"A cappella music is more like a rock band and less of a choir," says Jim Bob Loyd. "Yes, everyone is singing, but the trick is, we are actively feeding off of each other's energy, responding to each other in the moment. We're putting on a show rather than singing in a formal concert."
Loyd knows about the musical style made wildly popular by TV shows like "Glee" and movies like "Pitch Perfect." He has started a college a cappella group, assisted high schools and colleges that wanted to perform a cappella and written music for the genre -- and last year, he coached Walton Arts Center's first a cappella group. WACappella debuted at the VoiceJam A Cappella Festival in April 2023.
VoiceJam returns April 13, 2024, and auditions are now open for a cappella groups across the country who wish to compete. Deadline for groups of two to 20 performers is Jan. 31. Up to eight groups can be selected to compete, and those choices will be announced Feb. 5.
"VoiceJam is always popular with our patrons," says Jennifer Wilson, senior public relations director for WAC. "They love getting to watch a live competition and voting on their favorite group."
The event was inspired by Vocal Asia and its founder Clare Chen, who "approached Walton Arts Center about starting VoiceJam because she wanted to create a premier a cappella festival in the U.S. and connect it to the broader world of a cappella," Wilson says.
"She approached us at a time when we were looking for new ways to engage high school and college-aged audiences in the arts," she explains. "A cappella was becoming very popular and more mainstream because of 'The Sing Off' and 'Pitch Perfect,' so it was a natural partnership for all parties.
"And there aren't a lot of a cappella singing competitions, so for groups who are really trying to make a name for themselves, VoiceJam is one of those opportunities."
In addition to the April 13 competition, workshops and master classes April 12-13 will cover a variety of topics -- among them a cappella arranging, vocal percussion, body percussion, rehearsal technique, solo singing and more -- at different skill levels, Wilson says.
"These workshops are for the VoiceJam competitors, but they will also be available for the public to purchase," she adds. "Workshop instructors include Deke Sharon, Erin Hackel, Tony Huerta, Jia-Ching Lai and Take 6."
To try out, performers -- who do not need to have a school affiliation -- should submit their video audition materials online at waltonartscenter.org/voicejam.
The winner of the April 13 competition will be named VoiceJam champion and will receive a professionally produced video of their set. Judges will also award outstanding arrangement, vocal percussion, soloist and choreography.
Tickets to the headliner concert by multi-Platinum a cappella sextet Take 6 and to the VoiceJam Competition are on sale now at waltonartscenter.org.
April 12 -- Kickoff concert with Take 6, 8 p.m., at WAC. Tickets are $10.
April 13 -- VoiceJam workshops, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
April 13 -- VoiceJam competition, 7:30 p.m. $27. Buy the Friday and Saturday performances combined for $29.
INFO -- 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org