HomeBlogsMister Tim's blog The astonishing, magnificent Harmony Sweepstakes

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Contemporary a cappella would not be what it is today without the Harmony Sweepstakes.  Do you have any idea how influential the competition is?  How vital it has been to the growth and dissemination of contemporary a cappella?

What started out as a regional festival 25 years ago has become an annual national competition.  Just the longevity is reason to take note.  25 years. 

Nearly every professional American a cappella group has competed in the Harmony Sweepstakes at some time.  Winning the national competition, while not a guarantee of success, serves as a declaration, a coming out party if you will, of the next hot things on the scene.  Just by glancing down the list of winners, you’re witnessing the history of the development of contemporary a cappella.  Except for the barbershop.  I'm not entirely sure how the Sweeps fits in with barbershop.

Name another event, opportunity, or occasion that has universally served to attract, inspire, train, and improve contemporary a cappella talent on such a pervasive scale. 

An annual event that brings in regional talent, challenges to raise the level of their art, allows them to showcase their act.  The best talent selected to travel to a national gathering of the best groups from the United States and, more and more frequently, the world.  Friendships are formed.  Networks are built.  Ideas are shared.  Horizons are expanded.  Large-scale cross-pollination.

Does that happen anywhere else, on that scale, in the a cappella world?

Long live the Harmony Sweepstakes!




Is it (winning) a product of being a good groups or the catalyst for 'fame'?

Good, better, oatmeal!

 Winning is a product of being good.  Meaning, I don't think there has ever been a poor group that has won.  They've all been great, they've all put on great performances, they've all been worthy champions.

But there have been plenty of great groups that have competed and not won.  In many instances, the best groups don't fit the competition format, or don't come off well in a shorter set, or (and I think this applies to many, many top pro groups) their product relies on mics and sound to totally work, and in a conrolled 'flat' competition environment they aren't as impressive as they if they get to control the environment more.

The flip side: winning is no guarantee, I think not even a catalyst to fame.  If anything, it might be validation for a group that's on their way, but there is not enough coverage of the event, not enough exposure to actually drive any kind of long-term success.  Maybe short-term cd sales, maybe a little bit of acknowledgement in the a cappella world, but no guarantee.

Circumstances can help

I agree with Tim, and further stress the point that sometimes it matters which judges you get, sometimes it matters what region you compete in originally, the sound plays a big part, etc.  Circumstances make a difference.

See my somewhat related blog on this point here, as it relates to the West region's domination of the ICCA: http://www.casa.org/node/5168

--Dave Brown

now: Mouth Off host | ICCA & CARA Judge

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

Sweeps Finals

Glad you had a great time!

It was a very interesting show.   

On a side note, I was really glad an act like MouthBeats was part of the competition.  It set off a huge dialogue in the judges' conference, which is always good.  :  )   

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