Deke Sharon

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Deke Sharon
On stage with the House Jacks, 2006
On stage with the House Jacks, 2006
Background information
Birth nameKurk Richard Toohey, Jr.
Born (1967-12-12) December 12, 1967 (age 53)
OriginSan Francisco, California, USA
GenresA Cappella
Occupation(s)Singer, arranger, composer, director, producer, television producer, and teacher
InstrumentsVocals, instrument mimicry
Years active1991–present
LabelsTommy Boy Warner Bros. Records, Hot Lips Records, Artelier, Atlantic Records, Sony Music Latin, Epic, Universal Records, Universal Classics, Hollywood Records, Walt Disney Records
Associated actsThe House Jacks, Tufts Beelzebubs, Straight No Chaser, Nota, Committed, Street Corner Symphony, Pentatonix, Vocalosity, DCappella

Deke Sharon (born December 12, 1967) is an American singer, arranger, composer, director, producer and teacher of a cappella music, and is one of the leaders and promoters of the contemporary a cappella community.[1][2][3][4][5][6] He has been referred to as "the father of contemporary a cappella" by some authors.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Early life[edit]

Deke Sharon was born and raised in San Francisco.[15] He started singing in choir groups at age five,[16] including the San Francisco Boys Chorus.[17][18] He attended Town School for Boys and San Francisco University High School,[19][20] where he sang a lead role in the barbershop quartet his freshman year in "The Music Man."[21]


Sharon spent his college years in Boston, graduating from Tufts University with a degree in childhood studies and a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music[22] with a focus on vocal jazz, third stream (now called "contemporary improvisation"), and music theory.[23]

Tufts Beelzebubs' Foster Street (1991)

In college, he directed the collegiate a cappella group the Tufts Beelzebubs,[24][25] transforming the group's sound to reflect modern rock,[26] with intricate instrumental vocalizations[27][28] and the integration of vocal percussion.[29][30] The 1990–1991 Beelzebubs album Foster Street that he directed musically is credited with the creation of contemporary a cappella sound.[31] Sharon had to audition three times before he was accepted, as he was seen as "overzealous" during a time when a cappella was not popular, a fact which was mentioned in the book "Pitch Perfect."[32][33] Benji in the Pitch Perfect films is partially based on Sharon.[34] During this time, he decided to make a career of contemporary a cappella.[35][36][37]


Deke and Rebel Wilson recording the Pitch Perfect 2 Finale

Sharon was the music director[38][39] and arranger[40] for the film Pitch Perfect,[8][41][42][43] as well as singing on several of the songs, where he was credited on screen as "Male Voice #1."[44] He returned for Pitch Perfect 2,[45] in which he has a brief cameo as the German judge and broadcaster.[46][47][48] He helped involve several professional a cappella groups and singers with the film, including The Filharmonic,[49] Penn Masala, and Pentatonix. Sharon also worked with the Green Bay Packers.[50][51] He returned to music-direct, arrange, and vocally produce for Pitch Perfect 3.[52] He had also arranged for the film, The Social Network.[53]


In December 2009, he acted as music director, arranger, coach, and consultant behind the scenes on America's first a cappella reality show competition, titled The Sing-Off,[54] and returned in 2010 as one of the show's producers.[55] He also served as Executive Music Producer on the Dutch Sing Off,[56] Sing Off South Africa[57] and Sing-Off China, including several guest appearances as a judge and performer.[58]

Along with The House Jacks, he sang and performed the 2011 Monday Night Football theme song "Are You Ready for Some Football" with Hank Williams, Jr.[59]

He worked with Straight No Chaser on their first PBS special Live in New York.[60]

He appeared in front of the camera for the first time on Lifetime's Pitch Slapped reality show, in which he coached after school high school a cappella group Stay Tuned from Cherry Hill, New Jersey,[52][61] focusing both on their musicality and emotional delivery.[62] The show also aired overseas in London,[63] Israel (where its name in Hebrew means "a cappella battle")[64] across Latin America, Indonesia and the Philippines (under the name Pitch Battle).[65]

Pitch Battle Finale Judges: Gareth Malone, Kelis, Deke Sharon

As of summer 2017 he is series music director for a new competitive choir show on BBC1 called Pitch Battle,[66] as well as appearing on camera each episode providing insight and commentary.[67][68] He was also the third judge for the season one live finale.[69]

He judged Eurovision Choir 2019.[70]

Performing career[edit]

Upon graduation in 1991, he moved back to San Francisco, bringing with him a handful of other collegiate a cappella singers to form The House Jacks,[71] a pioneering a cappella group[72] known for its original music and sound,[73] often called "the original rock band without instruments",[74] in part because they were the first a cappella group with a designated vocal percussionist.[75]

House Jacks Promo Photo (circa 2001)

The House Jacks have released seven albums (signed to Warner Brothers/Tommy Boy Records in the mid-1990s)[76] and completed several world tours.[77] He has performed with many musicians, including Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and James Brown.[78][79] They have won "Best Pop Rock Album" from the Contemporary A Cappella Society, for "Unbroken" (2004), "Level" (2010), and "Pollen (2014).[80]

He also performs as a solo artist, with groups such as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus[81] and at events like Singapore's "Vocal Edge"[82] and directing DCINY's annual "Total Vocal" at Carnegie Hall[83][84][85] as well as serving as Emcee for a cappella events, such as the annual Techapella concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area.[86]

Studio session credits include the Wii game Just Dance Kids 2 including the songs "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", "Barbara Ann", and "Mahna Mahna".


A prolific, award-winning[87][88] vocal music arranger, he has arranged more than 2,000 songs[89] for a wide range of ensembles, including some of vocal music's best-known groups.[90] The Best Arrangement award at the Colorado Harmony Sweepstakes is named after him,[91] and he has won the best arrangement award at the Harmony Sweepstakes several times since 1991.[92] He was named "favorite arranger" in the 2010 A Cappella Community Awards[93] and won "Best Professional Arrangement" in 2019.[94]

Live music direction and production[edit]

He founded and directed a cappella groups at Walt Disney World/Epcot (American Vybe) and Disneyland (Groove 66).[95] In 2013, he created a new professional a cappella ensemble in New Mexico: "Voasis".[96][97][98] In 2014 and 2015 in music directed the Sing Off Live tour[99][100] He created Vocalosity for which he was artistic producer, music director[101] and arranger.[29] They started touring in 2016[102] and their debut album was released on Universal Classics.[101]

In December 2017 he announced the formation of DCappella, a seven-member contemporary a cappella group launched in 2018 that will tour performing arts centers singing music from classic and contemporary Disney films.[103] He serves as the group's music director, arranger and artistic producer.[104][105]

His latest production with Columbia Artists Management, "A Cappella Live," is touring the US featuring four a cappella acts: Committed (vocal group), The Filharmonic, Women of the World, and Blake Lewis.[106][107][108]

Album production[edit]

As a producer of a cappella recordings,[109] he is known for having changed the sound of collegiate a cappella recording via the Beelzebubs' album Code Red. He has arranged and produced multiple albums and tracks for Atlantic Records' Straight No Chaser, including the certified gold "Christmas Cheers".[110][111][112]

In the early 1990s, he co-founded The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) compilation,[113] which he now produces annually with Varsity Vocals.

Event production and promotion[edit]

In college, he brought the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival to the East Coast, producing the first Boston regional with the Beelzebubs.[114] Shortly after college he founded the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA),[115] the West and East Coast A Cappella Summits (the first contemporary a cappella conferences), and a number of other a cappella-related projects, programs, and events[116] with the goal of popularizing a cappella.[117] Recent festivals include Aca-West in San Francisco and VoiceJam in Arkansas[118][119] where he often hosts the evening concert or competition as well as teach during the day.[120]

He is a frequent host and emcee at a cappella events, such as Silicon Valley's "Techapella",[121][122] The National A Cappella Convention,[123] The annual College Notes event in Walnut Creek CA,[124] "Pacific Harmony" in New Zealand,[125] AKA A Cappella in Singapore,[126] and the Maui Barbershop Festival.[127] Some of the videos he has posted to promote a cappella groups around the world have gone viral.[128][129] He's also frequently in residency or headlining events at universities such as Indiana U, Midland U and Tufts U.[130][131]

His work to popularize and promote a cappella worldwide is now being recognized by major media: "A Capella [sic] is more popular than ever, thanks to this guy" (NPR Here and Now),[132] "Deke Sharon makes a cappella cool again" (NPR All Things Considered).[10]


In his college dorm he founded The Contemporary A Cappella Society[133][134][135][136][137] and The Ultimate A Cappella Arranging Service (which became TotalVocal). Shortly after graduation, he created the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards ("CARAs"), a cappella's equivalent of the Grammy Awards.[56]

He formed the Contemporary A Cappella League,[138] a new national network of adult "post-collegiate" a cappella groups.[139]


  • A Cappella Arranging, his first book, co-authored with Dylan Bell, was published in 2012.[140]
  • A Cappella, a general interest book covering many aspects of the style, co-authored with Ben Spalding and Brody McDonald, was released in 2015.[141]
  • The Heart of Vocal Harmony, about how vocal harmony groups can perform with unified emotion, was released in early 2016.[142]
  • A Cappella Warmups for Pop and Jazz Choirs and
  • So You Want To Sing A Cappella were both released in 2017.[143][144]
  • Teaching Music Through Performance in Contemporary A Cappella, the first contemporary a cappella repertoire guide, was released summer 2020 [145]

Biographical Information about Deke Sharon can be found in Mickey Rapkin's Pitch Perfect (2008), Joshua Duchan's Powerful Voices (2012) and Alysia Abbott's Fairyland (2013).[146]

Musical theater[edit]

Teaching vocal instrumental sounds to the cast of In Transit

The pioneering,[147] first all-a cappella musical on Broadway, In Transit[148] for which he is co-producer and arranged all the music[149] opened at the Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway in December 2016.[150] He started working with the production just after their off-Broadway run five years earlier.[151]

Vocalosity, a live a cappella theatrical concert production with diverse cast,[152] began touring in January 2016 and has performed in 30 states.[153][154][155]

He has worked on a cappella musical theatre projects including "Street" and "Our World".[156]


He co-founded and directs Camp Acappella for teens and adults each summer[157][158] at Wright State University[159] in Dayton, Ohio[160] and teaches the music production class Soup To Nuts periodically.[161] as well as travels to other countries to work with groups in person, such as New Zealand,[162] Brazil, Italy,[163] Sri Lanka and Singapore.[164]

His YouTube channel features a variety of educational topics including how to sound like several different instruments. A GE special features him discussing the physics of a cappella.[165]

In 2016, he joined the California branch of the American Choral Directors Association as the first ever Contemporary A Cappella R&R chair.[166]


The Pitch Perfect soundtrack earned several awards, including an RIAA platinum record certification, the American Music Award for best soundtrack,[167] an Online Film and Television Association nomination for Best Music, Adapted Song (Don't You Forget About Me)[168] and an MTV Video Music Award for "Best Musical Moment".[169][better source needed]

The Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200,[170] secured the American Music Award for best Soundtrack[171] and a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack.[172]

As album producer, he was nominated for a Dove Award in 2012 (Best Contemporary Gospel Album: Committed).[173]

In 2016, he became an honorary member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, one of only twenty since 1938,[174] and he was named an honorary member of BYU Vocal Point.[175] In 2017 he was awarded the P.T. Barnum Award for excellence in Entertainment from his alma mater, Tufts University.[176]

He has received two lifetime achievement awards for his work in a cappella: in 2016 for the 25th anniversary of his founding of thee Contemporary A Cappella Society[177] and in 2018, from the A Cappella Music Awards.[178]


He is known for his ability to replicate a variety of instruments (e.g. trumpet,[179] guitar, flute, violin, muted trumpet, harmonica) with his voice—which he teaches online[180] and via "Singing Instruments" seminars[181]—teaching summer camp for young vocalists,[182] and adjudicating choral festivals around the world.[183] He has worked with many professional vocal groups, including 98 Degrees, The Nylons and Boyz II Men.[184]

Helping groups get started has been a ongoing goal of his for 30 years, which he does by providing free advice, support and arrangements.[185][186]

He served on the CASA board for almost twenty years, often as President or Vice President.[187] Acapellablog named him the number-one "a cappella power player to keep an eye on in 2012",[188] and NPR credits him for "making a cappella cool again".[10]

In 2016 he launched an a cappella podcast called "Counterpoint" with co-host Robert Dietz [189] and has appeared on other podcasts.[190][191][192][193][194][195]

To help promote Good Omens, he arranged several songs for "The Chattering Order of St Beryl," a group of singing nuns.,[196][197] and co-created Walmart's "Sparkappella." [198][199]

When the cult NXIVM tried to use a cappella as a recruiting device, he drew out Keith Raniere in a public forum,[200] resulting in his being put on their list of enemies.[201]

He describes his life's work is "to get more people singing"[202] because "music can build a better community"[203] as "our country needs to understand the importance of working together".[204] His motto is "Harmony through harmony."[205]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Title Year Category ISBN
A Cappella Arranging 2012 Non fiction ISBN 1458416577
A Cappella 2015 Non fiction ISBN 147061667X
The Heart of Vocal Harmony: Emotional Expression in Group Singing 2016 Non fiction ISBN 1495057836
A Cappella Warmups for Pop and Jazz Choirs 2017 Non fiction ISBN 0793595290
So You Want To Sing A Cappella: A Guide For Performers 2017 Non fiction ISBN 153810587X
Teaching Music Through Performance in Contemporary A Cappella 2020 Non fiction ISBN 9781622774876
Title Year Category ISBN
Contemporary A Cappella Songbook Vol 1 1996 Song book ISBN 0793595290
Contemporary A Cappella Songbook Vol 2 1997 Song book ISBN 0793595282
A CASA Christmas 1998 Song book ISBN 0793595274
Songs For All Occasions 1999 Song book ISBN 0634011707
I Feel Good: A Contemporary A Cappella Collection 2000 Song book ISBN 0634025600
Natural Woman 2001 Song book ISBN 0634033611
Shout 2002 Song book ISBN 0634055127
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 2003 Song book ISBN 0634084224
Good Ol A Cappella Vol 1 2003 Song book ISBN 0634055275
ShBoom: Contemporary A Cappella Songbook 2003 Song book ISBN 0634055283
A Cappella Jazz Broadway 2004 Song book ISBN 0634097776
A Cappella Jazz Classics 2004 Song book ISBN 0634084232
Respect 2004 Song book ISBN 0634084240
Deck The Hall 2006 Song book ISBN 0634084216
Ya Gotta Be 2007 Song book ISBN 1423412397
Love Songs A Cappella 2010 Song book ISBN 0634055240
DCappella Tour Songbook 2019 Song book ISBN 9781540041791

Selected discography[edit]

Album Year(s) Role
Fourteen – Tufts Beelzebubs 1989 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Beelzebub Winter Invitational – Tufts Beelzebubs 1990 Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Foster Street – Tufts Beelzebubs 1991 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Sing Naked – House Jacks 1991 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Naked Noise – House Jacks 1994 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Best of College A Cappella 1995–2020 Producer
Urban Harmony: R&B A Cappella 1996 Producer
Funkwich – House Jacks 1997 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
A Cappella All-Stars: The CARAs 1997–2000 Producer
Harmony Sweepstakes 1997–1998 Producer
Voices Only: A Cappella Originals 1997 Producer
Yearbook: Live from Spring Thing 1997–1998 Producer
Best of High School A Cappella 1998–2020 Producer
Naked Funk – House Jacks 1999 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Wasting Our Parents' Money: BOCA Humor 1999 Producer
Drive – House Jacks 2001 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Next – Tufts Beelzebubs 2001 Arranger, Producer
Disney's American Vybe – American Vybe 2001 Music Director, Arranger
Punch – Various 2002 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Embodiment – BaSix (Denmark) 2002 Producer
Only In America – Peking and the Mystics 2002 Producer
Code Red – Tufts Beelzebubs 2003 Arranger, Producer
Unbroken – House Jacks 2004 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Fitchy & Grikko – House Jacks 2005 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Udder Won – Moosebutter 2005 Vocalist, Producer
Unleash the Periscope – Colorado College Back Row 2006 Producer
Get Down Mr. President – House Jacks 2007 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Good Things – House Jacks 2009 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Christmas Cheers – Straight No Chaser 2009 Arranger, Producer
The Sing-Off tracks – US Sing-Off Cast, Season 1–5 2009–2014 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Go Nuts – Colorado College Back Row 2010 Producer
With A Twist – Straight No Chaser 2010 Arranger, Producer
Level – House Jacks 2010 Music Director, Arranger, Vocalist, Producer
Nota – Nota 2010 Arranger, Producer
Harmonies for the Holidays – Sing-Off Cast, Season Two 2010 Arranger, Producer
Best of The Sing-Off Season Two – Sing-Off Cast 2011 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Committed – Committed 2011 Arranger, Producer
Songs of the Season – Sing-Off Cast, Season Three 2011 Arranger, Producer
Pitch Perfect Soundtrack – Pitch Perfect cast 2012 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer
Act Accordingly – Gentlemen's Rule 2012 Arranger, Producer
Life's So Lyrical – Forte 2012 Arranger, Producer
Blackjack – The House Jacks 2012 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer
Southern Autumn Nostalgia – Street Corner Symphony 2013 Arranger, Producer
Pollen – The House Jacks 2014 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer
Best of BOCA 2014 Producer
Pitch Perfect 2 Soundtrack – Pitch Perfect Cast 2015 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer
Pitch Slapped Live Performances – Stay Tuned 2016 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Vocalosity – Vocalosity 2016 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer
Straight No Chaser – I'll Have Another 2016 Arranger, Producer ("Run Run Rudolph")
In Transit – Original Broadway Cast 2017 Arranger, Producer
Pitch Perfect 3 Soundtrack – Cast 2017 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Incredibles 2 Soundtrack – D Cappella 2018 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Full Rally – Tufts Beelzebubs 2018 Arranger, Producer
D Cappella – D Cappella 2018 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Unholy Night – Chattering Order of St Beryl (Good Omens) 2019 Arranger, Coach/consultant
D Cappella Japanese album – D Cappella 2019 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
SparkAppella - SparkAppella 2019 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Rockin Holiday – D Cappella 2019 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
All Ears – D Cappella 2020 Arranger, Music Director, Producer

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External links[edit]