Introducing the BOSS 2015 Host Group: Tufts Amalgamates

AmalgamatesThe Amalgamates. You may know them as the oldest co-ed a cappella group at Tufts University. You may know them as the group that famously rejected Jessica Biel (it was 2002 and she couldn’t blend; ah, hindsight). Or, you may not know them at all because apparently no one seems to be able to pronounce their name right. In my time in the ‘Mates, we were mis-announced and mis-named as a myriad of non-words and bizarre portmanteaus. My personal favorites include, with capitalization for pronunciation emphasis where required:

  • “Ah-mull-GAH-mitts” (think “Narragansett” in the thickest Noath Shoah accent you can muster)
  • “uh-MALL-guh-muts” (because “aw” seemed to be the only vowel he could use)
  • “Ammill-GAY-meets” (yes, this was real)

    And everyone’s favorite:

  • “Animal Gametes” (no, really, someone said that)

More important than all of these horrible examples of lexical butchery is the fact that the Amalgamates are finally not only coming to BOSS, but they’re hosting it. That’s a serious commitment, and I’m both thankful for it and really excited and proud of them making their big entrance into a cappella festivals. Fun fact – the group turned 30 years old this year, and had never once in its three-decade-long history attended an a cappella festival. Crazy, I know.

BUT THEY’RE HERE NOW, and I can’t wait for all of you to meet them in their current, thankfully smaller than when I graduated (we were 19 and basically were incapable of singing anything other than “loud”) form. They’re a great bunch, and they’ll take care of you, I promise.

 

Alex GreenAlex Green is a graduate of Tufts University with a dual degree in Music and Archaeology, where he was a member of the Tufts Amalgamates for all 4 years of his college career, and served as Music Director for the 2009 calendar year. His various odd jobs and experiences in the audio world include various internships at companies in the music industry including Rounder Records (Burlington, MA) and Alta Vista Studios (Austin, TX), participation in the sporadically annual Soup 2 Nuts Seminar with Deke Sharon and Bill Hare, and acting as a reviewer for the Recorded A cappella Review Board (RARB). In addition to the Amalgamates, Alex has sung with both Overboard and the short lived and perpetually-under-the-radar Cursory. He is currently working with CASA on the BOSton Sings [BOSS] festival team and is a regular workshop leader and CASA masterclinician. As a co-owner of Plaid Productions along with Alexander Koutzoukis, he has had the opportunity to work with groups from across the country and around the world, and made countless soups. Since early 2011, clients of Plaid Productions have had songs featured on SING, BOCA, Voices Only, and have garnered over 50 CARA nominations.

The Boston A Cappella Scene

Diana Galeano, Shams Ahmed, Avi Kaplan, Ben Bram, Tracy RobertsonI moved to Boston for the a cappella scene after attending the first ever BOSS. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane: a flashmob of 66 people broke out into Augustana’s “Boston”. Or was it Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”? But really, Boston welcomed me and my love of a cappella with open arms (that’s Journey, right? I mean, I was Journey-ing so, ok…)

I’m constantly in awe of what this city has to offer. Not only is it absolutely stunning, once the mounds of snow that predate the birth of Christ have melted, the history embedded in the once-upon-a-time cow paths will eventually intertwine so you’ll find yourself at the intersection of A Cappella Street and Abundance Way.

Never have I encountered more collegiate a cappella groups in a 5 mile radius, let alone a single college. I live right next to Tufts University, the very campus we’ll be inhabiting come BOSS weekend. At about 11,000 enrolled (almost equally split between undergrad/grad), Tufts has 8 a cappella groups on campus.

Just a few miles down the long and winding road in Waltham is Brandeis with 10. Down the street in Cambridge is a little known college, Harvard University (you may have heard of it) which has 20 and MIT has 6, according to my research. Folks, I’m not even into Boston yet. Boston University has 12, Emerson has 4, Boston College and Northeastern University each have 8, just to name a few.

Boston is also the home to many professional and semi-pro/CAL groups! Pro groups such as Ball In The House, Five O’Clock Shadow, Musae, and Overboard have all called Boston home. Semi-pro/CAL groups such as Bostonality, Sound Off, The Pow Arrangers, Redline, Fermata Town and Collective Measures are sure to be found busking at the Public Garden or gigging around town weekly if not more.

Did we talk about high school a cappella yet? Last year, we had our very first high school group open for the BOSS collegiate competition. Falconize from Danvers High School was only 7 months old and they opened BOSS 2014. Cambridge Ringe and Latin School has 4 groups on its campus, not to mention groups that are constantly popping up in high school campuses by student volition. These kids know where it’s at.

Boston is exploding with a cappella. EX.PLO.DING. Remember when I told you Boston A Cappella welcomed me with open arms? That’s an understatement. I arrange/direct for a co-ed collegiate group, sing with/arrange for a semi-pro CAL group, and teach/arrange 4th-9th grade a cappella on the weekends.

If you’re looking for a way to connect in the Boston A Cappella scene, your best bet is to get your cute little tuchus over to BOSS April 10-12. It’ll revolutionize your aca-life. 🙂

 

Diana Galeano, the BOSS 2015 Outreach and AcaBomb Coordinator, is a graduate of Florida State University where she studied music education with an emphasis in secondary choral education. While at FSU, she sang with ICCA Southern Champions, the AcaBelles. Since graduating, she has worked as a high school chorus teacher, as a director at FSU’s Summer Music Camps, and as Assistant Director of A Cappella Academy in Los Angeles, CA. Diana now lives in Somerville, MA where she directs and arranges for collegiate and high school a cappella groups, sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and Sound Off A Cappella, as well as teaches K-8 music.

VXN Beginnings

Meron MogosThroughout my a cappella career, I’ve been in 3 groups. One at Duke University followed by two post-collegiate CAL groups (one in NY and one that I founded in Los Angeles). I obviously love a cappella and enjoy being part of the community, so being in groups like these are fun and an exciting hobby. But for me, in my soul, VXN is the culmination of the years I’ve been inspired by a cappella and what I’ve been striving for. It’s a group that formed so organically and out of true passion….a passion for music, for female power, and for singing with those who you love and know so well.

Anna, Holli, Lauren, Jessie and I all met in NY after college when we found ourselves gravitating back towards a cappella. As members of Empire, we realized that a cappella was still relevant in our lives and could exist in a meaningful way after college. It was an amazing moment to share with each other because it re-affirmed our love for the genre and our presence in this musical world. Eventually, Holli moved to DC and I moved to LA, and over a year passed where we weren’t singing together. But during an inspiring weekend at LAAF 2014, the idea of VXN was born and we knew this 5-person vocal project could not only happen, but needed to happen.

Everything moved pretty quickly over the next few months as we fleshed out our vision to produce innovative and inspiring music at the highest level. VXN met for our first group retreat in June 2014 and solidified our fresh, fierce, and fearless sound, and the rest is history. We meet every few months to learn and record new music to keep a constant flow of new content for audiences. We had our public debut this March in NYC and we’re now recording our first EP which we’ll be releasing later this year. VXN is ecstatic to be making our CASA debut at BOSS in front of one of the most enthusiastic a cappella communities in the country and I could not be more proud. If I could tell my 18-year old freshman self, just minutes before auditioning for Duke’s Lady Blue at a time when I knew nothing about a cappella, that ten years later I’d be performing in a professional group at a major CASA festival, there would be some heavy eye-rolling happening right about now. But here we are. And I’m psyched.

Originally from the suburbs of NYC, Meron Mogos got her start in a cappella in 2004 with Duke University’s Lady Blue. Her solo/arrangement of Ciara’s “Like A Boy” was featured on Voices Only 2009. Meron joined NYC CAL group, Empire in 2011 and after moving to Los Angeles to pursue her love of film/television in 2012, she co-founded the all-female CAL group, Premiere and serves as their President. Meron is also 1/5 of the professional vocal group, VXN.

 

 

BOSS Fashion Forecast Featuring Shams Ahmed & Jessie Litwin

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Only four days until the masses strut down the BOSS Red Carpet with a cappella’s finest. Before you start brushing off your paisley cravats and velour platform heels, consider these fashion tips from our “Dress for Success”* instructor Shams Ahmed, with guest Jessie Litwin. Both Shams and Jessie have been members of the Nor’easters from Northeastern University, a group known not only for their talent, but for their spot-on fashion sense.

First off, who’s your personal style icon, male and female?

Jessie: Ryan Reynolds because anything he does is sexy. Rihanna when she’s not trashy. She’s edgy and chic and takes risks.

Shams: Jessie Litwin.

Who do you think looked the best at the Oscars this year?

J: Lupita, duh. I wish I had her body.

S: I didn’t watch the Oscars.

Why are you teaching a class on style?

J: Style is so important and so much fun, I’m happy to share my take on it with others!

S: Because it’s fun and is something people don’t place enough importance on.

Why does a cappella need this? What colors are hot for this year?

J: Your look can help define your sound. If you go out there and perform a killer ICCA set with dark music and cool tones, but you’re wearing pink frills and opaque lilac tights, you are asking the audience to be confused. You have to present your music with your body and your look. In terms of color, I’m all about the sleek, chic neutrals. Black, gray, white, and if I had to add a color I would choose maroon.

S: I think that a lot of groups could get better gigs if they presented themselves well from a visuals standpoint. And I agree Jessie on all the other stuff, too.

Red Carpet question time. Floor length or tea length for girls?

J: Depends. On stage? Not floor length, show your legs! Offstage, floor length can be fun!

S: I’m confused.

Bow ties or neckties?

J: Again, depends. On stage? Bow ties. Off stage, look sexy in a tie, please.

S: I say both for on stage but off stage please go for bow. Especially in a fun print or color! (But keep the shirt neutral and don’t get crazy.)

Vests for guys, yes/no?

J: Why not?

S: Vests are great, especially for boys who don’t own irons/boys in general.

What’s the best pattern/color for a tux?

J and S: Please no pattern. Black. Don’t mess it up.

What’s an absolute NO for the red carpet?

J: Nip slip. You don’t need to show too much skin. Show some cleavage OR some sexy back, one or the other. Leave the rest up to the imagination.

S: Wear something you feel good in from all angles! You never know if someone’s taking a secret selfie or a “candid” shot of you.

Must-have accessory for guys/girls?

J: For girls, it’s KILLER shoes.

S: ^Since when have shoes become accessories? For guys, it has to be a good tie.

Anything else you want to add?

J & S: Put yourself together every day. Don’t ever miss a day and slack off. You never know who you might meet at any moment; could be a future boss or a future husband or wife. Kill it.

Well, the fashion gurus have spoken. Get yourselves camera-ready, and we’ll see you on the red carpet!

* Dress For Success will be taught by Shams Ahmed and a panel of others on Saturday at 9AM. For the full workshop schedule, click here.

BOSS and CARAs Bring Nominated Singers From Around The Globe

The CARAs (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards) have been around since 1992, honoring the best in recorded vocal music worldwide. But it wasn’t until the first BOSS in 2012 that the CARAs were ever presented live, with an honest-to-goodness red carpet, and dressed-to-the-nines attendees. In those intervening years, interest has grown, and more CARA nominees from outside of the US (and inside) have made the trip to Boston to be part of the ceremony, and to join in the BOSS festivities.

clubforfive
Club for Five
This year, we already know of singers coming from Israel, Africa, Sweden, and Finland. Those places are not close to Boston, y’all!

Tuukka Haapaniemi, from Club For Five (Finland), whose Christmas album Jouluna is nominated in three CARA categories, says, “For many years now we’ve been following the CARA awards, and were thrilled to see that it is growing alongside with the interest in music done a cappella. We were actually very close to participating in last year’s BOSS, because one of our singers was in New York at the same time. But we didn’t. So this year we decided to join the celebration.”

VMSIX
VMSIX

Three members of Namibia’s VMSIX are coming, as they are nominated for 2 CARAs. Encouraged by CASA ambassador Tone Siwela (thanks, Tone!), they decided to join the party. Turns out they cover some Rockapella tunes, so they’re looking forward to hearing them live, and they also produce their own festival (Namibia International A Cappella Festival), so BOSS will serve as sort of a cultural aca-exchange.

Pros and Cons
Pros and Cons

The whole of Swedish group Pros & Cons (2 CARA noms) are coming to BOSS. Member Joel Bexelius says: “We are really looking forward to meeting a lot of new American friends and contacts within a cappella music. We are also, of course, looking forward to going to the CARAs and watching the headliners, Rockapella and The Rainbows at the Saturday concert. And last but not least, we’re really looking forward to seeing Bill Hare who co-produced, mixed and mastered both our Safe & Sound album and our Christmas single ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’. We owe him a couple of drinks.”

So, as if BOSS didn’t offer enough on its own, we now boast serious international flava! Join us!

Executive Producer Blog: It’s Here!

Well, here we are, the day before BOSS 2013 is upon us. Friends are already starting the pilgrimage to Boston (I think Sean Patrick Riley won the race this year), requesting updates on things like the weather, traffic, and cell phone service along the Mass Pike. The BOSS team is preparing by using up the east coast’s supply of ink and toner (and paper… but we love the environment, we swear), making lists, putting things in boxes and cars, making more lists, and thinking/dreaming/plotting about doughnuts.

Throughout the weekend we’ll learn which groups are taking home the coveted CARAs; see how many of the men have followed JT’s lead on the patent leather shoes; be rocked by The House Jacks, FOCS, and Postyr (and then hang out with and learn from them); crown a new collegiate group as champion in our ever-evolving competition; get caught on camera by a major television network (wait, what?); stay out way too late; wonder if we’ve just seen the next batch of Sing-Off competitors; and walk away with more musical inspiration than we know what to do with. And we’ll love every minute of it.

And now, looking at that (severely abbreviated) list, it’s baffling to think it’s all happening over about 48 hours, from the start of the CARA Banquet to the end of the Sunday workshops (and Collaborative Recording). It will be a whirlwind for everybody, be they performer, instructor, student, parent, or lover of music, and would be impossible were it not for each and every person on the BOSS team. So take a moment this weekend: When you see someone with the word “STAFF” on their badge, stop and say thanks, because I am thankful for all of the time and effort they have put in while I learn on the job, and I am personally excited for every single person that will be here to enjoy the festivities and the amazing weekend they have put together.

Alexander Koutzoukis is BOSS’ Executive Producer.

Kristin LoBiondo: The Perks of Being a VIP

HOLD ME CLOSER, TONY DANZA.

So, you’ve heard about this “VIP” pass…you know the kind I mean…

…The kind that lets you strut past the line waiting to get in so you can relax in your FRONT ROW SEAT.

…The kind where you simply flash your badge and instantly gain access to a PRIVATE LOUNGE full of the talented and good-looking and a red carpet jam-packed with aca-celebrities.

…The kind that lets you rub elbows with the House Jacks after you’ve wiped all their spit and sweat off of you from their performance on Friday night (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Kristin w/the VIP of VIPs, Selame
Kristin w/the VIP of VIPs, Selame

…The kind that makes people around you ask, “Who’s that?” and, “How do I get to be them?” and, “Ooh, he must be one of those guys from ‘The Sing-Off’…they’re so fancy.”

…The kind that puts you in front of a microphone to record a track with the competition winner, the House Jacks, Postyr, and Five O’Clock Shadow and wonder, “…how did I get here?”

If this is something you fantasize about, then stop.  IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL IN YOUR HEAD.  It can be a (your) reality.  And it can be all yours this year at BOSS. Take it from Selame Scarlett…she’s been a VIP at every CASA festival that’s offered it, so we trust her. She says, “It’s like you won the lottery and you get to unleash your wildest aca-fantasies.”

Woah. I want that.

Another BOSS VIP from 2012 said, “Being a CASA VIP was a perfect ‘superfan’ experience…” Who could argue? So get your VIP pass soon before they’re gone and you’re sitting in the back of the theater wondering, “I wonder who THAT is up there…they’re so fancy!”

(And if you’ve been reading this entire post hoping to find something about Tony Danza…I’ve done my job.)

See you on the red carpet…

NOW who’s the BOSS?

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Kristin LoBiondo is currently an Assistant Director of Events for CASA, and past VIP Liaison for BOSS, LAAF, and SoJam. She looks forward to hanging backstage and on the red carpet with this year’s VIPs, then forming a group with them and winning “The Sing-Off” Season 4.

Producer Blog #5 (final): Meg Alexander

Ok Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are just days away from the first annual BOSS and I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am. We have an absolutely incredible, historic, life changing, face melting festival ready for you.

What do I mean by incredible, historic, life changing, and face melting? I mean an incredible collegiate competition with groups from ALL over the country. Seriously. As in from Oregon to Boston. Oh and while they’re wailing their heads off, we’re bringing you the first ever CARAs LIVE! Yes, live. With a newfangled award and all. Did we mention it also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the CARAs? Oh – and you can be a part of it, and will be, THIS Friday.

On Saturday, you will have the opportunity to experience the classic CASA workshops, along with the new curriculum designed specifically for BOSS. Learning how recording can help your stage performance and how what you do on the stage can bring life to your recordings.  And just to keep it interesting, we have some of the best acabombs interspersed throughout the day.  Don’t forget you’ll also be in one of Americas oldest cities, full of historic landmarks, delectable food, and you’ll be in town the weekend of the Boston Marathon. While in its inaugural year (1897) only 15 people participated, now more than 20,000 participate in this incredible event.

Saturday night, BOSS will bring you a huge range of styles in the professional showcase. The only CAL group in Boston, Redline, is opening our show. Their nominated album definitely has me excited to see them live! Traces, 2011 New York Harmony Sweeps Champs (and Boston’s champ for 2006), are going to tear up the stage with their wide range of musical influences: Gospel, Contemporary Christian, Pop, R&B, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Spirituals, Caribbean and African, just to name a few. And if that wasn’t enough for you, world-renowned Cadence and their innovative jazz arrangements, genre-hopping covers and eclectic originals will blow your mind.

And while it will all look incredibly easy to pull this off over the 3 days you will spend with us, I can assure you that a festival like this does not happen without an INCREDIBLE team of people working tirelessly. I have been lucky enough and honored to work with such talented and dedicated people who have given every moment of free time over the last few months to ensure you have the incredible, historic, life changing, face melting festival I am promising you. Take a moment to read Who’s the BOSS and to find out who these people are, ’cause if they’re doing their jobs right (which they will be) you won’t see much of them unless you hunt them down at BOSS, and trust me they’re worth the hunt.

Please come say hi when you see me wandering the campus of MIT or enjoying the afterparties right along side you. If I haven’t met you yet, I want to. Can’t wait to see you all!