Tom Anderson, a cappella arranger extraordinaire and the man behind the music of many of aca-solo artist Peter Hollens‘ greatest works, is a name practically synonymous with greatness in the a cappella world – especially when it comes to arranging music.
The current president of the Contemporary A cappella Society of America, Anderson is looked to, trusted and respected as a true leader in the a cappella world.
And as an arranger, his work with Hollens is just one of many testaments to his prolific talents. But aside from continually crafting music for one of the genre’s most respected solo artists, Anderson has worked with groups across the nation with his own company, Random Notes LLC.
For Anderson, working in a cappella is a no-brainer.
“The sound of vocal harmony is something that I’ve loved for as long as I can recall listening to popular music,” Anderson said, adding that the Beach Boys and Boyz II Men had a large influence on him during his formative years.
After growing up and graduating high school, he earned his education from the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire on a jazz piano scholarship. He received a degree in music composition in 2002, and has been working his way to the top of the a cappella arranging game ever since.
Before graduating from UWEC, though, he garnered several arranging and vocal percussion awards while competing in the International Championship of Collegiate A cappella with Fifth Element, a group he helped start at school. After graduation, Anderson was a member of celebrated professional vocal band Ball in the House, departing just as Hollens was entering the group.
It was that connection that led to the arrangement that would take Anderson’s career to the next level.
He arranged a piece for the University of Oregon’s On the Rocks called “Kyrie,” by Mr. Mister. The song was a smash hit, for OTR and Anderson alike, and his career took off from there. Now, years later, he has worked with some of the most respected groups and studios in existence, including The Swingle Singers, Cluster, and Sled Dog Studios – just to name a few.
And he shows no signs of stopping, bringing his talents to Off-Broadway musicals and teaching others at festivals such as VoCAL Nation while continuing to arrange for groups who frequently earn their way onto respected a cappella compilations and into the finals for the International Championships of College and High School A cappella – all with the help of Anderson’s uniquely complex and thoughtful arrangements.
It might be, in part, due to not only his high self-standards of quality. But what makes his work special is that Anderson also aims, with every arrangement he does, to make his pieces truly speak to their audiences.
“…Emotional resonance – that, to me, is the more powerful of the two [things that inspire me], and the more difficult to capture, perhaps because it’s more personal and subjective,” he noted. “The unfettered melancholy of a Tom Waits ballad, the wrenching sense of nascent alienation in Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know,’ or the nostalgic sense of home in James Taylor’s ‘Letter in the Mail’ might not strike a chord with every listener, [but] they do with me.”