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!
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.
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).
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+).