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Home > Main > SoJam 2011 – A Cappella’s Magic Moments

SoJam 2011 – A Cappella’s Magic Moments

by Florian Städtler, November 15th 2011

They say that every time you go abroad, you learn something. Mostly about yourself. Because broadening your horizon, coming to know different people with various backgrounds, having to adjust to local customs, food and socializing gives you an additional perspective on what and how you do things “at home”.

For me, who has (except for a one-day trip signing Rockapella in 2005) never travelled the United States, the invitation to the US’ no. 1 a cappella festival, SoJam, was an opportunity to prove the truth of the common knowledge mentioned above.

German Vocal Music Summit at SoJam 2011

However, somehow I had the feeling that I’m going to a place (Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina) where I wouldn’t feel like a complete stranger. And thanks to the Vocal Blog network on Facebook and Twitter I had an amazing welcome. I just couldn’t believe how often I heard the question “Are you Florian?” And this large number of very friendly people from all over the US weren’t even embarrassed every time I was unable to recognize my Facebook friends at first sight. It was fascinating, too, how one common topic, vocal music, made it possible to skip small talk after a very short time. And so I listened, asked questions, asked for feedback and I learnt and learnt and learnt…

…that Americans think the European scene is way ahead regarding quality and artistry

…that the Europeans envy the US for their rich collegiate a cappella culture and the natural talent of entertainment

…that a three-days festival like SoJam can be run on a 100% professional level mostly by volunteers

Tom Keyes, Stefanie Chase, Florian Städtler, Bill Hare, Dave Sperandio, Joan Hare

…that such a team of volunteers can include a wild mix of age, musical background, home  towns, talent and tempers

…that as we know it from the European community, this diverse group of people seems to  be held together by a general mindset of openness, positivity and camaraderie (my term for  that phenomenon: “a cappella glue”)

…that CASA (The Contemporary A Cappella Society) has developed a fantastic portfolio of  valuable services and hands-on offers for their fast growing membership

…that it’s very clever to not make a festival the biggest, but the one with the best atmosphere  even if that means limiting tickets and festival passes

Little Beatboxer Gabriel meeting The Boxettes

…that women are coming on oh-so-strong in contemporary a cappella, with The Boxettes at  the pro showcase (opening for Naturally7), three out of six collegiate competitors being  all-female groups and Musae as another pro all-female act that had nothing to do with the cliché of the nice but slighty boring vocal girl group, which has by now become a cliché of  the past

…that festivals have the same importance in the US as they have in the whole world: They  produce both the all-important face-to-face, community-building encounters and the stellar moments like the SoJam Saturday night concert featuring Naturally7 and The Boxettes: The  final piece that found 12 fantastic vocal music virtuosos dancing caused a scary eruption of ovations by 950 mesmerized attendants – these are those moments that we will be talking of for years.

…that festivals gain intensity by resident guests that are involved both in concerts, workshops and panels. Great job by Kurt Walker who managed to have both The Boxettes and N7 around during most time of the festival. This reminded me of the magic spread by Bobby McFerrin’s presence at the Aarhus Vocal Music Festival, May 2011. It’s the sheer presence of such luminaries that motivates and inspires the participants

…that – on days of jetlag, little sleep and the occasional hangover – it’s as hard as in Europe to  find a running partner. That didn’t keep me from going out for two Vocal Jogs around Raleigh. Almost run over by a pick-up truck who didn’t see the necessity of stopping for a single  Vocal Jogger (see above: foreign habits), it was wonderful to see a bit of the city and the  surrounding forests.

3 Men - 1 Mission: To add Clare Wheeler to this party!

…that Christopher Diaz and Dave Brown ( podcast) are as cool and funny as in their show. And that I’m now owing two Acappellazone “Eat.Sleep.Sing” t-shirts. Boys, those shirts are on their way to the So & Jam of contemporary a cappella!

…that there could be no better studio setting than festival founder Dave Sperandio‘s garage for a great session of about 15 video greetings summing up this year’s festival,

…that even a seasoned festival traveller can be completely stunned by the quality and deepness of a clinic: Ben Stevens (dayjob: professor of literature) thrilled his students with his cult lecture “Essential Listening”. The core message: Listening should become a pro-active core competence. Because if we treat it like that, listening can truly enrich our lives. Ben, this is wonderful and so was your presentation.

I could go on and on and on, but I’d rather keep some of these wonderful impressions and write more about in further posts. Before I do that, I would love to hear what YOUR “take-home messages” of SoJam 2011 were – let’s share them here on the blog!

Florian Städtler, owner of SpielPlanVier is a booking agent and a corporate event planner based in Freiburg, Germany. He started his “global vocal music communication baby”, the Vocal Blog in 2009 and is member of the core team that works on the foundation of the European Voices Association (EVA). 2011 was is first – and very probably not his last time – to learn from his wonderful American friends. Hope to see many of you at London A Cappella Festival 2012, see next post!

  1. 16. November 2011, 12:18 | #1

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you for this in depth summary of a yet another inspiring a cappella festival, this time in the United States. I loved your theory about “a cappella glue”, we witness this phenomenon everytime the community gets together especially at festivals like SoJam and the Aarhus Vocal Festival.
    I can’t help feeling just a litte jealous of all who were there last weekend but although we try our best, those of us with “mugal” lives cannot take to every magical a cappella spot in this universe.
    Would SoJam have been worth our travelling from Germany to North Carolina for the weekend?
    Now that you’ve almost seen it all could you ( or EVA) give us a sort of a cappella calender for the next year …a sort of A cappella Reiseführer with descriptions the groups expected, target audiences and general budget guideline. believe it or not, many of us try to plan our precious vacation time accordingly and the financial aspect cannot be underrated.
    Just an idea. Meanwhile, thanks for keeping us abreast with what is happening in the a cappella world.
    All the best,

  2. 16. November 2011, 17:35 | #2

    Dear Deborah,

    thanks a lot for your comment. It’s such a privilege for me having been able to attend some of the greatest vocal music festivals since I’ve started Vocal Blog two years ago. The idea of the calendar including the world’s top a cappella festivals is fantastic and I will work on this. I would probably look for a top10 selection to keep it this from getting another full-time job ;-)

    So thanks again for sharing Vocal Blog and joining the conversation – stay tuned and hopefully the International A Cappella Festival Calendar will soon become reality.

    Best wishes, FSt/Florian

  3. Emily May
    16. November 2011, 18:35 | #3

    Yes Florian! And I would like a list of a-capella workshops/camps, like Vocal Pop and Jazz days (which I visited six times, organised every two years in The Netherlands, but for the first time in Oberhausen Germany 2012) and New York Voices Jazz Camp in Ohio 2012…
    But a list of camps in Europe would be nice (if there are any more…).
    Good luck :-))

  4. 16. November 2011, 21:17 | #4

    Hey Emily,

    great idea to add the most important educational events to the calendar. So if you have more ideas and suggestions for particular events, let me know.

    Let’s create “The A Cappella Traveller’s Guide to the Universe”. And the win the Lufthansa Lottery and all become Mileonaires.

    Hugs, FSt/Florian

  5. Joan Hare
    19. November 2011, 20:27 | #5

    Florian, it was so nice to be able to spend time with you at SoJam.

    And now that I’ve sat next to you and your iPad and bluetooth keyboard on several occasions – watching you type and yet at the same time be fully engaged in what’s going on around you – I’ve got a whole new appreciation for what you do.

    You write Vocal Blog so beautifully, while also (I assume) taking care of a great deal of business, and interacting on a personal level with those who happen to be there with you face-to-face.

    And last but not least, you’re just an all-around nice guy!

  6. 19. November 2011, 20:52 | #6

    Dear Joan,

    what can I say? I feel so honoured and it means a lot to me, that my work with Vocal Blog and with the fantastic groups I’m happy to represent find more and more people who appreciate and literally seem to “follow” it.

    It was wonderful to meet you at SoJam, because you are one of the living proofs, that enthusiasm for vocal music and the a cappella community can transcend countries, languages, social backgrounds, musical tastes, levels of experience and all these things keep many people from simply being open-minded, curious and as we in Germany say “hellwach” (= wide awake).

    Thanks for joining your a cappella experience with all of us, WE LOVE YOU!

    Hugs and kisses to California, hope to speak soon. (London A Cappella Festival!!)


  7. Joan Hare
    19. November 2011, 20:59 | #7

    Awwwww, Florian, I’m overwhelmed! What can I say? Hugs and kisses to you in Germany (or wherever you happen to be) – and real ones in London!

  1. 27. November 2011, 18:56 | #1
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