Sean Altman

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Sean Altman
Born (1961-05-09) May 9, 1961 (age 60)
San Diego, California
OriginRiverdale, Bronx, New York City
GenresA cappella, power pop, comedy rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, performer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1986–present
LabelsChow Fun Records
ForLife Records
Associated actsRockapella
What I Like About Jew
The GrooveBarbers
Loser's Lounge

Sean Altman (born May 9, 1961) is an American musician and songwriter. He is a founder and former lead singer (tenor) of the a capella musical group Rockapella and a pioneer of the modern a cappella movement. He was a member of Rockapella from its inception in 1986 until he left the group in 1997 to launch a solo career.

As a founding member of Rockapella, Altman is best remembered for his role on the PBS children's geography game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, as the band served as the house vocal band and comedy troupe. Altman and his childhood friend David Yazbek co-wrote the show's theme song, which is recognized as one of the best-known television themes in history. Rockapella released seven albums in Japan and two in the United States during Altman's eleven-year tenure.

As a subsequent solo artist, Altman has released three solo albums on the independent Chow Fun Records: seanDEMOnium (1997), alt.mania (2002), and Losing Streak (2005). In 2008, Altman's solo comedy song act Jewmongous released the debut album Taller Than Jesus (Chow Fun Records), about which The Washington Post wrote "Witty and outrageously lampooning ... full of catchy melodies, clever arrangements and lyrics that yield satiric gems."[1] His a cappella group The GrooveBarbers has released two albums: Glory (2005) and Guts (2010), and his defunct comedy song duo What I Like About Jew released Unorthodox (2005) before its breakup in 2006. Altman wrote and recorded "Save The Ocean" and "You Ought To Be Saving Water" (with ex-Rockapella members Barry Carl and Elliott Kerman) for the popular Schoolhouse Rock! series, and has composed songs for the TV shows "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?", "Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?", "Out Of The Box", "The Book Of Pooh", "The Damn Show", "Brickleberry", Science Mission 101, and the feature film "Teddy P. Brains".

Early life[edit]

Altman grew up in the Riverdale[2] neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. His musical talent was recognized early on, as he starred in many school musicals and claims to have charmed female classmates with "hallway serenades." At age seventeen, Altman turned pro, performing on the New York City nightclub circuit with David Yazbek as Moon Pudding, a Simon & Garfunkel-styled teen duo. At Brown University, Altman majored in political science, but focused primarily on singing college a cappella with The High Jinks and fronting Blind Dates, his rock group that released two national college radio hits. Altman continued with Blind Dates after graduating from Brown in 1984, moving from Providence to New York City in search of a record deal. The group dissolved in 1987, just as Rockapella's career began.

Rockapella years[edit]

After graduating from Brown together, Altman and fellow High Jinks member Elliott Kerman joined classmates Steve Keyes and David Stix to form a new a cappella group called Rockapella. Rockapella began its career humbly, performing on street corners in New York City while Altman still focused primarily on his Blind Dates work. The group's repertoire consisted of a mix of barbershop arrangements and a cappella renditions of classic doo-wop pieces. As the group grew in experience and Altman honed his vocal arranging skills, they began to focus less on oldies and barbershop, and more on contemporary rock music. A dinner party performance for television personality Kathie Lee Gifford led to the group's 1988 appearance on the ABC TV show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Rockapella's performance of Altman's signature arrangement of the calypso novelty standard "Zombie Jamboree" caught the eye of producer Gerard Brown, who invited Rockapella to perform on the PBS Great Performances TV special Spike Lee & Company – Do it A Capella, which featured established a cappella acts Take 6, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Rockapella's idols The Persuasions. Elektra Records released Rockapella's live recording of "Zombie Jamboree" as a single, and the group's recording career was launched.

Producers of the future PBS Kids game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? took note of Rockapella's talents and signed the group to appear as the show's comic troupe and vocal house band. The half-hour game show aired daily for five years, catapulting Rockapella into mid-level television celebrity and making the Rockapella-performed theme song (penned by Sean and his childhood friend David Yazbek) into one of the best known television themes in history. Altman is particularly remembered for his trademark blond braids, which were ceremoniously sheared in the last episode of the fifth and final season by the show's host Greg Lee. The soundtrack to the show features five of Altman's original songs, including the aforementioned theme song and a duet with The Persuasions on "My Home". A sequel album co-produced by Altman, with collaborators Billy Straus and David Yazbek, was entitled Carmen Sandiego: Out Of This World and contained four Altman compositions as well as contributions from the rock bands XTC and They Might Be Giants. While Carmen Sandiego ran in the United States and Canada, Rockapella released seven albums in Japan, on which appeared a total of 14 original songs written by Altman both solo and in collaboration with others. The group also toured Japan briefly during this time.

Solo career[edit]

After Carmen Sandiego finished after five seasons and Rockapella had put out two independent albums in the United States, Altman left the group in April 1997 to better focus on his solo career. He promptly released his debut CD, seanDEMOnium, about which the Philadelphia Daily News wrote: "Imagine Dion meeting Marshall Crenshaw at the Beatles' house, with the Kinks, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Persuasions all dropping by for a song swap. The words have a cynical edge, but what really grabs you is the old-fashioned sweetness and punch of his neo-doowop vocals playing off incredibly hook-happy tunes."[This quote needs a citation] After releasing seanDEMOnium, Altman assembled a backup band, played New York City rock clubs for two years, garnering accolades for his live shows. The Village Voice called him "an absurdly talented performer... a power-pop mensch and an aspiring teen cult leader."[This quote needs a citation] He released alt.mania, his second CD of original music in 2002, about which Hits magazine wrote: "This record rocks....Rockapella mastermind, internet entrepreneur and divorcé Altman tells barbed, musically diverse tales of romantic misadventures....A dark, funny, resilient, postmodern concept album about love and loss."[This quote needs a citation]

Altman is the only three-time winner of the Contemporary A Cappella Society's "Original Song of the Year" award, and has also been a "Best Male Vocalist" award recipient.[citation needed] He currently records and performs a cappella with some other ex-Rockapella members in The GrooveBarbers (featured as The Astelins in TV commercials for Astelin nasal spray), bittersweet pop songs as a solo artist, and comedy songs in Jewmongous. He has vocal-arranged and produced a cappella albums for the groups Minimum Wage and Kol Zimra. Altman was named "Best Male Artist" in the 2005 International Acoustic Music Awards and was a 2005 Kerrville New Folk finalist. He is a member of The Loser's Lounge tribute series in New York[3] and serenades hospital patients as a volunteer with Musicians On Call. In June 2011, Altman released the song "MOT: Members of The Tribe" with Jordan B. Gorfinkel.[4] The song highlights the contrasts in different observance levels within Judaism. It promotes tolerance and respect.

Personal life[edit]

Altman and Inna Dukach at the BAMCafé, December 2015

In 2003, Altman married operatic soprano Inna Dukach.[5] They live in Harlem, New York City. They have a daughter named Ruby, who was born in November 2008.[6]

Altman is Jewish.[7]

Solo discography[edit]


Release date Album Artist
1997 SeanDEMOnium Sean Altman
March 2002 Alt.mania Sean Altman
June 2005 Losing Streak Sean Altman
2006 Unorthodox Sean Altman (What I Like About Jew)
2008 Taller Than Jesus Sean Altman (JEWMONGOUS)
2007 Dusty Valentine (Sean) Altman and (Mike) Mendyke
2005 Glory The GrooveBarbers
March 2010 Guts The GrooveBarbers
2014 Warning: Barbershop! The GrooveBarbers
2016 Zombie Jamboree The GrooveBarbers
2016 Sean Altman's JEWMONGOUS Sean Altman
2018 Dragon Meets Phoenix Sean Altman & Patti Rothberg
2019 Salt Sean Altman

Guest appearances/various releases[edit]

Release date Album Song
2000 The Brian Woodbury Songbook – Brian Woodbury "Unspoken Love"
2002 Karaoke Bar Brawl – The Ex-boyfriends "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"
2004 Conexion – LAVA "Don't Stay Down"
2007 Jerry Lawson Talk of the TownJerry Lawson Talk of the Town "The River of Dreams"
"Islands in the Stream"
2009 Schoolhouse Rock!: Earth "You Oughta Be Savin' Water"
"Save the Ocean"
2009 The Ocean of Love – Ari Frankel "Driving U.S.A."
2010 Acapella Treasury Shabbos "Havdalah – Hinei"
"Havdalah – Berachot"
2020 Joe McGinty 7 – Joe McGinty & Mike McGinnis "When I Live My Life Over Again"
"You Temptrest You"


  1. ^ Joyce, Mike (December 21, 2007). "JEWMONGOUS Taller Than Jesus Big Sean Music/Chow Fun". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  2. ^ Goodman, Lawrence (March–April 2008). "Too Jew For Who?". Brown Alumni Magazine. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  3. ^ "The Loser's Lounge". Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  4. ^ "MOT Video". Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  5. ^ "Weddings/Celebrations – Inna Dukach, Sean Altman, The New York Times, June 1, 2003
  6. ^ Who is Ruby Dukach-Altman? Accessed January 6, 2016.
  7. ^ Jewmongous Bio Published 2014. Accessed January 29, 2016.

External links[edit]