HomeBlogsMister Tim's blogDear A Cappella Groups:

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Dear A Cappella Groups:

Please do not ever use these words to describe yourself:

     1)    Groundbreaking

Implicit in the term: something has been built upon the ground that was broken.  That denotes time, and in terms of artistic traditions, it denotes A LOT of time.  It also denotes that you have broken ground for something so unique that it can be easily distinguished from other traditions, genres, and / or niche markets. 

Don’t use the word, because YOU ARE NOT.  The Bobs, The House Jacks, Todd Rungren, Bobby McFerrin.  That’s the short list.  Maybe Rockapella or Take 6, but they weren’t really groundbreaking.  They were perfecting what others had already broken ground, they were building the edifices after others had shoveled out the first scoops of dirt. 

An eclectic a cappella cover band might be a lot of things, but by definition, groundbreaking is not one of them.

2)    Premiere 

Here’s the Google search for premiere a cappella.  Hit number one is "The King's Singers, England's premiere vocal choral ensemble."  They could probably make an argument for the truth of that statement, BUT there dozens of other vocal choral ensembles in England that I’m sure might take issue with that, including the #3 hit, the Tallis Scholars. 

Why not use the word?  a) If you really are ‘premiere’ you don’t need to go telling people.  b) who are you to define yourself as premiere?  Is your ego really that big?  c) you aren’t doing yourself any favors with the other groups in your area who might disagree with your assessment.  **College groups, take note**.  Get over yourselves.  d) you run the risk of damning yourself with faint praise.  Wow!  You’re the premier all-male group in the greater Eastern Wyoming region… I’m impressed?

Especially egregious is calling yourself the ‘premiere (and only)’ something. Redundant much?

(this applies to other superlatives as well: best, most popular, most successful, most attractive, …)

Any other over-used terms that tweak your ire?


Amanda Newman could probably

Amanda Newman could probably list HUNDREDS of them here, having done the ICCA bios over the years. The most galling to me is when they talk about eclectic song style...and then do all Top 40 covers. "Jazz, show tunes, rock, Bollywood"...what? You just sang Now That's What I Call Music 30 straight through!

Christopher M. Diaz | ICCA & CARA Judge | FSU ANY '08 | Mouth Off! co-founder/host


 Eclectic, indeed.

It's just as annoying when a group calls themselves a vocal rock band and then does rock, pop, a jazz tune, a Broadway number, something vaguely classical...


Most groups perform "both on and off campus at a variety of venues" and  "regularly sing with other schools on the EastCoast/WestCoast/Midwest spring/fall break tour" :-)

Matt Emery CASA Director of Communications Three-time Recipient of RARB "Post of the Year" Title

 Yes, but at least those are

 Yes, but at least those are true, silly as they may be.

As someone who's run several

As someone who's run several concert series, I now tell people who ask (and try very hard to adhere to this myself) that you should NOT have any flowery prose about yourself in your materials. It's obvious you wrote it. So just keep it factual. List your accomplishments and what you do, and then let the music speak for itself.

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.


I am still laughing at #2. There is a group at my alma mater that does this at every concert  AND uses it as a recruitment tool for freshmen. Thanks for this!


When I emceed the Finals a couple weekends ago, I asked every group in advance for a written intro.  But knowing that they'd all be sucky, I also did a sort-of interview for each group and got a big grab bag of fast facts and funny trivia.

With all due respect to these phenomenal ensembles, I ended up reading only ONE of the intros from stage.  The rest were all a melange of random tidbits, hopefully weaved together somewhat coherently by yours truly.

Most intros fit into one of the following:

(1) We sing a cappella.  We've performed for more than 80 people this year, all around campus.

(2) We have won some crazy awards you've never heard of.  We came in 3rd at ICCA quarterfinals six years ago.

(3) We sing a variety of styles, we're zany, our intro is cuh-rraaazzzyyy.

(4) Yes, we're single.  If you're sitting in the front 3 rows, you may get pregnant.

(5) God sent the greatest group of singers to earth... but they couldn't make it tonight (or insert your favorite over-used joke here).

(6) "Wait, we were supposed to send an intro?"

(7) An actual good one that's unique, yet informative.  It gets everyone excited, but without over-promising.  A rare bird indeed.

--Dave Brown

now: Mouth Off host | ICCA & CARA Judge

then: CASA president, CASAcademy director, CASA Bd of Directors | BYU Vocal Point | Noteworthy co-foun

given that...

Dave, you did a great job!

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.


 Haha, yeah, we definitely have "premiere" somewhere in our info.  It's been there since before I was in the group aaaaaand I'm going to go change it right now........*runs away*

Micah Russell
President 08-09, Bare Naked Statues
Saint Louis University

 I'd be a bald-faced liar if

 I'd be a bald-faced liar if I said I've never used these terms.  I used to use them all the time.  I write copy for literally dozens of groups, and it's annoyingly easy to slip in cliched language to pump up a skimpy bio, or just to try to sound good.  

I've come to hate Harmony Sweepstakes applications because I have to write ANOTHER short bio that will sound good, interest and inform the audience, not sound too pretentious, and oh ya, it's the FIVE THOUSANDTH such bio I've written.  I wish I could just write COME SEE THE STUPID SHOW AND THEN YOU'LL KNOW WHAT THIS GROUP IS LIKE (ps we're the premiere groundbreaking all-male jazz mime a cappella group in the southern part of Nevada).

With a little thought, though, and a _LOT_ of honesty, you can find accurate, flattering, and non-cliche terms to use.

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