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Afro-Blue Howard's year of a capella glory

This was the year of triumph for Howard University’s nine-year-old a cappella jazz ensemble. In June, a 26-piece iteration of Afro-Blue accompanied Bobby McFerrin in a D.C. Jazz Festival concert at the Warner Theatre. In the fall, the regular lineup—10 pieces—competed on the NBC program The Sing-Off. When Afro-Blue was eliminated on the second-to-last broadcast, viewers raised such a ruckus that producers brought them back for encore performances on both the finale and a subsequent Christmas show. Other artists have been able ambassadors of D.C. jazz over the years, but the unique televisual atmosphere of 2011—with its endless network sing-offs—allowed this group to capture an especially large number of hearts and minds.

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