Why I’m an LAAF VIP

by Selame Scarlett

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a well informed nerd about a cappella. I have been since my first year in my collegiate group, Capital Green. I owe part of my nerd factor to the very lovely ICHSA director, Andrea Poole. Both as a CG alum and friend, Andrea opened my eyes to the world of a cappella: teaching me how to arrange/VP, shadowing her at various ICCA/ICHSA events and introducing me to some of the biggest names in a cappella, which inspired me to go to SoJam for the very first time.

Since it was my first time at an event like SoJam, I didn’t know what to expect. From the videos, it looked like great performances and a great atmosphere. By word of mouth, it sounded like something that you just had to be present for to truly understand. So I thought “Welp, I might as well go as a VIP and get the best first experience!”. Go big or go home…right? In a word, that entire weekend. was. EPIC.

Friday night, I had prime seating for the collegiate competition: first row. Now the only thing that we have in the Midwest that is remotely close to a SoJam collegiate competition is the ICCAs. And I’ll just say it right now….Friday night at SoJam>>>any ICCA Quarterfinal or Semifinal I’ve ever been to. Most of these groups I had only seen and admired on Youtube. But now, in that moment, the very same groups that I fawned over and loved were singing only a couple feet away from me. The young females of the UNCG Sapphires blew my mind with “The Bird and the Worm”. “Fix You”, an overdone Coldplay song, was revitilized and re-vamped by the Duke Pitchforks. The Acabelles’ rendition of “Dirty Diana” made me feel empowered and free. And Pitch Slapped. Ohhhh Pitch Slapped. They were perfectly awesome in every way…and that’s an understatment. The night was emceed by Overboard, a group whose Beatles cover album I’ve listened to on repeat. They were professional, entertaining and just incredible. At one point, they did a outstanding off mic cover of “Freebird”…LESS THAN TWO FEET AWAY in front of me. And I’m pretty sure they heard/saw me openly sobbing (which I was). This night was also the debut of a new all female professional group, Musae. The 6 beautiful women in this group gave me so many “ahh” moments in their performance that anyone who had doubts about female a cappella was drop-kicked in the face with their girl power. At the afterparty, I danced and partied with all the a cappella groups, making new friends with people that were just as (or more) aca-obsessed as I was! The Acabelles even serenaded me with their arrangement of “Firework” at the end of the night which, in my opinion, is infinetly better than Katy Perry’s. Yeah, I SAID IT.

Saturday was a day of learning. But in addition to my classes, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Naturally 7 and The Boxettes all thanks to my VIP status. AND IT WAS AMAZING. Both of these amazing groups were so cool and easy going! It was nice to sit with them on a one-on-one level in a very relaxed setting. The beatboxer of Naturally 7 taught me some new sounds and even complimented me on vocal percussion (I died). The Boxettes and I bonded over our love for Skrillex and Zed’s Dead, two very popular dubstep artists, which was really fun. While we were eating, the Boxettes were discussing their set and how they should sing certain parts of their arrangements (ex: crescendoing on “nah nah nah nahs”, the feeling of each song, where VP should come back in, etc.). Essentially, I was watching how a professional group thinks about each song and how they should perform it. In that moment, I realized I was watching something very rare, something most people don’t see every day. Something that a VIP person CAN see. Once again, I had front row seats for the professional showcase and I sat next to Bill Hare, the Grammy award winning acappella recording guru himself. For time’s sake, I’ll just say that time literally stopped sitting front row during the Professional Showcase. My face was completely melted off by both The Boxettes and Naturally 7. To this day, I’m still rebuilding it to a more solid consistancy (my face, that is).

Sunday, I participated in a collaborative recording session with The Boxettes, Naturally 7 (and other big aca-celebs) which was spectacular. To even say that I’m on a track with these people is an honor. With the help of Alex Green and Alex Koutzoukis from Plaid Productions, I got to see first hand what goes into a professional recording, how to improvise, chord structure and general recording do’s and don’ts. All of which I did, saw and learned from with the VIP pass!

Now, I’ve been gushing about SoJam this entire interview…so what about LAAF? Well, I’ve never been to Los Angeles. So coincidently, I’ve never been to LAAF. I’ve lived in the Snowmeggedon that most people call Michigan for all of my life so anytime it’s above 50 degrees,it’s summer. But in 2012, that’s going to change. I’m going to LA for the first time. I’m going to my first LAAF. And based off the amazing people I’ve met, the amazing performances I saw, the incredible memories I made all at SoJam 2011….I’m going as a VIP!

What am I most excited for at LAAF as a VIP?

For starters, sitting in the front row for EVERYTHING. Seeing the perspiration and excitement on every performer’s face. Feeling every single emotion firsthand. Hearing every last note from every singer on that stage…all from the first row. Meeting Duwende, Hookslide and Pentatonix, explaining how much I love and admire them (and how attracted I am to all of them). Picking up where SoJam left off: perfecting my vocal percussion, developing new methods to arranging, group management, recording techniques, the works. The Collaborative Recording Session with Duwende, Hookslide AND the Sing Off Season 3 Champions, Pentatonix. Reuniting with friends that I’ve made on my collegiate/post-collegiate journey. Meeting and developing friendships with incredible individuals that share the same passion for a cappella as I do. Having the time of my life. Living the aca-dream.

Go big or go home. That’s why I’m a LAAF VIP.

Selame Scarlett graduated with a degree in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan State University in 2011. Currently she is pursuing her doctorate in medicine at MSU. She was the former music director of Capital Green, MSU’s first co-ed a cappella group. She currently arranges for many college/high schoolgroups in the Midwest and is assisting Varsity Vocals as a producer for the Great Lakes ICHSA Semifinals. She is an active member of CASA and a member of a newly formed pro-group in MI called the Seekers. She loves harmonizing and beatboxing at random (but not at the same time). Outside a cappella, Selame loves tennis, MSU basketball and science.

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