Last week at rehearsal, I made the following declaration:
“This group is a runaway train. You can either stay on for the ride, or get off.”
For as long as I’ve been singing a cappella, I knew that this statement, which I honestly had not planned in advance to say, was the most truthful thing I had ever said in an a cappella rehearsal.
I said it because I felt I had to be honest with the other members of the group. A cappella, for me, is not a hobby, nor is it a fascination. It is an obsession, one that drives me to dedicate my life to the art form. Through my years of college, grad school, and doctoral candidacy, I knew that the only form of music I wanted to hear when I got up out of bed in the morning was anything a cappella.
And so I made this declarative statement to both inspire and warn, and I say it to you now for the same purpose: I will do whatever is necessary to advance the art form. I will not stop pursuing new ideas and trying new techniques. I will not lay back and go on vacation, just because it’s the summer. I will not let anyone in the group, or anyone outside the group hold me back from moving forward. It wasn’t the group that was the runaway train, it was me.
Did that statement ring true with you or did you think I was a bit harsh? Well, the jagged truth is that the people you see becoming the names you know are runaway trains. They are in pursuit of the grand prize, while others are happy with the participation trophy. I certainly haven’t won any grand prize yet, nor will I anytime soon, but my eye is on the proverbial prize and the train is always headed in that direction.
With the summer looming and the school year gone, maybe it is time to ask yourself the tougher questions: Do you believe in the runaway train, or would you prefer the train didn’t exist? Does everyone in your group share your beliefs? Why, exactly, are you in this group? When you ask yourself the questions that only you can answer, and then you lie to yourself about what those answers are, that is what causes the drama and the controversy. With so much happening in a cappella today, and the exponential growth that seems too big to control right now, you have to adapt or move aside.
In other words, a cappella is a runaway train. You can stay on for the ride, or get off.