Monday, April 8, 2013

BOSS Battles and Mountain Climbing

Like many a cappella enthusiasts, I attended Boston Sings over the weekend and was once again blown away by the level of talent and expertise of the instructors. We even had a live riff-off!
But one theme prevailed from BOSS and I’d like to address that today:
How do we bring our group to the next level?
This question was prevalent in master classes, private group sessions, and especially in the Sing-Off Q&A. Every time I attend another convention, I hear the same question over and over. I often think the same thing myself.
How do we bring our group to the next level?
I think about it like a video game. Once you acquire a certain level of skill, you can’t move onto the next level until you defeat the boss, and let’s face it…the boss is usually very hard to beat. I mean, Bowser certainly isn’t as easy in level eight as he is in level one.
Groups most likely encounter these obstacles. It’s even a common thing to hear the phrase:
“Well we could be the biggest thing in the world, if it weren’t for this one thing…”
That’s a very defeating statement to make. And it creates an obstacle that could bring down the entire fabric of your group if left unchecked.
How do we bring our group to the next level?
There is a word I use for myself, whenever I encounter this very question. I call it “The Mountain.” I use the term “mountain” probably subconsciously, because mountains are very hard to climb. And the thing is, whenever I encounter one of these mountains, it almost stops me in my tracks.
I tend to hit the mountain and think that time, or new equipment, or just new information will get me over the mountain.
“I can’t start performing live until I have a better loop station.”
“I can’t make this arrangement sound amazing until I understand jazz theory.”
“I can’t convince my group to compete until they gain more confidence.”
“I can’t perform this complicated choreography until I lose at least ten pounds.”
Those are some of my mountains. Your mountains will probably sound much different. But if BOSS has taught me anything, it’s that waiting around for the answer is defeating in itself. You have to grab life by the horns and drag it down to the ground, because we only have so much time left.
How much more satisfying is it to defeat the boss after thirty tries instead of two?
In the case of a cappella, the harder arrangements are the ones that get you noticed. The hard choices, like choosing the solo undemocratically is how you make your stage show the best that it can be. The hard truths, like sacrificing your beliefs and your time for the betterment of music, gives the music a new life.
And the hard part is, once you climb one mountain, another one appears almost immediately. Unless you are the biggest star in the world and you can demand anything at the snap of your finger (and chances are, you are NOT), then your life will be nothing but climbing mountain after mountain after mountain.
But climbing mountains is what makes you strong. It makes you talented. And unless everyone is doing the same thing (and chances are, they are NOT), you WILL rise above.
That’s how you bring your group to the next level.
Marc Silverberg
Follow The Quest for the A cappella Major:

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