Deke Sharon

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Deke Sharon
Dekesharon.jpg
On stage with the House Jacks, 2006
Background information
Birth name Kurk Richard Toohey, Jr.
Born (1967-12-12) December 12, 1967 (age 50)
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, Hollywood Records, Walt Disney Records
Associated acts The House Jacks, Tufts Beelzebubs, Straight No Chaser, Nota, Committed, Street Corner Symphony, Pentatonix, Vocalosity, D Cappella
Website totalvocal.com

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] 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 choirs at age five,[16] including the San Francisco Boys Chorus, in which he toured America and performed with Pavarotti.[17] He attended Town School and San Francisco University High School, where he sang in and directed a quartet all four years [18][19] after singing lead in the barbershop quartet his freshman year in "The Music Man." [20]

College[edit]

Sharon spent his college years in Boston receiving two degrees: graduating cum laude from Tufts University with a BA degree in childhood studies and a BM from the New England Conservatory of Music [21] with a focus on vocal jazz, third stream (now called "contemporary improvisation") and music theory with Ran Blake, Dominique Eade and Alan Fletcher (composer).

Tufts Beelzebubs' Foster Street (1991)

In college, he directed the collegiate a cappella group the Tufts Beelzebubs,[22][23] transforming the group's sound to reflect modern rock,[24] with intricate instrumental vocalizations [25][26] including being the first to integrate vocal percussion.[27][28] 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.[29] In fact, he had to audition three times before the Bubs accepted him, as he was seen as "overzealous" during a time when being excited about a cappella was uncool, a fact which was mentioned in the book "Pitch Perfect" and was part of the inspiration for the character of Benji in the film Pitch Perfect.[30][31] In college, he decided to make a career of contemporary a cappella.[32] even though people laughed at him[33][34]

Film[edit]

Deke and Rebel Wilson recording the Pitch Perfect 2 Finale

He arranged for and served as music director[35][36] and arranger[37] for the film Pitch Perfect,[8][38][39] starting with a month of "a cappella boot camp",[40] as well as singing on several of the songs (credited on screen as "Male Voice #1").[41] He returned to make Pitch Perfect 2,[42] (in which he has a brief cameo as the German judge/broadcaster), again commencing with "a cappella boot camp."[43][44][45] His work began before the movie, helping to select songs, and continued through arranging[46] to teaching the music,[47] producing the vocal parts on set, and making sure the actresses are properly lip-synching to their own voices.[48] He got several professional a cappella groups and singers involved, including The Filharmonic,[49] Penn Masala, and Pentatonix, and worked with the Green Bay Packers.[50][51] He returned to music direct, arrange and vocal produce for Pitch Perfect 3.[52] He has also arranged for The Social Network.[53]

Television[edit]

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,[54] and returned in 2010 as one of the show's producers as well as arranger, directing performances by groups like Pentatonix and Home Free,[55] who he convinced to start singing Country music.[56] He also served as Executive Music Producer on the Dutch Sing Off, 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] 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.[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]

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,[70] a pioneering a cappella group[71] known for its original music and sound,[72] often called "the original rock band without instruments",[73] in part because they were the first a cappella group with a designated vocal percussionist.[74]

House Jacks Promo Photo (circa 2001)

The House Jacks have released seven albums (signed to Warner Brothers/Tommy Boy Records in the mid-1990s)[75] and completed several world tours.[76] He has performed with many musicians, including Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and James Brown.[77][78] They have won "Best Pop Rock Album" from the Contemporary A Cappella Society, for "Unbroken" (2004), "Level" (2010), and "Pollen (2014).[79]

He also performs as a solo artist, with groups such as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus [80] and at events like Singapore's "Vocal Edge"[81] and directing DCINY's annual "Total Vocal" at Carnegie Hall [82][83][84] as well as serving as Emcee for a cappella events, such as the annual Techapella concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area.[85]

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

Arranging[edit]

A prolific, award-winning[86][87] vocal music arranger, he has arranged more than 2,000 songs [88] for a wide range of ensembles, including some of vocal music's best known groups.[89] The Best Arrangement award at the Colorado Harmony Sweepstakes is named after him,[90] and he has won the best arrangement award at the Harmony Sweepstakes several times between 1991 and 2011.[91] He was named "favorite arranger" in the 2010 A Cappella Community Awards.[92]

Live music direction and production[edit]

He founded and directed a cappella groups at Walt Disney World/Epcot (American Vybe) and Disneyland (Groove 66).[93] In 2013, he created a new professional a cappella ensemble in New Mexico: "Voasis".[94][95][96] In 2014 and 2015 in music directed the Sing Off Live tour [97][98]

He created Vocalosity for which he is artistic producer, music director[99] and arranger.[27] They started touring in 2016 [100] and their debut album was released on Universal Classics.[99]

In December 2017 he announced the formation of D Cappella, a seven-member contemporary a cappella group launched in 2018 that will tour performing arts centers singing music from classic and contemporary Disney films.[101] He serves as the group's music director, arranger and artistic producer.[102]

Album production[edit]

As a producer of a cappella recordings,[103] 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".[104][105][106]

In the early 1990s, he co-founded The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) compilation,[107] 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.[108] Shortly after college he founded the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA),[109] 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[110] with the goal of popularizing a cappella.[111] Recent festivals include Aca-West in San Francisco and VoiceJam in Arkansas[112][113] where he often hosts the evening concert or competition as well as teach during the day.[114]

He is a frequent host and emcee at a cappella events, such as Silicon Valley's "Techapella",[115] The National A Cappella Convention,[116] The annual College Notes event in Walnut Creek CA,[117] "Pacific Harmony" in New Zealand,[118] AKA A Cappella in Singapore,[119] and the Maui Barbershop Festival.[120] Some of the videos he has posted to promote a cappella groups around the world have gone viral.[121][122]

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),[123] "Deke Sharon makes a cappella cool again" (NPR All Things Considered).[10]

Organizations[edit]

In his college dorm he founded The Contemporary A Cappella Society[124][125][126][127][128] and The Ultimate A Cappella Arranging Service (which became TotalVocal).

He formed the Contemporary A Cappella League,[129] a new national network of adult "post-collegiate" a cappella groups.[130]

Writing[edit]

"A Cappella Arranging," his first book, co-authored with Dylan Bell, was published in 2012.[131]

"A Cappella," a general interest book covering many aspects of the style, co-authored with Ben Spalding and Brody McDonald, was released in 2015.[132]

"The Heart of Vocal Harmony," about how vocal harmony groups can perform with unified emotion, was released in early 2016.[133]

"A Cappella Warmups for Pop and Jazz Choirs" and "So You Want To Sing A Cappella" were both released in 2017.

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).[134]

Musical theater[edit]

Teaching vocal instrumental sounds to the cast of In Transit

The pioneering,[135] first all a cappella musical on Broadway, In Transit (musical)[136] for which he is co-producer and arranged all the music [137] opened at the Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway in December 2016.[138] He started working with the production just after their off-Broadway run five years earlier [139]

Vocalosity, a live a cappella theatrical concert production with diverse cast,[140] began touring in January 2016 and has performed in 30 states.[141][142][143]

He has worked on a cappella musical theatre projects including "Street" and "Our World".[144]

Education[edit]

He co-founded and directs Camp Acappella for teens and adults each summer [145][146] at Wright State University[147] in Dayton, Ohio [148] and teaches the music production class Soup To Nuts periodically.[149] as well as travels to other countries to work with groups in person, such as New Zealand,[150] Brazil, Italy,[151] Sri Lanka and Singapore [152]

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.[153]

In 2016, he joined the California branch of the American Choral Directors Association as the first ever Contemporary A Cappella R&R chair [154]

Awards[edit]

The Pitch Perfect soundtrack earned several awards, including a platinum record, the American Music Award for best soundtrack,[155] an Online Film and Television Association nomination for Best Music, Adapted Song (Don't You Forget About Me) [156] and an MTV Video Music Award for "Best Musical Moment".[157]

The Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200[158] won an American Music Award for best Soundtrack[159] and a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack.[160]

As album producer he was nominated for a Dove Award in 2012 (Best Contemporary Gospel Album: Committed).[161]

In 2016, he became one of only twenty honorary members of the Barbershop Harmony Society since 1938,[162] was named an honorary member of BYU Vocal Point.[163] In 2017 he was awarded the P.T. Barnum Awards for excellence in Entertainment from Tufts University.[164]

He has received two lifetime achievement awards for his work in a cappella: in 2016 from CASA [165] and from the A Cappella Music Awards in 2018 [166]

Other[edit]

He is known for his ability to replicate a variety of instruments (e.g. trumpet,[167] guitar, flute, violin, muted trumpet, harmonica) with his voice – which he teaches online[168] and via "Singing Instruments" seminars[169] – teaching summer camp for young vocalists,[170] and adjudicating choral festivals around the world.[171] He has worked with many professional vocal groups, including 98 Degrees, The Nylons and Boyz II Men.[172]

He served on the CASA board for almost twenty years, often as President or Vice President.[173] Acapellablog named him the number-one "a cappella power player to keep an eye on in 2012",[174] and NPR credits him for "making a cappella cool again".[10]

He describes his life's work is "to get more people singing" [175] because "music can build a better community"[176] as "our country needs to understand the importance of working together".[177] His motto is "Harmony through harmony." [178]

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
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

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 1995-2018 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 1998-2018 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
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 Cast 2018 Arranger, Music Director, Producer
Full Rally - Tufts Beelzebubs 2018 Arranger, Producer
D Cappella - D Cappella Cast 2019 Arranger, Music Director, Producer

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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References[edit]

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External links[edit]