at a table with Amy Malkoff and Bill Hare at the Friday night afterparty.
•    Introducing myself to the members of Cadence and telling them how my fan friend recommended them to me and them signing a CD for her.
•    Sitting at a table with Ross Lynde of Cadence at the Saturday night afterparty, then having him remember me and give me a goodbye hug on Sunday.
•    Becoming friends with members of Cut Off and Broad Street Beat.
•    Being late for the collaborative recording and Tom Anderson taking the time to review the alto line with me one-on-one when he quite obviously had a lot of other stuff going on.
•    Having Clear Harmonies and Ryan Chappelle of Ball in the House let me sit in and watch Ryan track the bassline for “You Make Me Wanna.”

These are the memories that are most precious to me, the times when people made me feel extra special for being there without even trying. These are the moments that fans need when they show up at a festival, VIP ticket or not. 

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was told that 20% of VIP passes to CASA festivals are purchased by non-singing a cappella fans.  Maybe other fans have attended with a friend.  I would certainly recommend it, based on my initial festival experience.  Fortunately I was able to connect with an a cappella Twitter friend who helped me navigate the weekend, or it might have been a bust.  I also think it’s safe to assume that more fans will be attending future festivals, based on the buzz I’m hearing and the reactions of many fans who watched the recent SoJam X livestream (THANK YOU, Sled Dog Studios!).

Therefore, I would like to propose that fans and aca-folk make a more deliberate effort to connect personally at festivals.  Even though many of you see each other on a regular basis, there are new fans -- and singers -- at every festival.  How about an early formal intro of the registered VIPs to each other and to the CASA Board members in attendance?  For that matter, any kind of formal introductions at a reception or organized meal would be helpful in putting names to faces and in lessening the overwhelm.  Informally, introduce yourself and others when there’s opportunity.  Remember, fans are looking to connect with you.

Finally, being of a mind that “if you’re not part of the answer, you’re part of the problem,” I can tell you I am working on a plan to get to Los Angeles and do some volunteering at LAAF in February.  Maybe I can be one person who can help a fan like me feel like a true VIP for showing up.

[cover photo: BOSS VIP reception by Amy Malkoff]

About the writer:
Christine Mabry is first and foremost a mother to two hilarious children, Xander and Aurora.  In her other job, Christine is a Program Supervisor for a municipal recreation department in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she supervises things like swim lessons, kids’ day camps, and adult bocce and kickball leagues.  She swears the time she spends on Pinterest is completely work-related. Christine’s love of a cappella started back in high school in Huntsville, Alabama, when she heard a cassette recording of Take 6 in 1988, and it grew from there.  She figures her obsession with a cappella just about balances out her husband and son’s fixation with Star Trek. Connect with Christine on Twitter at @LovedeAcapella and visit her personal a cappella fan blog at lovedeacapella.wordpress.com.