CAN 1.1 October 1990

Join CASA Founder Deke Sharon on a trip down memory lane as we revisit the early days of the Contemporary A Cappella Newsletter!

Back in 1990 there was no a cappella community, no central watering holes, and no way for people to stay in touch. I dove in and decided to create a way for groups to stay in touch. Initially the CAN stood for the Collegiate A Cappella Newsletter, as my initial goal was to create a permanent bond between the 200 or so collegiate groups that would bump into each other during various concerts and events, mostly along the East Coast.

A few things I notice, looking back on this newsletter I laid out on my trusty Macintosh SE30 in Stratton Hall room 112 at Tufts University (where I also knelt on the floor, stapled each one by hand, and hand addressed them):

  • The “Ivy in Isolation” article was cowritten by “A Keith Willacy”, none other than Austin Willacy who two years later would join the new professional a cappella group I’d started in San Francisco - The House Jacks - and we’d tour the world together for over 20 years.
  • The ad on the bottom of the page featured my personal phone number on campus; I was happy to share it to help create a sense of community. And yes, I didn’t mind a little spicy language back then if it would get people’s attention.
  • The software review will give you a sense of the scope of music notation software back then, and yes, I’ve been a Finale user ever since (in fact my serial number is the same, starting with MFNR - meaning I got a manufacturer copy as a review - but alas I’ve had to pay to upgrade it for the past 29 years). And yes, I was able to wrangle a free review copy of Sim City as well.
  • It’s fun to see all of the ads for collegiate albums, as there was nowhere for people to purchase them other than at a group’s concerts or in the school bookstore, a problem I would later rectify with BOCA, but for now you had to mail a check, and you’d get a cassette in the mail a couple weeks later.
  • I’m actually shocked to see my 10 step arranging method in this newsletter. I didn’t realize I had written it while still in college! It would later become the backbone of my book A Cappella Arranging (with Dylan Bell).

Dive in and enjoy the glimpse of the collegiate a cappella scene circa 1990. Little did we know…