HomeCamp A Cappella, Year One: Be Part Of It!

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Camp A Cappella  noun  \'kamp ä-kə-ˈpe-lə\

    : a summer program for high-school singers. A place where teenagers from different groups and different states come together for five delightful, challenging, and game-changing days. With ridiculously talented and cool instructors.

    : where you'll be for June 11 - 15, 2013

    : See also http://deke34.wix.com/camp-acappella

You might think that college groups have been pulling their new recruits from high school a cappella camps for ages, but amazingly, 2013 will be the very first summer of Camp A Cappella. There have long been show choir camps, vocal jazz camps, of course musical theater camps and classical camps, and finally contemporary music is stepping up to join the fray. Camp A Capella will bring together singers of all backgrounds (pop, classical, jazz…) to focus on the music they love to listen to (be it Top 40, hip-hop, country, or your local indie college radio station) and to step up their a cappella game. 

Who's in charge?  You couldn't put together a more talented cast of characters to run the program. At the helm are co-directors Deke Sharon and Brody McDonald. Sharon is the founder, director and arranger for the House Jacks, the original "Rock Band Without Instruments"; he produces The Sing-Off worldwide (USA, Netherlands, China); he served as arranger, on-site music director and vocal producer for Universal's Pitch Perfect, and he has been called "the father of contemporary a cappella." McDonald knows high school a cappella in and out: his award-winning a cappella group, Eleventh Hour, is the first high school group to be featured on The Sing-Off and was recently featured on ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Joining them will be the House Jacks, serving as the camp's Artists in Residence. Each member of the House Jacks will bring his own skill set to bear on the curriculum: Nick Girard, for example, is is a world-class engineer and producer, and Austin Willacy has been directing the award-winning teen a cappella group 'Til Dawn for a decade and has facilitated over 30 youth retreats. 

Who's going to Camp A Cappella?  "Anybody who can match pitch and hold a part," says Sharon. This summer's program is open to high school students, whether in a group or solo, as well as directors (music educators). McDonald suggests that high schools can treat this program as their groups' summer retreat, an opportunity for groups to bond socially and make huge leaps musically as they gear up for the fall. 

Students are already signing up, and they're psyched. Holly Gyenes, of Kettering Fairmont High School, is a singer in Eleventh Hour, which she describes as "an incredible experience [which] has made me appreciate and LOVE a cappella more than I already did." Her choir department inspired her to sign up for Camp A Cappella, and she's looking forward to working with the camp's high-powered instructional team. Says Gyenes, "It is amazing to have the opportunity to work with such awesome people. I also hope to make new friends, and of course, I am looking forward to five days of singing, learning, and fun!"

Where are the participants coming from? It's a residential program (at Ohio State University), and participants are coming from near and far. Already, there are sign-ups from all over the midwest. "I love the idea of being able to cross state and group lines," says Sharon. The activities will intermingle singers from different schools into small ensembles.

Will the program be challenging? Sharon compares the camp participants' task to a week of The Sing-Off -- taking a song from zero to fantastic in a matter of days. "It's going to seem impossible to students who are used to having a whole semester, but it's totally possible and exciting," he says. Throughout the week, there will be sessions on improv, arranging, recording, vocal percussion - you name it. But there are no prerequisites: even if you've only sung classical or vocal jazz, if you want to sing contemporary a cappella, then this program is for you. Sharon says, "We don't need to teach a style. The music we're helping them make is the music they've grown up with. it's inside of them, we're just helping them get it out." 

What happens afterwards? The experience doesn't end when the five days are over. Sharon says: "Our hope is that it's a program they return to, and a connection for their lives - we'll have a Facebook group for alums, and as they progress through high school and into college, they'll have each other as a constant, ongoing support system. So they can say: "Hey, we just recorded this - what do you think of this track?" and get feedback. They'll be able to keep the conversation going."

That sounds awesome. How can I (or someone I know) be a part of it? The inaugural Camp A Cappella class will be capped at 140 high school students, though in the future the program could certainly expand (and may have a parallel collegiate track as well). This year, there will also be a track for directors: any educators who are in charge of running groups are encouraged to participate. High school students and directors can sign up online (http://deke34.wix.com/camp-acappella#!signup/c1vud).  There are also a limited number of slots for college students and music educators to participate as counselors, who will have the opportunity to TA classes (and, like camp counselors everywhere, provide s'mores). Counselor hopefuls can apply online (http://deke34.wix.com/camp-acappella#!be-a-counselor/c15sd).

Camp A Cappella has been a long time in the works, and is a labor of love for its organizers. What sets it apart? "How deeply we care about making this an amazing experience," says Brody. "I don't think you're going to find another camp where people are so passionate."

About the writer:
Marisa Debowsky learned to love singing contemporary a cappella in days of yore (namely sixth grade), and sang her way through college and grad school (in the UVM Cat's Meow).  While in the Northeast, she co-founded and co-produced the Vermont A Cappella Summit.  She continues to be active in the community, both as a singer and an event organizer (and arranger and sometimes booking agent).