An Introvert's Guide to A cappella
Recently, I read an article, or rather a comic strip, that perfectly summed up how I would describe my personality. You see, I am an introvert. According to the comic, the main difference between introverts and extroverts is how they gain and lose energy.
Extroverts gain their energy by being around people. When they need energy, they socialize. Introverts make their own energy by thinking, reading, creating, etc. Socializing is seen as a way they spend energy. That’s why introverts often feel exhausted after being social and have trouble being social multiple times in a row.
So why would someone so introverted, like myself, be so attracted to a vocal genre that is, by definition, an extroverted music experience? After all, unless you are live looping or you’re Bobby McFerrin, a cappella cannot be performed live without another person, which forces you to become extroverted.
My introverted personality often wins the argument, especially when I’m faced with a choice of going to the after party or going home and being alone. (Home usually wins) I can’t imagine that I’m the only introverted person in a cappella today, so here is my handy guide to being a successful a cappella introvert (with a few lessons that I should follow myself)
1) The Lunchroom Scenario
A cappella festivals are often packed with the who’s who of the game, and these people tend to know each other from years of experience and collaboration. So what if you’re the outsider? What if you get your tray of food, you look around the lunchroom, and all the popular kids are at the popular table, a table you desperately want to be a part of?
A cappella is a much friendlier genre than you think. The people who are clustered around their own table only do so because they know each other, not because they are trying to exclude you. Never once have I ever heard someone say “Uh oh. Here comes _______. Let’s make sure they don’t sit here.”
Just because you are an introvert doesn’t mean that no one wants to hang out with you. It just means that you have to make the first move. Your best course of action is to approach these people separately, make conversation, and then leave. They will remember you and, over time, they will get more comfortable around you. Then, there just might be a seat at the table for you.
2) The Peer Pressure Scenario
This happens with my a cappella group all the time. (cue the angry text messages now…) Rehearsal is over, I’m exhausted from spending my well-earned introvert energy, and they want to keep the party going by hanging out. Now I’m torn.
You see, I understand, just as much as anyone, that these hang out sessions are one of the most important exercises in becoming a great a cappella group. Group bonding is the key to group success, and group success is something I want very badly. But I don’t want to keep the party going, because I am physically and mentally drained.
What do you do? You basically have two options, neither of which is bad, just different. You can either force yourself to hangout, keeping in mind that it’s for the good of the group, or you can keep your distance, and treat them like you would a class of students, where you are the teacher and though you enjoy their company, it stays strictly professional.
I know groups that work both ways, successfully. But if you want to hangout without the stress of hanging out directly after rehearsal, why not do what my group does now, and schedule some hangout time on your calendar, and treat it as importantly as you would a regular rehearsal?
3) Sing More, Talk Less
Carrying on a conversation with someone I barely know, or talking to someone I’ve known for too long and having nothing to say, are the two biggest reasons I avoid conversation. I detest trying to force conversation and I often avoid situations where I might have to do that.
But singing, especially in a group, or even improvising in a circle song setting, is much more natural, and much easier for me to do. The conversation isn’t technically about anything, because you’re just singing. The easiest way to make friends is to sing.
And that may be the very reason I’m drawn to a cappella music. Singing, especially improvising, is as natural to me as breathing air. I don’t have to think about it. I just do it. When I’m in a group of people singing, I don’t think about how introverted I am. I’m not even worrying about whether or not these people like me as a person. I’m lost in the moment and singing is the quickest way to get to that euphoric feeling. Singing a cappella allows me to act extroverted while simultaneously gaining introverted energy because I’m creating.
How does an introvert survive in a primarily extroverted activity? Sing, and don’t ever stop.
If you want to read the original comic that inspired this post, go here: