HomeThe Fraternity of A Cappella

musicjunkieg's picture

Recently, I was reading a bunch of the latest articles on CASA.org and was struck by the similarity in tone and content to another organization I am a part of: my fraternity.

First off, let me say that my fraternity - Delta Lambda Phi - is a rarity. We are the nation's oldest and largest fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men. Founded in 1986 to give gay men the chance to enjoy the same fraternal experience their heterosexual counterparts had enjoyed for years, DLP has spread across the country and changed thousands of lives in the process. But, enough about the fraternity, how does this apply to a cappella?

We will look at several areas: belief systems, choosing members, structure of the group, connection to the community, and dedication to the cause.

Belief systems: - In Delta lambda Phi, we all share certain core values, which are codified in our purposes. In an a cappella group, especially a collegiate group, what brings us together is our love for the music. That has to be the core of what we do. WE exist because of the joy that the music brings to us when we sing. We would exist even if we never performed in front of other people; for us, the music is enough. If every single member does not subscribe to the cause in some way, the group will suffer. We'll talk about personalities a little bit later, but the love for the music MUST be larger than any one person's ego or drama, or that person just won't mesh with the group.

Choosing members: Just like in an a cappella group, fraternities look for members who they believe not only share their belief systems, but who also bring something unique to the group, fit in well with other members, and have what it takes to be a quality member of the group(in Delta Lambda Phi, we call such a man, a "Lambda Man"). This is important for the above issue of the belief systems, but also getting down to a person's personality. Group leaders and members both in fraternities and a cappella groups have to be very conscious of the dynamic of the group - that is, the mix of personalities, from assertive to passive to aggressive, to extroverted/introverted, to left brain/right brain. This correct mix of people is crucial to getting the work done while still having fun. The group also has to be on the lookout for who has the potential to be a leader without flooding the group with people who only want to lead. My fraternity chapter went through this just recently and when everyone is trying to be the leader, you have no one to lead, and you end up being a bunch of individuals instead of a group.

Group Structure: Just as in any group, fraternities and a cappella groups live and die by the age-old adage: 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. It won't seem fair, but it is how things have always worked. Many of your member swill want to hang out, have a good time, make great music, and then go home. There will be a select few of you who will do the extra work, from managing the website, to booking the group, to travel planning, etc.

Members who don't do this: Learn to understand why your friends who are doing these things are so exhausted. Ask if they need help. Never commit to more than you can do.
Leaders who do most of the work: Accept that this is part of why you are a leader. Without the guys who are just there to have a rockin' good time, you wouldn't have a group to book. Be patient.

It's necessary to have both hard workers and those whoa re their to simply do their work and go. Each side can learn a lot from the other side. When you put all your time into the group, you lose your connection to the outside. It's important to find that balance. Let your more diversified members remind you of the joys of the outside world! Members who spend a lot of time with people outside of the group, use those who work constantly on the group as a source of inspiration when things get touch. They've been doing everything you do and then some, so kick your ass into high gear when it's necessary!.

Connection to the Community: Just as a fraternity chapter at a school exists in the context of a larger national fraternity, collegiate a cappella groups exist in the framework of a larger a cappella community. This may be the one area where fraternities still have a head start. A cappella groups and members of said groups do not always do a great job of giving back to the groups that gave them so much joy during college. Where fraternity alumni proudly represent their fraternal roots, those of us who have been in a cappella groups will sometimes hide that fact. Don't! Celebrate the fact that you had the chance to be a part of a group of 5-20 people who spent so much time together, they know more about each other than their parents! It's a rare experience that you most likely will not find in the rest of your adult life, unless, of course, you take the next step that fraternities are known for: getting involved nationally, which leads us to....

Dedication to the Cause: In the fraternity we have a phrase: Once a brother, always a brother. Acagroups, take this to heart! Once an a cappella singer, always an a cappella singer! Remember your experience. Remember how special it was to perform at all of the events you performed at, the nights spent in hotels with your best friends, the feeling of having 5000 screaming fans cheering you on as you laid down the backing for your bud or when you were singing your favorite solo. Then, do one thing.

Give Back.

It's what CASA is all about: making sure that future generations have the chance to experience the same thing many of us did: the amazing thing that happens when guys and girls from every different background come together with one thing in common and make amazing music. Make sure you join CASA, show up to the concerts of your college group, help them out with publicity, throw them some money when you can afford to, share your stories, if only to make sure that the legacy lives on, and that the transformative power of music, which is its own brotherhood, lives on.

About the author:
Bryan Guffey has been singing since he was old enough to talk; 1983, to be exact. A bass/baritone with a fierce falsetto, Bryan has performed all across the United States and around the world for the last seven years. Currently living, in Cleveland, Ohio, Bryan started his first a cappella group while in high school, and a cappella has been his love ever since. A graduate of Kent State University, Bryan holds a BFA in Musical Theatre and is a proud member of Actor's Equity. Most recently, Bryan sailed around the world with such luminaries as Blue Jupiter's Tim Foust, singing in the a cappella group Full Sail.


Took words right out of my mouth...

With my old college group, we talked about this all of the time. You spend all of this time together, have some sense of initiation every semester, and become friends for life through a cappella. Isn't it great?!

Eric Talley
Alumnus ASU Lost In Sound

And furthermore...

My old group, Ithacappella was formed by Phi Mu Alpha (the all male music fraternity) and expanded from an initial core of brothers.

Plus, just last month, I visited the Barbershop Convention in Anaheim for work wherein, there was already a PMA gathering scheduled for one of the earlier nights of the conference.

J. Paisley
Slapdash Graduate '05-'07
Nantucket Cobbletones '04-'05
Ithacappella '98-'03

Awesome Post

Feel the same way about my fratenal group.

About 10 of the 50 of us do the majory of the work and we are feeling burnt out. It's worth it in the end but so exhausting.



This article reminded me of

This article reminded me of The Office's own Nard-Dog.

Andrew Bernard and his a capella repertoire!

Long live vocal groups.

I'm not part of one but i so love them.


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