HomeBlogsIanG's blogThe National Championship of High School A Cappella: Reflections

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Costs soared while booking venues for NCHSA events, and poor audience turnouts created a hole of debt. We were not prepared for the unbelievable cost of high school auditoriums: we paid $2,500 alone for the Maryland state show. Only one showMissourireached its audience goal of 500 people, while the average audience turnout was close to 225. Suprenant attributes this to poor marketing by state coordinators who were never held accountable by his national NCHSA staffa poorly marketed Arizona show, for instance, lost $4,000.

Last spring, workers and organizers of NCHSA events started posting on the forums of the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (www.rarb.org/forum) about their frustrations for not getting paid by NCHSA. Much of the negative publicity posted on the RARB forums Suprenant takes responsibility for. The bottom line is we owe people money, we have tripped and fallen and we dont want to blame other people for not being tolerant. Some folks have been very supportive and understanding, and we greatly appreciate that. There are those that havent, and we understand it. Its my company and I take full responsibility for the debts. I am determined to right the ship, and I am determined to make good on our debts.

Nonetheless, Suprenant questions whether the RARB forums were an appropriate venue to express anger about NCHSA. Suprenant claims that NCHSA coordinators and workers have committed acts of libel by posting on RARB. He says that after the negative posts about NCHSA, he no longer visits the forums. RARB is a perfect example of one persons misfortune being another persons recreation. They harangue for sport, for entertainment. Those forum members who are not involved with NCHSA, the people jumping on the bandwagon, are the people I disdain.

In the meantime, Suprenant works two jobs at nearly 100 hours a week to pay off the remaining NCHSA debts. He still owes about $4,500 to NCHSA workers and organizers, which he says should be completely paid off by Thanksgiving. And while he admits to the financial struggles of NCHSA, he says that the successes of the competition have largely been overlooked by the a cappella community. NCHSA had 87 competitors in 31 different states who competed at 15 state competitions. The turnout was remarkable for our first year, and the response was overwhelmingly positive from all the highschoolers.

Suprenant and the NCHSA staff have fired their business manager and have restructured the competition to prevent future financial failures. NCHSA shows will now be co-hosted by area high schools, eliminating the large cost of booking venues for NCHSA competitions. Local high schools will be jointly involved in marketing the NCHSA shows, increasing audience turnout. State coordinators will now be more strictly regulated by the national NCHSA staff.

Good people had faith in our program, Suprenant says, and so far that faith has only been partially justified. Suprenant expects great success in NCHSAs second season, and is confident that NCHSA will begin to build a more solid financial foundation. Once these remaining debts are paid, we hope people will see how NCHSA is a great venue to encourage a cappella singing in young kids. We are about the art of a cappella music, and we just want to expose as many young singers to a cappella as possible.

Ian Goldstein is the founder and president of the Back Row, an all-male a cappella group at Colorado College. He was recently awarded Best College Arrangement and Best Public Domain Arrangement in the Contemporary A Cappella Publishing arranging competition. A junior at CC, Ian is also co-engineering the Back Row's debut album, due out in April.