Episode 134: The A Cappella Connection with Deke Sharon

When you perform, it’s your job to go out there and save a life.

Deke Sharon

This week, I welcome the “Father of Contemporary A Cappella,” Deke Sharon onto the show. We discuss the origins of the modern “A Cappella” genre as well as the “family tree” of other types of A Cappella vocal music genres and their crucial connections with each other. We also get to hear the story of how the actors in Pitch Perfect learned to sing from scratch in a month! We covered the importance of commercial viability in our art forms as well as the incredible power of group music making to heal political divides, and encourage cooperation. Deke is a compelling story teller, so I KNOW you will want to listen to the end!

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Born and still living in San Francisco, California, Deke Sharon has been performing professionally since the age of 8. As a child he toured North America and shared the stage performing in operas with the likes of Pavarotti. Heralded as “The Father of Contemporary A Cappella” this performer, arranger, music producer, author, producer and coach is credited by many as being responsible for the current sound of modern a cappella. While at college, he pioneered the dense vocal-instrumental sound that we today take for granted as the sound of contemporary a cappella.

Deke founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society while in college, and is responsible for creating many seminal a cappella programs, including the CARAs (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards), the ICCAs (International Championship of College A Cappella), the BOCAs (Best of College A Cappella Compilations), the first contemporary a cappella conference (the A Cappella Summit), the Contemporary A Cappella League, several professional ensembles including DCappella, as well as the educational residential program Camp A Cappella. He’s a frequent emcee at events, and gives corporate speeches on business lessons from vocal harmony to companies like Google and Facebook.

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He is also contemporary a cappella’s most prolific arranger, having arranged over 2,000 songs, with over a thousand of them in print worldwide. He has written 6 books: “A Cappella Arranging” (2012), “A Cappella” (2015), “The Heart of Vocal Harmony” (2016), “A Cappella Warmups for Pop and Jazz Choir” (2017), “So You Want To Sing A Cappella” (2017) and “Teaching Music Through Performance In Contemporary A Cappella” (2020).

As the founder, director and arranger for the House Jacks for almost 25 years, the original “Rock Band Without Instruments,” Deke shared the stage around the world with countless music legends, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Crosby Stills and Nash, Run DMC, The Temptations, LL Cool J and the Four Tops, and even a performance of the “Monday Night Football Theme” with Hank Williams Jr. in 2011. He is also the vocal orchestrator for and a producer of the Broadway’s first a cappella musical: In Transit (2016), as well as the opening number of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Unmasked (2019).

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Deke has produced dozens of award winning a cappella albums (including Straight No Chaser, Committed, Nota, Street Corner Symphony and the Tufts Beelzebubs), created a cappella groups for Disneyland and Disneyworld, and frequently tours the world teaching a variety of topics to students and professional singers. His voice can be heard in commercials and video games, including “Just Dance Kids 2.” He is one of only 20 honorary members of the Barbershop Harmony Society since 1938, as well as an honorary member of BYU Vocal Point, and has received CASA’s lifetime achievement award in 2016 and the PT Barnum Award for Excellence from Tufts University in 2017.

Deke has also helped popularize a cappella in the mainstream. He vocally produced five seasons of The Sing Off for NBC in the US as well as international versions in the Netherlands, South Africa and China, and served as music director for Disney+ Best in Snow. He was arranger, on-site music director and vocal producer for all three of Universal’s hit films in the Pitch Perfect franchise. He was featured on camera in Lifetime Television’s Pitch Slapped, coaching the group Stay Tuned and on BBC1’s Pitch Battle as music director and guest judge. 2022 saw him working on two television shows: “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin” (Peacock) and “Best in Snow” (Disney+).

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Initial Podcast Content Release!

Choralosophy Podcast with Chris Munce

It’s time! I have been burning the candle at both ends to get this first batch of episodes ready for you! I hope you listen, enjoy, subscribe, and come back for more! I know I said Feb. 21st… but then a crap-ton of snow days happened, and Jack’s a Donut, here we are. Ready to go! Find the show here or on your favorite Podcast Platform! 

Episode 1: Health, Happiness and Balance with Beth Munce. At times, we as working professionals, struggle to maintain our health and balance. As a result, our happiness suffers. In this episode, I will share my thoughts on this as well as get a reality check from my wife, Beth on whether or not I am “balanced.”

Beth Munce

Episode 2: Part 1. Advocating for our Art with Elise Hepworth. How do we “sell” our profession? How do we tell the story of what we do to people that don’t understand? We all know our “why,” now let’s share it with the world! In this episode I will discuss Music Education Advocacy with Dr. Elise Hepworth.

Elise Hepworth

Episode 2: Part 2. Advocating for our Art with Dale Trumbore. In the second part of this episode, I chat with Composer Dale Trumbore about “telling our story” as performers and composers in an authentic and vulnerable way.

Dale Trumbore

Episode 3: What’s in a Gesture? with Bradley Ellingboe. In this episode, I sit down with noted conductor and composer, Bradley Ellingboe to discuss what attributes makes a great conductor.

Bradley Ellinbgoe

Episode 4: Part 1. Seeing the Trees (There is no forest…) with Stephen Rew. In this episode I make the shocking claim that there is no such thing as a choir. Then, I bring on Stephen Rew for a discussion about connecting with students on an individual level.

Stephen Rew

Episode 4: Part 2. Seeing the Trees (There is no forest…) with Anthony J. Maglione. In the second part of this episode, I look to Anthony Maglione for insight into this topic from the collegiate perspective.

Anthony J. Maglione

Stay tuned for future episodes every 2-weeks. Next one: POST ACDA wrap-up and recap. March 15th.

The goal

After twenty years as a part-time church music director–I haven’t had free Sundays since I was 19. Crap. I just gave away my age–I’ve decided to funnel that energy into something new: nerding out about choral music, talking with my colleagues about it, learning new things, exploring ed psych and teaching methods, vocal ped, acoustical science, linguistics, music history and much more! Planning to launch content on Feb 21st. In the meantime, follow the Podcast in any or all of the places (Twitter, FB, Insta and the link below) so you will get updates and a reminder of when episodes are coming online. Eek! 

Episode 1: Health, Happiness and Balance for the Choral Director

Episode 2: Being an Advocate for Music Education

Episode 3: Is Conducting gesture really that important?!

Episode 4: Elevating the Individual in your SEA of faces.

Bonus Episode: Vocal Pedagogy for the Choral Rehearsal (with Panel of experts. Will take a bit longer to prepare. Stay tuned!)

The Philosophy of Choral Music

Available on iTunes, YouTube and Spotify

In order for us as choral musicians to ensure the continued growth and relevance of our art form and profession, I feel that it is vital for us to become advocates for ourselves and our field. Too often, as musicians, we allow non-musicians to determine our value. It is well known that people often expect musicians to work for free. The number of memes devoted to this topic is proof enough of that. Musicians typically choose one of these three options when asked to perform for free: 1) Work for free. If you can afford to do this, more power to you, but you kind of drag down the market for the rest of us; 2) Apologetically inform people that you have a rate, and then apologize again for how much you charge; or 3) Become an advocate for your profession. One who is capable of explaining in ways anyone can understand why music performance, music study, music in worship and music education are not luxuries to pay for when you have extra, but are essentials to life in a civilized society that wants to grow intellectually and spiritually. This page is dedicated to driving a conversation for choral musicians with the PHILOSOPHY of Choral Music at the heart of every post and podcast episode. Topics will be wide ranging from the technical aspects of our jobs and careers all the way to the artistic interpretations and values that make us who we are as artists. Join me in this conversation in which I hope we can learn from each other.

Podcast Launch: Feb 21st!!

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