The a cappella community is blessed with a true glut of talent, ambition, and camaraderie. There are so many who are ready and willing to offer their time and expertise in the name of bettering the genre overall.
When tasked with making a list of the most respected, many would find it easy to name at least a few of their fellow musicians. And we assure you that every a cappella person would include Deke Sharon on that who’s-who list.
Sharon, a San Francisco native, has been enamored with vocal harmony for as long as he can remember.
“I started singing in church choir at age 5, and at age 7 joined the SF Boys Chorus,” he said. “I loved singing, and I guess I was good at it as I was the youngest member in the top SFBC ensemble, but that didn’t matter much.”
He added, “And I loved the sound of improvised harmony, around the campfire. Simple lines, simple songs, but it grabbed me.”
He made his way cross-country for college, to attend Tufts University and sing with the widely-celebrated Beelzebubs after they sang at his school – and subsequently changed his life.
“I sang lead in the quartet in the Music Man freshman year of high school, loved it, kept it going for 4 years during lunch with various singers,” he recalled. “[W]hen the Bubs came to my high school and sang as a sophomore, that was it. Game over. Everything came together.”
He worked his way up to musically directing the group, arranging songs in a way that can only be described as entirely innovative. His work on “Foster Street,” the 1990-1991 Bubs album, is regarded commonly as the creation of what we now know as the sound of contemporary a cappella.
Sharon continued his education at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he further honed his skills as an accomplished singer and arranger of a cappella music.
While completing his extensive education, he created the Contemporary A cappella Society of America, the beginnings of TotalVocal (his arranging service), and introduced the east coast to the Harmony Sweepstakes.
Sharon is also a driving force behind the creation and continued success of the Best of College A cappella compilation series, CASA’s Contemporary A cappella League, and the International Championship of Collegiate A cappella.
His influence is also known through his consultation work with NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” which later developed in to an Executive Music Producer role with Dutch Sing-Off. He additionally arranged for the widely-popular movie “The Social Network” and musically directed and arranged for “Pitch Perfect,” the competitive a cappella movie that took the nation by storm last fall – and an accompanying soundtrack that has risen up the mainstream charts.
Sharon, presently a member of the House Jacks, is also a fantastic performer, whose vocals (and instrumental emulations) have delighted audiences for over 20 years. As a performer, arranger and producer of recorded and live a cappella music, he has won more awards than we could even try to count.
And he happily shares all that he has learned in an annual seminar, “Soup2Nuts,” co-hosted with fellow a cappella legend Bill Hare (in addition to advice offered through his writing for CASA, his talks at a cappella festivals, and countless interactions he’s found the time to have with those hoping to become involved with the a cappella community).
Sharon’s career represents what happens when immense skill, a knack for invention, and a simple, true love are combined – it’s the sort of mix that leads to truly great things. For him, it’s especially all about the love.
Said Sharon, “I love entertaining a crowd, and love making great music. I love passion over precision, especially now where precision can be so easily digitally manufactured. I love original music, although there’s far too little in a cappella. I love the pure joy with which a scholastic group sings when they let go and just revel in the music and their youth.”
That’s merely the short list – it seems almost everything about a cappella inspires him to keep going, keep performing, keep creating. And for that, as well as all that he has done for our musical community, we are truly thankful.