Amy Malkoff: A Brief History of (Boston A Cappella) Time

As someone who’s been around the a cappella scene quite a while (imagine the calendar pages flying backwards, like, a lot), I am now seeing patterns, ebbs and flows that I didn’t, and couldn’t, of course, see when I first started doing this (college). Oh, it’s also important to note that most of my a cappella career thus far has been spent in the Boston area, considered one of the world’s hubs for vocal music.

In the years after I moved here, I started my own group, which morphed into a harmony-rich instrumented band, and then started another. I did the booking for the Nameless Coffeehouse for 8 years. The Nameless has been around since the 60s (!), and I don’t know if a cappella was standard before my stint, but I know it was during those 8 years. I booked professional, collegiate and semi-pro groups as a matter of course. Ask Ball In The House – I booked them there! I also booked the Tufts Amalgamates, and can remember them bounding on stage, and how happy it made me because that kind of crazy energy was such a interesting contrast to the venue’s standard fare of solo singer-songwriters. I had my own a cappella concert series (plural) that ran at different venues for several years. There were lots of groups around of all different stripes, so coming up with acts for my series wasn’t that difficult. The east coast summit was an annual event, bringing people from the east coast and beyond, and it was at one summit several years ago that I met my friends Duwende for the first time.

When I started doing all this, the internet was fledgling, CASA’s news was disseminated via a paper (paper!) newsletter, and social media didn’t exist. I love and vastly prefer our current interconnectedness. But for all of the burgeoning ways to connect/publicize, the 2000s seemed to coincide with a lull in the a cappella community in Boston. Less groups, less concerts, less enthusiasm. The east coast summits stopped, and though there were one-off concerts that popped up, nothing replaced it as a festival.

But sometime around the mid-2000s or so, a new wave. Exciting new groups like Overboard rejuvenated the area, and an influx of talented, enthusiastic individuals moving here buoyed a sagging community. Boston was, and is, hopping again. But we were still missing that summit. Enter BOSS. It simply made sense to have CASA’s newest festival land here, a perfect storm of aca-delightfulness. And this event boasts impressive educational offerings, multiple exciting performances, and so many chances to meet, sing with, and learn from amazing people. In truth, it’s taken and is taking a LOT of hard work to orchestrate BOSS, work done by a group of local (and some non-local) aforementioned enthusiastic individuals. All of whom, myself included, want to see YOU at BOSS because we know exactly how awesome it will be. Awesome with a red carpet. Because that’s how we roll.

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