Deke Sharon

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Deke Sharon
vocalizing an electric guitar, on stage with the House Jacks, 2006
Background information
Birth name Kurk Richard Toohey, Jr.
Born (1967-12-12) December 12, 1967 (age 48)
Origin San Francisco, California, USA
Genres A Cappella
Occupation(s) singer, arranger, composer, director, producer, television producer, and teacher
Instruments vocals,instrument mimicry
Years active 1991–present
Labels Tommy Boy Warner Bros. Records, Hot Lips Records, Artelier, Atlantic Records, Sony Music Latin, Epic, Universal Records, Universal Classics
Associated acts The House Jacks, Tufts Beelzebubs, Straight No Chaser, Nota, Committed, Street Corner Symphony

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 [1][2] of the contemporary a cappella community and a pioneer[3] of the contemporary a cappella style,[4][5][6] referred to as "the father of contemporary a cappella" by some authors.[7][8][9]

Early life[edit]

Deke Sharon was born and raised in San Francisco.[10] He started singing in choirs at age five,[11] including the San Francisco Boys Chorus, in which he toured America and performed with Pavarotti.[12] He attended Town School and San Francisco University High School where he sang in and directed a barbershop and doo-wop quartet all four years.[13]


He spent his college years in Boston, graduating cum laude from Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music [14] where he studied with Ran Blake, Dominique Eade and Alan Fletcher (composer).

In college, he directed the collegiate a cappella group the Tufts Beelzebubs,[15][16] transforming the group's sound to reflect modern rock,[17] with intricate instrumental vocalizations [18][19] including being the first to integrate vocal percussion.[20][21] The 1990–1991 Beelzebubs album Foster Street that he directed musically, co-produced and largely arranged is credited with giving birth to the contemporary a cappella sound.[22]

In college, he decided to make a career of contemporary a cappella[23] even though people laughed at him[24] and thought he was crazy for doing so.[25]


He arranged for The Social Network,[26] and served as music director[27][28] and arranger[29] for the film Pitch Perfect,[30][31][32] starting with a month of "a cappella boot camp",[33] as well as singing on several of the songs (credited on screen as "Male Voice #1").[34]

He returned to make Pitch Perfect 2,[35] (in which he has a brief cameo as the german judge/broadcaster), again commencing with "a cappella boot camp."[36][37][38] His work began before the movie, helping to select songs, and continued through arranging[39] to teaching the music,[40] producing the vocal parts on set, and making sure the actresses are properly lip-synching to their own voices.[41] He got several professional a cappella groups and singers involved, including The Filharmonic,[42] Penn Masala, and Pentatonix, and worked with the Green Bay Packers.[43][44]


In December 2009, he acted as arranger, coach, and consultant behind the scenes on America's first a cappella reality show competition The Sing-Off,[45] and returned in 2010 as one of the show's producers as well as arranger, directing performances by groups like Pentatonix and Home Free,[46] who he convinced to start singing Country music.[47]

He also served as Executive Music Producer on the Dutch Sing Off, Sing Off South Africa[48] and Sing-Off China, including several guest appearances as a judge and performer.[49]

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.[50] Sixteen versions were taped, but only a few episodes aired before the song was removed (due to Hank's comments about President Obama).

He worked with Straight No Chaser on their first PBS special "Live in New York".[51]

He appeared in front of the camera for the first time on Lifetime's Pitch Slapped reality show, in which he coached an after school high school a cappella group "Stay Tuned" from Cherry Hill New Jersey,[52][53] focusing both on their musicality and emotional delivery.[54]

The show also aired overseas in London,[55] Israel (where its name in Hebrew means "a cappella battle")[56] and the Philippines (under the name "Pitch Battle") [57]

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,[58] a pioneering a cappella group[59] known for its original music and sound,[60] often called "the original rock band without instruments",[61] in part because they were the first a cappella group with a designated vocal percussionist.[62]

The House Jacks have released seven albums (signed to Warner Brothers/Tommy Boy Records in the mid-1990s)[63] and completed several world tours.[64] He has performed with many musicians, including Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and James Brown.[65][66] They have won "Best Pop Rock Album" from the Contemporary A Cappella Society, for "Unbroken" (2004), "Level" (2010), and "Pollen (2014).[67]

He also performs as a solo artist, with groups such as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus [68] and at events like Singapore's "Vocal Edge"[69] and directing DCINY's annual "Total Vocal" at Carnegie Hall [70][71][72]

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


A prolific (over two thousand a cappella arrangements), award-winning[73][74] vocal music arranger, he has arranged for some of vocal music's best known groups.[75] The Best Arrangement award at the Colorado Harmony Sweepstakes is named after him,[76] and he has won the best arrangement award at the Harmony Sweepstakes several times between 1991 and 2011.[77] He was named "favorite arranger" in the 2010 A Cappella Community Awards.[78]

Live music direction and production[edit]

He founded and directed a cappella groups at Walt Disney World/Epcot (American Vybe) and Disneyland (Groove 66).[79] In 2013 he created a new professional a cappella ensemble in New Mexico: "Voasis".[80][81][82] In 2014 and 2015 in music directed the Sing Off Live tour [83][84]

His latest creation is Vocalosity for which he is artistic producer, music director[85] and arranger.[86] They started touring in 2016 and their debut album was released on Universal Classics.[87]

Album production[edit]

As a producer of a cappella recordings,[88] he is known for having changed the sound of collegiate a cappella recording via the Beelzebubs' album Code Red. He has arranged and produced for Atlantic Records' Straight No Chaser.[89][90]

In the early 1990s, he co-founded The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) compilation,[91] which he now produces annually with Varsity Vocals.

Event production and promotion[edit]

In college he brought the Harmony Sweepstakes to the East Coast, producing the first Boston regional with the Beelzebubs.[92] Shortly after college he founded the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA),[93] the West and East Coast A Cappella Summits, and a number of other a cappella-related projects, programs, and events[94] with the goal of popularizing a cappella.[95] Recent festivals include Aca-West in San Francisco and VoiceJam in Arkansas[96][97] where he often hosts the evening concert or competition as well as teach during the day.[98]

He is a frequent host and emcee at a cappella events, such as Silicon Valley's "Techapella" [99] "Pacific Harmony" in New Zealand.[100] Some of the videos he has posted to promote a cappella groups around the world have gone viral.[101][102]

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),[103] "Deke Sharon makes a cappella cool again" (NPR All Things Considered).[104]


In his college dorm he founded The Contemporary A Cappella Society[105][106][107][108][109] and The Ultimate A Cappella Arranging Service (which became TotalVocal).

He formed the Contemporary A Cappella League,[110] a new national network of adult "post-collegiate" a cappella groups.[111]


"A Cappella Arranging," his first book, co-authored with Dylan Bell, was published in 2012.[112]

"A Cappella," a general interest book covering many aspects of the style, co-authored with Ben Spalding and Brody McDonald, was released in 2015.[113]

"The Heart of Vocal Harmony," about how vocal harmony groups can perform with unified emotion, was released in early 2016.[114]

Musical theater[edit]

The first all a cappella musical on Broadway, In Transit[115] for which he arranged all the music [116] will be opening at the Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway in December 2016 [117]

Vocalosity, a live a cappella theatrical concert production, began touring in January 2016 and has performed in 30 states.[118][119]

He has worked on a cappella musical theatre projects including "Street" and "Our World".[120]


He co-founded and directs Camp Acappella for teens and adults each summer [121][122] at Wright State University[123] in Dayton, Ohio [124] and teaches the music production class Soup To Nuts periodically.[125] as well as travels to other countries to work with groups in person, such as New Zealand,[126] Brazil, Italy,[127] Sri Lanka and Singapore [128]

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.[129]


The Pitch Perfect soundtrack earned several awards, including a platinum record, the American Music Award for best soundtrack,[130] an Online Film and Television Association nomination for Best Music, Adapted Song (Don't You Forget About Me) [131] and an MTV Video Music Award for "Best Musical Moment".[132]

The Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200[133] won an American Music Award for best Soundtrack[134] and a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack.[135]

As album producer he was nominated for a Dove Award in 2012 (Best Contemporary Gospel Album: Committed).[136]

In 2016 he became one of only twenty honorary members of the Barbershop Harmony Society since 1938,[137] was named an honorary member of BYU Vocal Point [138] and received the lifetime achievement award from CASA.[139]


He is known for his ability to replicate a variety of instruments (e.g. trumpet,[140] guitar, flute, violin, muted trumpet, harmonica) with his voice – which he teaches online[141] and via "Singing Instruments" seminars[142] – teaching summer camp for young vocalists,[143] and adjudicating choral festivals around the world.[144] He has worked with many professional vocal groups, including 98 Degrees, The Nylons and Boyz II Men.[145]

He served on the CASA board for almost twenty years, often as President or Vice President.[146] Acapellablog named him the number-one "a cappella power player to keep an eye on in 2012",[147] and NPR credits him for "making a cappella cool again".[148]

He describes his life's work is "to get more people singing" [149] because "music can build a better community".[150] His motto is "Harmony through harmony." [151]


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 1995-2015 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 1998-2015 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 Cast 2016 Arranger, Music Director, Vocalist, Producer

(This list does not include albums with Deke Sharon arrangements but not direction or production.)

See also[edit]


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  • Marine, Craig. (June 24, 1992) San Francisco Examiner Home of some very brave singers at the coliseum, A's anthem contest brings out talented and otherwise. Section: News; Page A5.
  • Carnes, Jim. (May 21, 1993) The Sacramento Bee Jacks of all vocal trades. Section: Ticket; Page 15.
  • Scott, Jane. (October 19, 1993) The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) Jacking up music with edgy a cappella. Section: Arts & Living; Page C14.
  • Birmingham News (October 7, 1994) Crime reports. Section: News; Page 2.
  • Winn, Steven. (March 6, 1996) San Francisco Chronicle "Media" to reopen stage door. Section: Daily Datebook; Page E1.
  • Eichenwald, Kurt. (June 22, 1997) New York Times Pop/jazz; 'Doo-Wop-a-Doo' will no longer do. Section 2; Page 232.
  • Eichenwald, Kurt. (July 17, 1997) Albany Times Union A cappella groups push vocal limits. Section: Preview; Page 6.
  • Associated Press (December 8, 1997) A Cappella Renaissance. Section: Entertainment.
  • Roberts, Alison. (February 4, 1999) The Sacramento Bee Mouthin' to it: Boyz nite out takes the a cappella approach to rock 'n' roll. Section: Scene; Page F1.
  • Muther, Christopher. (February 21, 1999) Boston Globe Different sounds of music group aims to make its mark in a cappella. Section: City Weekly; Page 9.
  • Sharon, Deke. (August 2, 2000) San Francisco Examiner Letters to the editor. Section: News.
  • PR Newswire (October 10, 2000) Internet Radio Is Home for the Adventurous, May Force Traditional Radio to Change Its Tune Says Expert.
  • Alexander, Sandy. (February 25, 2001) Baltimore Sun Campuses in tune with singers Music: The voices-only sound of a cappella groups catches on at colleges in Maryland and across the nation. Section: Special Tab; Page 1S.
  • Alarik, Scott. (April 22, 2001) Boston Globe "B-doom doom doom" they're not your father's a cappella. Section: Northwest weekly; Page 11.
  • Burrell, Jackie. (March 4, 2006) Contra Costa Times Old style, new sounds. Section: Local; Page F4.
  • Gomeztagle, Frances. (December 14, 2006) Colorado Springs Independent Sound effects. Volume 14; Issue 50; Page 28.
  • McCandish, Laura. (May 19, 2007) Baltimore Sun "Harmonizing the Melting Pot". Section: Local; Page B1.
  • Terauds, John. (January 27, 2008) Toronto Star "Acappellooza Shows A Cappella Singing on the Rise". Section: Entertainment.
  • Rapkin, Mickey. (March 23, 2008) New York Times "Perfect Tone, in a Key That's Mostly Minor". Section: Style.
  • Scott Simon. (May 31, 2008) Weekend Edition "Perfect Pitch: The Drama of Collegiate A Cappella".
  • Rapkin, Mickey. "Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory". Gotham Books, 2008.
  • Edgers, Geoff. (May 15, 2011) Boston Globe "Voices Carry" Section: Arts and Entertainment.

External links[edit]