Well, it finally happened: I embraced my inner aca-nerd and attended an aca-fest. And, as expected, it was quite BOSS! (No apologies).
On April 13th, I made my a cappella homecoming and attended the first annual Boston Sings festival, or BOSS for short. I could go on and on about everything I saw and learned. But since I need to keep this blog-sized, I just wanted to share one aspect of the weekend that made an impact on me, personally.
As many of you know by now, the weekend began with the CARA Awards and the Collegiate Competition. Simply put, the college groups in this show blew me away. There were numerous standing ovations. Even the pros in the audience were in agreement that it was one of the best collegiate lineups they’d ever seen. The audience listened and watched in awe as the later-named BOSS Champions, University of Chicago’s Voices in Your Head rocked the mic (literally), the audience listened and watched, in awe. The tremendous set of talent also included performances I will never forget by U of Oregon’s Mind the Gap, Ithacappella, U of Chicago’s Men in Drag, and local groups the MIT Logs and the NU Nor’easters.
But, believe it or not, the performances weren’t what made the biggest impact on me. No, that moment came after the Saturday night show, at the afterparty. Turns out that Kristin LoBiondo was right afterall – aca-afterparties can be life changing.
On the bus to the party, I sat next to some of the incredible singers from Oregon’s Mind the Gap. For the whole 20 minute ride, they told me of their journey to Boston, which included a nearly missed flight, lost luggage, and being trapped in the labyrinth that is MIT’s campus (talk about a Strugglebus!). They also shared their mixed feelings about going through all of that, just to perform once, and sadly be eliminated from competition early Friday night. Certainly, that would be pretty disappointing to most. But what was amazing to me was these kids still had eager eyes – they were in high spirits.
And mostly: they were still ready to sing their hearts out!
As we proceeded onto the T, I began to feel their excitement. For many, it was their first time on the East Coast, and they were determined to make the most of it. All it took was seeing a subway performer and my casual suggestion of “hey, would you sing for us?”, and the rest is history. One 15 minute train ride later, and Boston’s Red Line passengers were wildly applauding (myself included) after a thrilling and passionate surprise performance!
With my new friends from Oregon at my side, the BOSS afterparty began at a local pub. I was a bit star struck as I shared a beer with members of Cadence and Ball in the House. Bill Hare was standing behind me; Tony Huerta right in front of me.
But, believe it or not, most of my attention was directed at members of the two college groups I ended up spending most of my evening chatting with. I got to hear more stories from members of Mind the Gap, and I got to pick the brain of members of Chicago’s Voices in Your Head (still rocking ultraviolet spectrum leggings), including future celebrity, Brianne Holland. They came from such far distances for this opportunity, and I’d dare say they gained more from it than any of us old-folks. Heck, they even attended the following morning’s workshops, bright and early, just to take in more aca-knowledge!
Here’s what to take away from all of this:
College a cappella has always been the centerpiece of the community, and for a good reason: they have a pulse on what is really “cool”, what music people like to listen to, and what kinds of musical magic tricks are needed to create “moments” in performance. Just in my short time with members of MtG and ViYH, I know the college a cappella community is in good hands.
Before long, these students will graduate, and many of them will move on to audition for CAL and pro groups, or even start their own. I have little doubt that you’ll be hearing much more in the future from all of the fresh, young talent that made their presence felt at BOSS.
My advice to all of you future festival goers out there: enjoy the shows, soak in the workshops, pick the brains of all the pros. But be sure to take time to talk to the collegiate and high school students in attendance. I guarantee that they’ll open your eyes to their ingenuity, they’ll share some very interesting stories, and they’ll gladly listen to your experienced wisdom.
And if you ask them nicely, they’ll sing for you in public!