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Philosophy and Goals

The purpose of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival is to promote the appreciation and performance of vocal harmony. It achieves this purpose by showcasing groups in the exciting atmosphere of a competition and by attracting an audience that is largely "a cappella friendly" to provide singers with an exceptional performance experience.

Our essential purpose is twofold:
1. To provide the performers with a positive experience, and with tools to help them progress in the performance of vocal music.
2. To put on a highly entertaining show.

Although it is a competition, it should always be a friendly and supportive one where the common goal is to create a special evening of camaraderie and intimacy for singers and audience alike.

The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival is a widely recognized American showcase for vocal musicians, enabling its participants to achieve their goals through exposure to growing audiences. We seek to broaden the scope and appreciation of a cappella as an art form. We hope that the Harmony Sweepstakes will serve as a showcase for all vocal harmony enthusiasts. Our aim is to keep our events friendly and supportive, emphasizing the spirit of "harmony through harmony." We want to offer growth experiences for singers in all stages of their careers through competitions, conferences and in ever increasing groups of regional events.


We try to remain flexible and if we find something that's not working, we'll look at changing it. If a question comes up and there is no written rule for it, the guideline we use is: Is it in keeping with our philosophy and purpose, and is it fair to all groups? When in doubt, ask!

All groups must audition in order to compete. Generally this is done by sending us a one or two song recording (mp3 file or CD) If a group has competed previously the audition process is waived. Please send application and photos to :

The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival
PO Box D
San Anselmo, CA 94979
(415) 455-8602

Or fill out our online form:-

Group Size
Groups are limited to a maximum of 8 singers. Larger groups may rotate singers during the set but only eight members are allowed on stage at any one time. If such a group wins then only eight members will be flown to the finals.

Entry Fees
An entry fee of $10.00 per singer per group (that is $40.00 for a quartet, $30.00 for a trio, etc.). Fee is due only if accepted.

Multiple Entries
One person singing in more than one competing group is allowed. If one or two singers bring a couple of good groups that will be positive additions to the concert, that's terrific. A group may not, however, rename itself and compete twice just by adding or deleting a member.

Competing Again
If a group wins its regional competition but does not win the national finals, it must skip a year before competing in their regional again (they may host their regional following their winning year). If a group wins their regional and the finals, they will not be eligible to compete again, but they may certainly host, if possible.

Time Limit
May vary with different regional competitions. Generally, 10 minutes per group is allowed. Timing begins when a group starts its first tune and ends when it finishes its last song. A group may use its 10 minutes any way it likes (i.e. three songs or one long medley or five short songs, etc.). The audience will be instructed to keep applause between songs to a minimum. What ever time limit is decided upon by the Regional Director, please stay within it, as groups stand to lose up to 50% of their overall sores by going over time. This keeps the show to a reasonable length and keeps the competition fair to all groups.

Song List
Groups should let the Director know which songs they will be performing as far in advance as possible. A list needs to be made for the judges reference, as well as the group scheduling, to avoid back to back song duplication. A group may change its song selection up until the show call (approximately 1-1/2 hours before show time) but the more advance preparation time we have, the better.

A cappella means without musical accompaniment, so basically, no instruments are permitted. Some hand-held percussion enhancements may be allowed, such as tambourines, maracas or the occasional kazoo. The basic guideline here is that, if the instrument is an integral part of the number as opposed to an incidental enhancement, it would not be acceptable. Please discuss these options with your Regional Director well in advance of the performance.

Music Style
Any style of music will be considered, but the event is geared toward performance and innovation. Also, it should be kept in mind that this is a family show, and though we don't want to be Disneyland clean, all lyrics and movement should be kept within the realm of good taste and PG acceptability.

Order of Appearance
The order is determined by the Director and announced to the groups when they arrive at the hall or club on the evening of the competition. We schedule the groups carefully, to avoid similar groups going back to back, and to put some space between groups performing the same song. Groups are welcome to indicate a preference for performance order, providing that they understand that it is not guaranteed that they will get it.

Although there have been some complaints, we keep the order unknown for two reasons:
1. There may be upwards of 70 performers in the competition and the Director, stage crew and sound person will all need a word with you to run through show order, rehearse the closing tune, tour the theater and give any other info related to the evening. This is also the only time that you will be given a chance to run a sound check. Groups are advised to arrive as early as possible. Check with your Regional Director to see how early the hall will be available.

2. We do not want to take even one phone call from groups complaining about their spot in the program and trying to get it changed. Groups have won the competitions from all different places in the program and if you're good, it doesn't matter if you perform first, last or anywhere in between!

A host group (preferably, but not necessarily, the previous year's champs) will open the show with one tune. The host group may also act as Masters of Ceremony, introducing each group, filling in time when necessary and leading the closing song.

We usually have a panel of three or more local celebrities from the music business, media and educational fields who are qualified to evaluate vocal music with great expertise. Most judges volunteer their services.

Groups are judged 50% on musicality and 50% on performance, with an emphasis on originality. Good performance does not necessarily mean flashy costumes and tricky choreography. It simply refers to the degree in which the audience was entertained. Judges are encouraged to jot down notes that will help to improve the groups performance and to give an overall score to assist in the final placement, as opposed to scoring every little thing a group does or does not do. Each group will receive a copy of the judges' comments pertaining to their group.

Dressing Rooms
Each venue will be different, of course, but it is safe to say that until we get to Carnegie Hall, groups will have to share dressing rooms and warm-up areas. Obviously, common courtesy will be essential here, and if there is a crowd, the group that is on deck should have priority over the others.

These will be geared toward the performing groups, with as much space as possible for whatever biographical information you wish to have printed. Each group will be allotted at least a short paragraph which should include the name of the group, its members and a bit of history.

Sound Checks
Groups will need to provide a mic plot to the Regional Director (how you want the mics set up for your first number, how many do you need, etc.). There will be some time to do sound checks before the house is opened and groups will be allowed a few minutes each on stage. Groups will be given sound checks in the order in which they check in, first come first served. Please be aware that levels an placements will change throughout the evening so this will just serve to give you a feel for how you sound in the hall.

Sound System
It is imperative and every effort will be made to insure that the sound system used in each competition is of top quality with an emphasis on plenty of good monitors. The sound person is to be instructed to keep the mixing to a minimum and once levels are set, allow the groups to do their own mixing at the mics. Sound technicians seem to consistently mix the bass a bit too low for a cappella standards; directors should make sure that the technical personnel are warned against this.

Special Effects
These should be avoided. However, if a group wants to use special light or sound techniques, the guidelines are that it may be used only if it is made available to all groups and that the technical staff are willing to spend the extra time needed to prepare it. Please consult your Regional Director well in advance of performance date to get approval and make necessary arrangements.

Original Arrangements
The Final competition presents an award for the best original arrangement. Only the arrangement needs to be original, not the song. No charts are required. It will be judged solely on the song as performed during the competition. There may be a regional award as well, depending. Check with the Regional Director.

Original Song
The Final competition presents an award to the best original song. Again, no chart is necessary and the song will be judged solely on the song as performed at the competition. Again, check with the Regional Director to see if your regional has the same award.

Closing Song
At the end of each competition, the groups are all brought back on stage for the awards. After all awards are given, the show will close with everyone (including the audience) singing together. An arrangement of "Goodnight Sweetheart" may be provided to performers, although any suitable closing tune is fine. Groups need not prepare for this number, as we will rehearse it before the show.

We know it is impossible to answer all of the questions that may come up in this little book, so please feel free to call us with any questions at (415) 455-8602, or contact your Regional Director personally.

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