What is A Cappella University?

The inaugural A Cappella University was an amazing week for all involved! As a workshop sponsored by the Wisconsin State Music Association (WSMA), students were given an opportunity to sing in small and large groups and learn about the art of vocal music. The students ranged from 12-18 years old, half of whom have never done a cappella before!

Day 1 of Aca U

A Cappella University is Wisconsin's camp for all things contemporary a cappella. Students learned from professionals in the a cappella industry, from professional groups to accomplished educators and enthusiasts. Throughout the week there were performances from Six Appeal, Vocalight, and Parkside Range.

They also got a chance to take classes in an array of fields, such as beatboxing, arranging, and vocal technique. Students got a head start on learning the music for the Wisconsin School Music Association's (WSMA) first ever contemporary a cappella solo/ensemble competition for the coming school year. All held on the beautiful University of Wisconsin -- Parkside campus.

Final Rehearsal

Headliners, Six Appeal, performed a concert and workshopped with all of the small ensembles. They also helped lead and participate in classes.

We had an incredible time and we want to be more involved next year! We are so happy to be a part of this from the start and we really believe in what [the staff] has started.
-Jordan Roll, Six Appeal

Six Appeal at Aca U

This has been an excellent experience and I hope it was as life-enhancing to all of the students as it was for us.
-Jordan Roll, Six Appeal

The small and large ensembles were singing music that is a part of the new Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) solo/ensemble list. WSMA sponsored this event and we are extremely excited to see a cappella make its way into the fall WSMA lineup.

Aca U's Final Concert

The host group at A Cappella University was UW-Parkside's own Parkside Range. They workshopped with professionals, took classes, and worked as counselors for Aca U. University of Wisconsin-Parkside hosted this amazing weeklong camp as it aligns with their brand new contemporary commercial music program

Parkside Range at Aca U

Earlier this year, Parkside Range went through the devastating loss of their vocal percussionist, Landen Brown. In his memory, the members of Parkside Range spread his motto "3s Up". This was something Landen was extremely passionate about, and it stands for the three things he would always say: "Be real: be yourself. Be righteous: stand for something. Be relevant: improve yourself everyday." 

The entire group at Aca U really connected with this and it truly created a family atmosphere amongst students and staff.

Classes Taught at A Cappella University

"Vocal Percussion" taught by Lauren Wilson
This class focused on teaching basic sounds and patterns and how to apply these patterns to contemporary a cappella songs. Students were also shown examples of how vocal percussion can change the genre of a song as well as highlight different moments in an arrangement.

"Most of the students at A Cappella University had never beatboxed before, so I loved getting to introduce this exciting new art form to them," said instructor Lauren Wilson. "Most people automatically think they can't do it, but when they learn the basic building blocks and commit to strengthening those sounds, anybody can become a vocal percussionist.

"I really focused on making the classroom a safe and open environment for the students to feel comfortable creating these unnatural feeling sounds and I was amazed to see the support they had for one another when students volunteered to beatbox in front of the class."

"Electronics and Emotion" taught by Tony Huerta and Dennis Gephart
This class discussed the sonic elements of bass, vocal percussion, and singers and how it relates to the sound technician. we talked about the importance of emotion within a piece. Whether it was up tempo or down, how to mentally reach that point.

"I was so proud of how every student was able to draw from their own experiences and emotions and provide a connection to the piece they performed", said instructor Dennis Gephart. "Each group member shared a bit of themselves to provide amazing performances and lifelong friendships."

Day 2 of Aca U
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"Arranging" taught by Lee Stovall
"Arranging" focused on building an arrangement and how to structure it. The class began by setting up a song with its various parts, deciding on a key, rhythm, tempo, and "feel". They then imported the melody and wrote out a bass line before finally filling in the rest of the parts to fit the melody and bass line."

"It was fun to teach beginning arranging," said instructor Lee Stovall. "Students were given the tools to work on part of an arrangement, and spent time creating and evaluating their work. Some students even spent time outside of the arranging class itself to practice and get feedback

"Vocalism in A Cappella" taught by Ryan Stuempges and Ami Bouterse
"Vocalism in A Cappella" focused first on how to use and take care of your voice with Ami. It took the students through many warm ups, cool downs, and the physicality's of the voice. Then transitioned into using proper vocal technique to crest a cappella sounds. Finally rounding out this class, students dove into what makes up a "Vocal Band" and each voice part's function throughout any given arrangement.

"It was an eye opening class that really helped the students go beyond just the notes and rhythms," said instructor Ryan Stuempges. "An interactive look into the sound of the most contemporary A Cappella -- the Vocal Band."

Day 3 of Aca U

Vocalight was the "artist in residence" headliners, meaning they were at Aca U for the entire week. They performed a full set on the opening night, participated in classes as both students and teachers, and were able to hone their craft as performers by being masterclassed by professionals.

Last Day of Aca U

We have never seen such a comprehensive A Cappella experience for beginning and expert musicians! We will be recommending this to every student we teach!
- Michael Brookens, Six Appeal

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