Festival History

Once upon a time, before Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul became household names, a group of singers in a neighborhood pub decided to start a harmony singing competition. The year was 1984, the place, Marin County. From these humble beginnings emerged the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, now a national competition with eight regional events, held in in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Denver, Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area. The National Final takes place each May at the Marin Veteran's Auditorium in San Rafael.

Highlighting performances by hundreds of up and coming vocal groups from around the country, The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival begins the season with regional competitions in eight major urban markets during the Spring months, followed by the gala National Finals to be held in San Rafael, California in early May. The cities of Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Portland/Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago will each send a winning vocal group to perform in the National Finals for a sold-out house of enthusiastic a cappella fans and celebrity judges, in the hope that theirs will return as the Grand National Champion. The Harmony Sweepstakes was founded in Northern California in 1984 as a casual get-together for singers and fans, and has since grown to be the premier national showcase for vocal harmony.

As a cappella, and vocal music in general, return to popularity, The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival is growing by leaps and bounds. To further the cause of vocal music, The Harmony Sweepstakes has established an annual A Cappella Summit, a two day jamboree and convention for enthusiasts of contemporary a cappella. The Summit consists of workshops, performances, demonstrations, and lecture/seminars, along with displays of goods and services for the a cappella community.

In addition, the needs of fans of recorded a cappella music around the country are served by our Primarily A Cappella Catalog, which features hundreds of titles of vocal recordings. Included is a live CD recording of The 1993 Harmony Sweepstakes Finals; the first in a series.

The Harmony Sweepstakes embraces all styles of music performed a cappella, from the traditional forms of doo-wop and barbershop, gospel, and jazz to the exciting and innovative directions of contemporary vocal harmony. The essential musical instrument, the human voice, is being celebrated in many forms today -- at the top of the charts and around the world -- and The Harmony Sweepstakes is proud to be a part. The human voice and its endless possibilities have brought many diverse people together, and in a musical world increasingly dominated by technology, the appreciation of vocal music is a human connection that we can all share.

Regional Competitions

The regional champions are determined by concerts held in prestigious venues located in 8 major cities across the United States, the winners of which are flown to San Rafael, CA to compete in the National Finals. Although these are only preliminary competitions, the Harmony Sweepstakes continues to sell out large, famous venues such as the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, the Symphony Space Performing Arts Center on Broadway in New York, the Washington Center of the Performing Arts, and the Birchmere in DC, to name a handful.

Our Champions

Most of the groups that have earned the title of "Harmony Sweepstakes National Champion" have continued their careers to great success. For example, Toxic Audio, the 2000 National Champions, now perform regularly off Broadway throughout the country. The previous year's champs, Naturally Seven, signed onto Sony's record label. M-Pact was hailed by Billboard Magazine as "Best Unsigned Artist." Additionally, M-Pact's member Rudy Cardenas was seen recently as a finalist on hit television show American Idol. Last year's National Champions HiFidelity landed a gig performing frequently on the Carson Daly show, a direct result of their success in the Harmony Sweepstakes.