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December 10, 2009

The Glee Factor: A Rise in Amateur Singing Groups

TIME:

News that Fox's breakout hit Glee would go on hiatus after Dec. 9 hit viewers hard. "For the love of God, don't put the magic on hold!" writes Shannon Smith, a fan in North Dakota.

If the reaction seems a tad overwrought, it may be because the magic isn't just about what up to 8 million viewers watch every Wednesday. It's also in the copycatting that Glee inspires off screen. With an assist from other corners of pop culture — including a karaoke contest on Oprah and NBC's first-ever a cappella–oriented reality show, premiering this month — Glee is inspiring its most hard-core fans to do some singing of their own. Once the butt of jokes everywhere except on a handful of college campuses, a cappella is making inroads all over the map.

Amateur adult singing groups are reporting a crescendo of interest. Since June — following Glee's May premiere — the number of neighborhood songster gatherings listed on Meetup.com has nearly doubled, and participation has jumped 45% from 27,475 on June 1 to nearly 40,000 today. "[Glee] kind of inspired me," says recent Meetup convert Jessica Lin, 28, of Santa Clara, Calif., who enjoyed listening to a cappella groups as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and now gets together with half a dozen or so Silicon Valley buddies every week to sing. Meanwhile, over in Michigan, it took just one episode to prompt Cynthia D'Amour, 43, to embrace her high school–choir history by joining the Ann Arbor Civic Chorus. "Seeing Glee was like, 'Oh my God, I really need to reactivate that piece of me,' " she says.

Even veterans of the post-college singing subculture — which includes Microsoft's Baudboys, named after a modem speed, and NASA's Chromatics — say they notice a Glee factor. The show, they claim, is helping quash a cappella's rap as the province of dorks. For instance, when Vinyl Street, an a cappella group in Somerville, Mass., went out for karaoke on a recent weekend, members told a woman at the next table that they were there as a group — and found themselves a fangirl. "She was all excited," says co-founder Phil Dardeno, 29, a Boston University financial-aid planner, "and was asking, 'Is it like Glee?' " Read more.

Posted by acapnews at December 10, 2009 12:00 AM

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