When one thinks about a cappella in the abstract, there are several names that immediately come to mind, names that have helped define the genre in its contemporary form. One of those names is Dave Sperandio, an a cappella producer whose extensive experience and critically-acclaimed work has established him as one of the most respected names in the game.
Sperandio is one of the founding fathers of VocalSource, the largest existing network of vocal music producers in the world. He has also served on the Board of Directors with the Contemporary A cappella Society of America (CASA) as the Director of Events. This puts him in charge of such high-profile conventions such as SoJam, the Los Angeles A cappella Festival (LA-AF), VoCALnation, and the upcoming Boston Sings (BOSS).
His production work has received many wins and nominations alike from awards programs such as the A cappella Community Awards (ACAs) and the Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards, and his list of clients is as long as it is impressive.
Long ago – but not too long – Sperandio got his start in a cappella earlier than most.
“I started in middle school with a small a cappella ensemble, and soon graduated to my own quartet singing in the stairwells. Boyz II Men, Billy Joel – the usual suspects,” he said. “When I got to (the University of North Carolina), I soon joined the Clef Hangers, and then after graduating sang with Vocal Tonic, transit, and Almost Recess.”
Like many who have participated in collegiate a cappella, it had a profound affect on Sperandio that inspired him to transition into a career that allowed him to foster younger talent while simultaneously utilizing his own creativity and musical abilities.
While in Vocal Tonic, Jeff Thacher (from Rockapella) was brought on to produce the group’s CD, and his time in the studio shed light on how Sperandio truly wished to spend his life.
“I worked for Big Blue (IBM), and I quickly realized that I enjoyed late nights in the studio a lot more than early mornings in the machine,” he explained.
At that point, he formed diovoce, bringing on his former group and several other Southern powerhouses as recording clients. In 2003, he became a full time producer, growing a list of clients thanks to his consistently high-quality work. He also founded the a cappella festival SoJam and the Alliance for A Cappella Initiatives (now merged with the CASA), which started the ‘Sing’ compilation.
Since then he has grown into the one-man empire he is today, and he has many short- and long-term plans going forward.
“I’m doing a lot of mastering now, in addition to recording and mixing, and of course I stay busy with events (that I help organize). I’ve got an album’s worth of half-finished songs that I’ve recorded of myself and some friends, (and) I hope to find the time to release that soon,” he said, also hinting at a secret initiative with CASA, and other personal initiatives that will be announced in the future. “Long term…I’d love to continue to help empower the future of our art form in an organic way.”
Added Sperandio, “Shows like The Sing-Off are working from the top down, and we’re working from the bottom up – when we meet in the middle, I expect some pretty great things for contemporary a cappella.”
His many projects keep him extraordinarily busy, but no matter how tired he may occasionally find himself physically, there is always something that powers him – besides his wife, or as he refers to her, “the best thing that’s ever happened to (him).”
“Raw emotion inspires me most of all,” he said, citing vocal bands like Fork, N7, and Duke University’s Out of the Blue as examples, “and when juxtaposed with beautiful music, I’m lost in it.”