Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Politics, Ramen noodles, and A cappella

It's that time again! It's time for all you college kiddies to go off and learn how to make your own Ramen noodles(and stop mooching off your parents...you bum.)
It also happens to be election season to determine our country's next president.
What do these two seemingly different events have to do with one another? Simple: A cappella!
Yep. You read that right. the only thing linking our country's divided politics and the fresh beginning of a college year is a cappella music.
Okay, not really. But hear me out.
Much like declaring your political agenda or beliefs (I'm just going to vote for the first person to mention the word "a cappella"), you will be inevitably drawn to choosing an a cappella "side." Who you choose as your a cappella group will stick with you for at least a year, four and more if you are lucky.
So it falls upon the dedicated group member or the wide-eyed eager freshman to continue an a cappella group's legacy by choosing the best fit. As demonstrated in the fictional novel "Acapolitics" by Stephen Harrison, choosing an a cappella group to lead you through these life changing four years is one of the most important decisions you can make. Unless you were lucky enough to belong to a high school a cappella group (and most aren't), this will be the place to receive the majority of your a cappella education. If you had the luxury of participating in a high school a cappella group, this is where you learn how to teach and direct yourself (and stop mooching off your music teacher...you bum).
A word of advice from someone who has made both good and bad choices in his a cappella collegiate experience:
To the fresh-faced newbie who is entering this exciting world:
Welcome! I hope you like Ramen noodles, because that's all you're eating for the next four years.
I'm so glad you've decided to join this growing musical phenomenon. Please take a moment to decide what kind of a cappella singer you would like to be. Are you someone who wants to further a cappella education and teach others? Are you hoping your American Idol dreams will come true after singing with a sub-par group of nobodies who will only serve as your willing backdrops? Are you just looking for some new friends and don't care all that much about singing? Are you hoping to learn the a cappella tricks of the trade and ultimately become the greatest a cappella arranger/performer/recorder of all time? Are you someone who thinks a cappella is some sort of Italian side dish?
Deciding what kind of a cappella group member you want to become should help guide you towards your a cappella choice. Most a cappella groups will try to draw you in with flashy posters and salesmanship. The problem for you, which most groups are keenly aware of, is that you have very limited time to decide on a group before all the auditions close and you are locked out.
Do not be fooled by the tricks! Use the following suggestions to help decide your next ensemble:
- Check the University website/handbook for a list of clubs and determine which of those are a cappella groups.
-Go to iTunes and see who has made a CD or EP. That will give you a chance not only to hear what they sound like at their best, but also which groups are serious about committing to the experience.
-Go to the A cappella Blog (acappellablog.com) and see if that group has ever competed.
-Try to figure out when the group's first concert will premier. It will usually be free, it will usually be informal, and it will usually be for recruitment purposes.
Man. Wouldn't it be great if everyone put this much effort into choosing a president?
To the slightly more experienced group members:
Welcome back! How are those Ramen noodles treating you?
As with the incoming students, your group needs to find an identity if you want to be noticed on campus.
Here are the common identities you are already using and DO NOT WORK:
-First/Oldest male/female/mixed group on campus
-We only sing top 40 hits/We only rap/We only sing polka
-We are the funny ones
I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in an audience and listened to a group from some college brag about how they are the "oldest male group in The State College of Jefferson Washington University up in Nowheresville."
Please. I'm begging you. We don't care.
Perhaps instead of trying to distance yourself from the other groups on campus, maybe try the following:
-Sing inventive, stellar arrangements
-Have a clear showing of group unity and realism
-Brag about your accomplishments (records, tours, competitions, festivals, etc.)
Ramen noodles are popular because they don't try to be anything other than Ramen noodles (and they taste really yummy). Now if only politicians and a cappella groups would learn the same thing...
Marc Silverberg
Follow the Quest for the A cappella Major:

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