Why You Should Care About The Aca Open

Why You Should Care About The Aca Open

Why is Varsity Vocals' inaugural Aca Open so important? Charlie Friday lays it out for us!

Sep 23, 2017 by Evan Feist
Why You Should Care About The Aca Open

There have been many a cappella competitions throughout the years. Some have endured, while others have not.

This Saturday marks the inaugural edition of Varsity Vocals’ new competition, The Open, which takes place at Carnegie Hall in New York City. While sharing many surface-level similarities to other competitions, The Open is perhaps the single most important event to enter the a cappella sphere in years. It contains several musically and socially progressive ideas regarding competitions and the a cappella community.

The Open Is Truly Open

The Open is both the name of the competition, and it’s main descriptor. It is completely open to any kind of a cappella music. Folk, world, barbershop, jazz, contemporary, doo-wop? No problem! Want to use an octave effect on the bass? Not an issue. Want to field a *gasp* co-ed barbershop group? Bring it! Want to grab your college group? You are welcome.

This parameter has certainly been fielded by other competitions in the past, notably Aca-Idol from the SingStrong festivals (which are amazing), but the scale of Varsity Vocals’ new endeavor reached to groups around the world.

The Prize: Show Me The Money!

When the announcement email for The Open was sent out, no one in the community was expecting the level of prize granted to the winners.

Generally, competition prizes for these types of events range in the $1,000 plus bonus benefits range. That’s certainly something that will help any group, and a nice reward in addition to the bragging rights associated with a win. The $25,000 prize offered to the victors is a big play, however.

That is sufficient seed money to really give a budding pro group a foundation. Freedom to spend a few months or a year devoting more time to their touring efforts, sound equipment, or studio time for a debut album are all within reach with this prize. This is a game changer both for professional hopefuls, or seasoned performers.

Bringing The Adult Community Together In A New Way

I competed in the Mid-Atlantic regional event with one of my groups in August, and it was a fantastic experience.

Throughout my 20 plus year experience in a cappella music, I’ve competed at dozens of events. The environment that Varsity Vocals established for this series is definitely one of intense preparation, competition, and a play-to-win attitude, but there’s a throughline of great respect and sportsmanship.

At the show, everyone was outgoing, friendly and having a great time with their groups and with each other, but still focused on doing their very best. This combination produced an event that I truly believe (and experienced) was just as great an experience for all the competitors as it was for the fans in the audience.

Beyond Scholastic

Varsity Vocals is best known for their scholastic competitions, the International Champsionship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) and the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA). These events have thousands of competitors and attendees every year, are a centerpoint to many scholastic groups’ focus for each year, and have been the subject of many forms of media.

Yet, many of the participants and fans are only peripherally aware (if at all) of the vibrant post-collegiate a cappella scene. Thousands of people of every age across the country sing in a cappella ensembles of every style as adults.

The Open is casting a huge and well-appreciated light on that community of singers, and as mentioned above, that light is hitting all singers of all styles. It’s showing the students and fans of scholastic that are so, so committed and enthusiastic about their musical experiences that this aca-journey doesn’t end with the school year.

What Varsity Vocals is providing with the Open is a prime example of how competition can be a positive, yet intense and fulfilling part of any singer’s musical life.

The stakes are high, and everyone has brought their "A" game. The possibilities have been blown wide open with The Open, and I can’t wait to see the outcome.

By Charlie Friday