A Cappella Innovations

Got something to say?

Postby bstevens » Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:15 pm

Jimmy, are you serious?

Let me put it this way: Fork cracked open The Egg and cooked up the biggest, tastiest, ARE-YOU-F**KING-KIDDING-est a cappella omelette this side of "let there be light" ... a day after traveling for fifteen hours to get to Albany and taking their first steps on stage at 3:30am Helsinki time.

Fork KILLED. They give a whole new meaning to PROFESSIONAL a cappella.

While I'm at it, though, MAJOR kudos go to the evening's entire line-up: Philip Hamilton, MIT Resonance (at 3/4 strength!), U Conn Completely Different Note, Simply Human, and Charlie Coolie vs. Mike Baker vs. Dave Baumgartner. It was a great show.
bstevens
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 636
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 3:19 pm
Location: Mid-Hudson Valley, NY

Postby Jimmy » Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:14 pm

Of course, I knew they were outlandishly amazing, but I just wanted to hear it from someone who was there. Had I been able to, I TOTALLY would have been there, cult or no cult. Guess I'll just have to go to Finland one of these days.
Jimmy Leathers
MD, UMd Faux Paz, 2004-2008
www.myspace.com/fauxpaz
Jimmy
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 8:49 am
Location: Washington, DC

Postby livingfiction » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:15 pm

bstevens wrote:With young people -- college students, including minors -- it is not at all sufficient to say that anyone who wishes not to share need not. When the information is requested publicly, in a group setting, it is a rare young person indeed, and in particular a rare young woman, who is able to resist feeling pressured into sharing against her will. No young person should be put on the spot by authority figures, in front of close associates and friends as well as strangers, about his or her personal experiences and convictions, especially not if failure to respond runs counter to the spirit of the occasion.

In such a context the 'choice' not to participate is severely constrained: this is the very definition of _shame_. It is a kind of compulsion and it is entirely unacceptable. The fact that it came as a surprise to all participants only makes it worse. The manner of it -- the format of the requests, their very fact -- must be changed for next time; indeed, as I mentioned in my first post in this thread, there are other more ordinary ways of encouraging emotional connection to material at hand.


That's an interesting point Ben. Sadly I didn't get to sit in any single workshop to get a feel for how exactly this was being approached. I only saw the results in some of the groups performances.

You and I have spoken about my opinions in regard to the way you handle yourself and the care with which I feel you approach mentoring and teaching relationships. I'd love to see you become somehow involved with the producers and organizers of the workshops to help them find a way to approach these topics in a safe environment where shame and pressure aren't factor, not that I know that they were, but I'd hate for anyone to feel that way.

I wonder if your skills might even be better utilized in those kind of workshops directly, have you talked to anyone about it?
livingfiction
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:13 pm
Location: Behind the Lens

Postby Brojo » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:28 pm

fork owned.

more thoughts on the rest of the event later.
Brojo
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 254
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 3:03 pm
Location: Dtown

Postby borski » Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:27 am

bstevens wrote:While I'm at it, though, MAJOR kudos go to the evening's entire line-up: Philip Hamilton, MIT Resonance (at 3/4 strength!), U Conn Completely Different Note, Simply Human, and Charlie Coolie vs. Mike Baker vs. Dave Baumgartner. It was a great show.


Fork kicked serious ass. I was flabbergasted. And though we were at 3/4 strength, hopefully not at 3/4 performance, eh? ;)

I'll post a long tirade of thoughts sometime tomorrow, but let it be said that for the most part I had a really good time and we definitely got a lot out of it. There were definitely some uncomfortable moments for me (can't speak for my group), but I didn't care about them as much since we got so much out of the sheer amount of a cappella genius present; not to mention the other groups with whom we workshopped.

blah blah blah, my thoughts not my group's, let my name be tarnished if anything, blah blah blah.
borski
 
Posts: 241
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 7:43 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA

Postby AnonymousBass » Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:31 am

My group was at A Cappella Innovations this past weekend, and I'd like to help shed some light on what happened there. This was my groups first time attending the festival, and the experience I had was very similar to what other people have been talking about in this thread. In one word, the weekend was surreal.

From the very moment we got there, the staff was overly friendly to us. At times, their eagerness to get on our good side came off as a blatant sales pitch. During the welcoming to the ceremony, Clare Bronfman talked about the importance of bringing people together through music, and the power of a songs "Emotional Journey." We were told that much of the weekend was going to be dedicated to sharing our feelings and emotions with the other groups and workshop moderators. We were assured that if at any point we felt uncomfortable with a discussion the conversation could be changed. This is probably one of the first places where I started to get suspicious of what we were going to be taking away from the weekend. A cappella is first and foremost about the music. While I do agree that emotion and music often go hand in hand, it was clear from the start that the management of the festival was focusing all the wrong things when it comes to a cappella.

Next, all of the groups were paired off for the workshops. After sharing our answers to some "ice-breaker" questions to some of the people in the other group, each group got a chance to sing one song for the other. The group that was listening was asked to really focus on the emotion and moods that the music made them feel. My group kind of disregarded that advice and gave a lot of musical advice. The moderator kept trying to refocus the conversation on the "Emotional Journey" of the song, instead of the criticism that the other groups wanted to hear. Finally, at the end of each workshop session, we were asked to share one "gift" with the other group. These "gifts" were in the form of tools or exercises to make a song better, whether it be singing the song in a really tight circle to work on tuning, or a way to get pumped up before a show. In all, the workshops were more of a way to meet other groups and people, rather than a constructive setting where the groups could make progress on their music.

Next up was the adjudication sessions. Due to an extreme lack of communication from the festival's coordinators, our group really had no idea what to expect from these sessions. We went into our first session thinking that it was a rather informal critiquing of our songs. By no fault of the judging panel, we were nit-picked on the aspects of our performance that don't come up for us during an actual concert (dress code and other things like that). Because the judges spent so much time talking about those aspects, we felt that our first judging session was more of a waste of time then anything. However, in the second judging session when we presented ourselves as we do in concert, the comments that we received were extremely helpful to the group, especially from the judges actually associated with a cappella. Unfortunately, about two thirds of the people on the panel really didn’t have anything to do with music or a cappella, like Allison Mack, who seemed to be there simply for the celebrity factor (which reminded me a little of Scientology). With that said, these sessions were probably the most helpful of everything we got all weekend. An outside prospective is without a doubt one of the best ways to get helpful comments on how to further a group, and getting this view from professionals really made up for all of the negatives of the weekend.

And now just a few general comments about the weekend.

Our group was told that all meals would be provided. While they did deliver as promised, the meals that we got were terrible. Almost every group we talked to started going out to eat in the area after the second meal. Breakfast was always fine: donuts, muffins, coffee, water. Lunch, however, was not. We were served two different types of wraps: bean and hummus. The bean wraps were literally just filled with some sort of bean; they were extremely bland and I couldn’t get through half of mine without feeling sick. The other wraps had a little hummus in them, a few peppers, and a slice of lettuce if I remember correctly. On the second day they served a large salad in addition to the wraps. In other words, there was zero variety, and they were forcing everyone at the conference to eat on a vegetarian or vegan sort of diet. In my opinion, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a few boxes of that type of food, but the majority of people can’t be sustained an entire weekend when they are not used to that sort of diet.

Another user commented on how it seemed that we were constantly under surveillance. This was one of the things that bothered me the most. Apparently everyone was asked to sign a disclaimer at the beginning of the festival that released their image to A Cappella Innovations. Since I got there on Saturday, I’m not sure exactly what was signed, but throughout the weekend we were constantly being taped and recorded. At the party on Saturday night, you weren’t allowed into the party unless you first filled out a card with your name and email address. This was just one of the many different ways they tried to get your contact information. They kept emphasizing that if we ever wanted to organize an a cappella event, we should contact them to help organize it. While normally I’d probably not blink twice at that, but here it just came off as another scheme to get us sold on A Cappella Innovations. Also, each group was assigned a staff member to help coordinate logistics. All of the coordinators, from what I saw, were young (18-25) and fairly attractive girls. Our coordinator was almost constantly sending us text messages, and a lot of them were almost sexual.

These opinions are my own, and they don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of my group. But these are the things that I experienced this weekend. The professional groups were amazing, the adjudications were very, very helpful, it was nice to meet other groups, and it would have been nice to get critiqued more by them. All in all, there were definitely a lot of positives that my group will be taking from the weekend, but much of the weekend was hard to take seriously because of the cult buzz.
AnonymousBass
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:38 am

Postby liquid5thcarl » Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:55 am

Groove Society kicked ass and working with Tony, their sound guy was great for me.

Meeting and working with Blake Lewis was really cool for me especially from a technical standpoint. Watching him work with his looping and effects equipment was really impressive.

FORK ROCKED LIKE NO OTHER, as expected. Kurt, Michael, Joseph, and myself recounted to many people our experience from SoJam, in an attempt to prepare people for the awesomeness that would ensue at A Cappella Innovation, but the response from people after they saw Fork for themselves was consistent...mouth open, speechless. I guess you really can't put it into words.

As to the other aspects of the event, I have much the same perspective as Tony, being a paid contractor for the event, and sitting behind the sound board most of the day. I can only speak to what I witnessed, the judging sessions, concerts, and my personal interactions with the organizers.

The judging sessions are definitely the best opportunity that ACI provides, IMO, for groups to get truly valuable feedback and use it to improve. For those that weren't there, each group gets an hour to sing for their panel of judges on stage (using mics and the sound system...which is great for me, so I have something to do). They get feedback from judges of various disciplines (to which I will speak in a moment) and an opportunity to incorporate the feedback right then in an effort to improve their performance. For this aspect alone, I think the event carries great value.

The judges come from the fields of a cappella certainly, but also dance, drama, film, and others. I know there have been some feelings of uncertainty of the usefulness of some of the judges based on their having no direct link to a cappella, and I'd be interested to know more specifically what those concerns are, but viewing the event from a bird's eye point of view, it seemed that having feedback from people that know a lot about other aspects of performance, regardless of their interest in a cappella, would be a good thing. A cappella is about the singing and arranging, but in performance it is also about your mic technique, stage presence, choreography, and maybe some other elements, so there certainly is a place for feedback that isn't limited strictly to the "a cappellaness" of the performance. Again, I'd be interested to hear more on this and how people felt, even about specific judges.

As to the workshops and collection and sharing of information, I cannot speak. I saw them simply from a, walking-by-on-my-way-to-do-something-else, point of view.

The concerts were simply excellent. ACI did bring in some class acts, most of whom I've already gushed about. I would like to see a better crowd turn out, and might even go to a two night concert structure, rather than three, because, lets face it, Sunday night is not usually the go-out-to-a-show-and-stay-up-late night for most people. The majority of the college groups need to be headed back to school for class on Monday and it is a shame for them to miss an act like Fork.

My personal interactions with the organizing staff have been good. I find them to be very easy to talk to and get along with, and generally very friendly people. They care a lot about what they are doing at A Cappella Innovations and certainly about what NXIVM is doing, though I can't speak to any connection between the activities of the two, other than to say that it is there. Whether it is some sinister ploy to dupe college students into joining a cult, or simply an organization interested in furthering its promotional agenda by being involved in a cappella, I have no idea. I personally haven't been asked for any sensitive information as an employee of the event, nor have I felt pressured or brainwashed...though, I guess if it were brainwashing that would kinda be the point :-)

There is a lot of bad press out there about this group and its activities. A five minute Google search will turn up enough material for you to read all day and still have more. The only question that I have is why there is no press from the other perspective. Because there isn't, it comes as no surprise that many of the attendees have been put off a bit by the event and its links to NXIVM, when there is little in print or online to go against the articles like the ones mentioned by the author of this thread.

To be certain there is a lot a group can get out of this event. If you like meat, an incredible dining experience isn't one of them ;-) There is a lot for anyone potentially interested in attending to consider and evaluate, and everyone must make their own assumptions and conclusions about what they read and the usefulness of this event for achieving their goals in a cappella.

If I think of anything else of note I'll mention it as the thread continues.

Carl Taylor Producer Transit - 2009 - Present Appalachian State Higher Ground - 1999-2002 carl[at]liquid5th[dot]com http://www.liquid5th.com/

liquid5thcarl
 
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2005 12:01 pm
Location: Raleigh, NC

Postby liquid5thcarl » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:11 am

AnonymousBass did remind me of the scheduling issue, which even from the behind the scenes perspective was difficult to cope with.

In so far as the events taking place in the large auditorium, for which I was responsible for sound setup, I didn't know what the sound check order or concert schedule was going to be until very shortly before hand. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that the college groups that sang at each show were selected by the judges.

For me it simply made it difficult to plan out sound checks and make sure they went quickly and smoothly. It usually resulted in opening the doors about 15 minutes late each night. In itself not a huge deal for me, but some more breathing room for tech related issues would be great.

In any event, I do think more effort in creating and sticking to a published schedule for the entire weekend could serve to make the event flow better and feel more organized.

Carl Taylor Producer Transit - 2009 - Present Appalachian State Higher Ground - 1999-2002 carl[at]liquid5th[dot]com http://www.liquid5th.com/

liquid5thcarl
 
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2005 12:01 pm
Location: Raleigh, NC

Postby vocalmark » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:01 am

Carl Taylor wrote:To be certain there is a lot a group can get out of this event. If you like meat, an incredible dining experience isn't one of them ;-)


I lol'd.

Mark Hines The Vocal Company - www.thevocalcompany.com SoJam, 2011 Executive Producer CASA, 2010 Board of Directors

vocalmark
 
Posts: 417
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2005 9:13 pm
Location: Raleigh-Durham, NC

Postby appbigcountry » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:28 am

I wasn't at this event, but I have found this thread extremely interesting. One thing that seems to keep popping up for me is the different persepectives that people had on the weekend being directly associated with their age.

A lot of the people on this board that are older, out of college, and were more on the presenting side of the weekend didn't really seem to get the feeling that there was any sort of funny business going on, other than the terrible scheduling.

Looking at this as if it really was some sort of way to bring people into their little group, this is to be expected. You all are older, wiser, and most importantly, less impressionable.

The people who felt the most uncomfortable and pressured were the college students. That's who these groups want to target, not the older, more established people. There are a lot of college students that can be pretty easily manipulated. If somebody tells you that you need to sign a waiver or give your SSN if you want to be able to perform or be a part of this weekend (or something like that), most students are going to comply because they want to take part in what sounds like a kickass a cappella event.

I'm more interested in what the people from the college groups have to say about the weekend. I think that's where we'll really get into the meat of what happened.

Also, just from a devil's advocate point of view, the two Acappella Innovations events are a textbook example of how to hook people. When someone posted things about NVIXM before the first one, people were wary, but at the actual event it was nothing but a great time. Right, that's because they don't want to scare people away the first time, they want them to think it's something that they should come back to. Enter the second, hastily put together event. People come back because they had a great time before, only this time things are a little different and there's an amount of pressure being applied to certain induviduals. Of course there will be another event coming up in the coming months, can you imagine how that will go?
Matt King
Appalachian State Higher Ground 2003-2007
www.asuhigherground.com
www.myspace.com/apphigherground
appbigcountry
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri May 25, 2007 9:30 am
Location: Boone, NC

Postby billhare » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:29 am

appbigcountry wrote:Looking at this as if it really was some sort of way to bring people into their little group, this is to be expected. You all are older, wiser, and most importantly, less impressionable.


Yeah, but for some reason Ben and Carl keep calling me and asking for my Social Security number...

;-)

-B

Bill Hare Some dude who records and mixes people who can't play instruments. http://www.dyz.com

billhare
 
Posts: 2002
Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2003 11:14 am
Location: Silicon Valley, CA

Postby bstevens » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:30 am

billhare wrote:Yeah, but for some reason Ben and Carl keep calling me and asking for my Social Security number...

;-)

-B


It's just that we've never seen one with so many ZEROES in it!
bstevens
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 636
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 3:19 pm
Location: Mid-Hudson Valley, NY

Postby AMalkoff » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:39 am

appbigcountry wrote:Also, just from a devil's advocate point of view, the two Acappella Innovations events are a textbook example of how to hook people. When someone posted things about NVIXM before the first one, people were wary, but at the actual event it was nothing but a great time. Right, that's because they don't want to scare people away the first time, they want them to think it's something that they should come back to. Enter the second, hastily put together event. People come back because they had a great time before, only this time things are a little different and there's an amount of pressure being applied to certain induviduals. Of course there will be another event coming up in the coming months, can you imagine how that will go?


bingo. the very reason why the sound guys, judges and pros there are saying they didn't really notice these things, or it was just a "little creepy", but nothing to worry about. this kind of organization knows what they're doing. the goal is to fly under the radar and target those who are the most impressionable, and deliberately leave the adults/pros out of their pitches. hence the attractive young women texting the groups, being overly friendly, etc.

i am still very concerned hearing people say, "oh it was a little creepy, but the MUSIC WAS GREAT!". to me, the latter should not cancel out the former. we can put together events like this that have no potentially insidious subtext, and we should. and the comparison to a pepsi or coke sponsorship doesn't hold up, because you clearly know their intentions (drink our product!). not the case here.

i personally have no tolerance for proselytizing in any form, or going to a (supposed) music conference and having it actually be a sales pitch for something else that noone can actually define but that makes the participants uncomfortable. i'm disappointed that the money that's thrown at this event and the organizers' willingness to bring in big names is overshadowing something that seems not just a little suspect. we as a community will "pay" a price for being involved here. as ai continues to (likely) bring in bigger and more impressive names, they'll also ramp up their recruitment/sales efforts. is that something we're ok with?
Amy Malkoff
Now: All About Buford - www.allaboutbuford.com | ICCA Judge | CASA Board of Directors + Director of Web Content | www.amymalkoff.com/harmony
Then: Deadline Poet | Kenyon College's Owl Creek Singers
AMalkoff
 
Posts: 211
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2003 4:53 am
Location: birthplace of the American Navy

Postby whataboutrob » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:02 am

Yeah, good points Amy. Although I think Pepsi and Coke have greater branding ambitions than simply, "Drink our product", I think we can agree that Pepsi and Coke are "legitimate" corporations with a high degree of public accountability and a track record of providing funding and services for the arts without being strange or insidious about pushing their product (for example, Pepsi has put just a ton of money into the Performing Arts Center here at SUNY Purchase, and they don't have any pitches during festivals here, just some basic advertisement).

I also think that it goes without saying that the pros (sound guys, performers, etc) were likely PAID by AI for their participation, which might color their judgement just a bit. (By the way, if they weren't, someone please correct me)...

And I agree: we can, and do, put on events as a community that have no motive outside of encouraging good singing and community building. I think the question here is whether or not AI has shown the ability to put on such an event. The answer, it's looking like, is no on that front...
whataboutrob
 
Posts: 298
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 2:24 pm
Location: Purchase, NY

Postby livingfiction » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:51 am

appbigcountry wrote:
The people who felt the most uncomfortable and pressured were the college students. That's who these groups want to target, not the older, more established people.


Target? See, here's where I guess there's something in people's minds that I'm not understanding. What are people afraid they're being "targeted" for?

Maybe this is the danger of the lack of information available in regard to what NXIVM does and who they are. But that's really a catch 22 for them isn't it? If people come to the event, and there are NXIVM flyers and information around, everyone screams recruitment, if there aren't, then it's somehow secret or shady.

After last year's event I spent an hour or so in the NXIVM center waiting for my ride to the airport. It's just a normal building with classrooms, bathrooms, and a vegetarian cafe (surprise surprise). There were people hanging out there, and it wasn't til then that I had people telling me about the company and what they did. When talks about the next (most recent) event began, and my involvement was certain I decided I wanted to check out one of their classes to know a little more about these people I was working for.

So I did, and I really didn't know what to expect, but the overall experience was a positive one. There were personal questions and discussions, but I'd paid to attend a personal improvement sort of class, so that was kind of expected. The food was all vegetarian, but awesome, not the bean wraps from the event. Honestly, I thought it was all good stuff. Examination of some of my patterns, and why I respond the way I do to different things, as well as looking at my goals, and how to accomplish them. It was cool, kind of empowering, I had a good time and felt good about the experience, still do.

But I was never offered a membership card, or put through any sort of ritual, there was nothing spiritual about it. I was never challenged about my faith, or family at all. None of the things I've read about the diabolical effects these groups can have. And since the class I haven't been hounded.

I guess I just don't understand the fear. What is it anyone's afraid is going to happen? I've been to two events, I'm okay. I even went to a NXIVM event, still okay, maybe even better for the both of them.

It's true I'm employed by the festival, and I confess I love finally getting paid to shoot a cappella concerts, buy my love for a cappella and the community I've enjoyed being a part of for the last 4 years more than any individual show. If I'd gone to that class and felt something subversive, I'd be the first to speak out.

Who knows, maybe I'm just not young, talented, or hot enough for them to want to recruit me to this mysterious cult element people seem concerned about.
livingfiction
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:13 pm
Location: Behind the Lens

PreviousNext

Return to General Chat

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest