Every year in a cappella, there are dozens of festivals available for groups, instructors, and individuals alike to attend, held by organizations like CASA, AEA or high school programs and college groups. As many former festival goers will tell you, when you look back, these weekends will become some of your favorite a cappella memories, so it's important to take full advantage of every moment of the weekend! Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you head into an a cappella festival weekend:
Don't miss the competition
Competitions at a festival like BOSS are unlike any a cappella competition you've seen before. Out of the box is the baseline, and just getting onto the stage is a competition. These sets will challenge the way you think about creating a cohesive set, and this year's BOSS performers are powerhouses that will be putting their best set out there. Plus, you can get a chance to see the sets before they get masterclassed by the pros on Saturday. Coming to BOSS or just want to catch up on who's competiting tonight? Catch the latest from the competitors!
Go to everything you can on the schedule
A cappella festival weekends typically start on a Friday night and go until late Saturday or Sunday afternoon. While you may have travel restrictions that stop you from attending everything on the schedule, make sure you go to everything planned on the days you are in town! You may not have heard of every group performing or competing, and classes also probably start earlier than you are usually up on a weekend - but these are things you won't want to miss. The events and classes were scheduled for a reason, and you want to make sure you're making the most of the investment you put into attending! No matter what you hear, every element of a festival is worth seeing. Festivals are what you make of them - the more you see, the more you can learn from and take home with you.
Pick your own classes, don't just follow the pack
In every hour-long class session, there are multiple classes going on at once. Make sure to check out the schedule in advance and locate the room number so you can attend the classes that most interest YOU, not your whole group. A big mistake people often make is walking in to the class day blind and just following the crowd. It's okay to go to class with a partner or a small group, just make sure the class you're in is something you really want to attend. All the classes were hand selected by the pros running the event, so you can't go wrong with whatever you choose!
Follow the Festival
The folks planning these festivals have this whole system down to a science, and they do their best to keep you informed and updated online and on social media. Take advantage of their hard work and be sure to follow them for important updates - sometimes things change day of or new, limited time opportunites come up. Only those closely following the festival will catch these, so make sure you don't miss out! This weekend, you can keep up with BOSS on their Facebook, website, and Twitter. Be sure to engage with them too! Which leads me to my next point....
Talk to strangers
This is probably something you usually avoid, but in this case, anyone with a festival badge is relatively pre-approved and open for conversation! A cappella festivals are a unique experience where you can bond with people you wouldn't usually see and automatically have something in common with them. It's okay if you're awkward, confession: deep down we all are. Most attendees probably only came in knowing a handful of people, and everyone wants to make friends. Don't be afraid of putting yourself out there and saying hi to a stranger in class! Once you leave the weekend, you'll have a brand new support system to reach out to for all things a cappella.
Get on Social Media
Since you're always on your phone anyway, one of the best ways to stay connected to what's going on at the a cappella festival is to utilize social media! Event staff typically do a great job posting live updates in the Facebook event or on Twitter using the weekend's featured hashtag. If you aren't already on those platforms, joining them and interacting online can be a great way to build more connections and make sure you don't miss out on a cool happening over the weekend! When the weekend is done, you can easily read back quotes from classes, connect with instructors, and add your new friends from other groups so the learning doesn't stop when it's time to go home.
During large class sessions, it can sometimes feel daunting to ask what feels like a personal question about your group or experience. No question will ever be judged as stupid, and odds are 4 other people in the room wanted to ask the same thing but were too nervous! Every class is set up differently, as some instructors will build in time for questions, let questions come at any time, or the class will be more of a roundtable, story sharing format. If you feel the question is something you don't want addressed in a public setting, chat with the instructor after class! Most will be happy to give you their email or chat with you during a lunch or networking session. Ask questions at the right time, but don't hesitate to raise your hand and speak your mind! Your instructor, classmates, and group will thank you for it.
The point of going to an a cappella festival is to get invaluable knowledge, watch out-of-this-world a cappella performances, and make memories and friendships that can, in the least corny way possible, last a life time. Take full advantage of everything the weekend has to offer, but more importantly, have a blast! Maybe we'll see you there ;)