ACR And The CARAs!

CARA logo 300x152 ACR And The CARAs!

The logo for the Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards. (Credit: carawards.org)

Last weekend, the winners of the 2013 Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards were announced. And once again, a bevy of A Cappella Records clients found themselves the winners and runners-up in many of the categories.

Both professional and scholastic groups from our client roster were named recipients of various awards, all of which were presented during the red carpet event at the 2013 Boston Sings A Cappella Festival last weekend.

Musae, one of the nation’s most celebrated pro ensembles and one of the few all-female ensembles of its kind, earned a runner-up award for perhaps one of the most coveted honors of the year – the Best Pop/Rock Album – for their debut offering, “(There is no Easy Way) From the Earth to the Stars.” Their cover of the Dixie Chicks’ rendition of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World” was also named Best Country Song of the year.

MO5AIC also garnered recognition among their professional competitors, earning the Best Professional Original Song award for “S.O.S.” And resident a cappella solo artist Peter Hollens won the Best Song by a Solo Performer Award for his take on the American classic tune “Shenandoah.”

A whopping 11 of our collegiate groups – Fermata Town, The Loreleis, Juxtaposition, Capital Blend, Nor’Easters, Purple Haze, Voices in Your Head, Exit 245, The Pitchforks, The Techtonics, and the AcaBelles – won various awards.

In particular the Nor’Easters won Best Mixed Collegiate Album for “III,” and Purple Haze took the runner-up spot in the same category for “Shed.” Exit 245 took the prize for Best Male Collegiate Album for “Boyfriend Material,” with The Pitchforks close behind as runners-up for “Refraction.” And the Loreleis earned runner-up recognition for “A Kick & A Wallop” in the Best Female Collegiate Album category.

Outstanding high school groups who have worked with ACR also received recognition from the CARA board. Centerville High School’s Forte won Best High School Album award for “Life’s So Lyrical“, along with several other awards recognizing their originals and cover songs, while Vocal Rush from the Oakland School for the Arts earned Best High School Solo for “Let Us Be Loving” and runner-up for Best High School Song after Forte, both of which came off of “The Beginning.”

Congratulations to all of the winners, runners-up and nominees of the 2013 CARAS, from all of us at ACR!

Click here for a full list of the winners.

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Producer Profile: Robert Dietz

dietz 240x300 Producer Profile: Robert Dietz

Robert Dietz. (Credit: sojam.net)

Robert Dietz is a Renaissance man of the a cappella community – a clinician, a producer, a composer and an arranger, all at the same time.

He has worked hard to establish himself as one of the most trusted and respected consultants in a cappella. Much of his work in that vein is done through Human Feedback Productions, but he has also served as a vocal coach and arranger for the third season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” He additionally writes educational articles for the official website of the Contemporary A cappella Society of America, after spending years offering his insight as a reviewer for the Recorded A cappella Review Board.

Dietz is also an accomplished performer, whose beatboxing skills rival some of the best in the business – good enough for the fictional Dalton Warblers on Fox’s hit show “Glee,” anyway. But even before working his way up to providing rhythmic support for fabricated- but still internationally renowned – a cappella groups, Dietz was active in performing. He started in his high school quintet, Ascending Height, then sang with and ultimately lead Ithaca College’s all-male a cappella group, Ithacappella.

His expertise and natural talents helped the group reach new levels, both onstage (when they advanced twice to the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A cappella under his direction) and in the studio (by producing the group’s Contemporary A cappella Recording Award-nominated album “Breakdown!”).

Dietz’s interest in a cappella was piqued at age 15, thanks to a rather serendipitous musical introduction courtesy of a former educator.

“My middle school choir teacher introduced me to a local, five-guy group called ‘Sons of Pitches,’ who were really big in Ithaca, N.Y. for a couple years,” he told A Cappella Records. “I went to one of their concerts and got totally hooked. Somewhere between ages of 14 and 15, I started my first group (also a male quintet) and then started arranging for that.”

He added, “Around that time I also discovered the RARB message board, and made it my mission to use that resource learn from the best. I actually remember asking my parents for permission to join CASA – I must have been 15 at the time!”

Since then, he has dedicated himself to becoming one the resources toward which future generations can look – which is part of the reason why he has teamed up with Ben Bram and Pentatonix’s bass Avi Kaplan to create the A Cappella Academy, a summer camp for high school a cappella musicians that is set to open in 2014.

“I hope that working with the camp will give me the opportunity to use all of my experiences and resources to help give up and coming a cappella artists an awesome educational experience that will allow their lives to be enriched by a cappella as much as mine has been,” he explained.

Wherever he goes in his already successful, prolific career, two things are certain. First, that he will take his love of and passion for a cappella with him, and his appreciation for the intangible wonder of voices singing and working in harmony. And second, that the loss of a beloved family member will continually inspire him to use his abilities and dedication toward enriching the lives and musical careers of others.

“For a long time my goals were very much about my own advancement as an artist, but then the experience of losing my mom to cancer in September of 2012 really shifted my perspective in a big way,” he told ACR. “In the time I spent reflecting after her death, I realized that a big part of what I want to contribute to the world isn’t just great music, but a legacy of helping others as well. “

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A Fierce New Single From Jim Diego – And A Video To Match!

ego cover 1 300x300 A Fierce New Single From Jim Diego   And A Video To Match!

“Ego” by Beyonce, as performed by Jim Diego. (Photo by Kat Hennessey; makeup by Jessica Hoffman)

If you were seeking the perfect a cappella track for strutting down the street on a Saturday night, look no further.

Jim Diego, the voice, arranger and mastermind behind “The Whitney Project,” has brought the fire, passion and style of another iconic female performer to aca-life.

By taking on Beyonce’s “Ego,” Diego has continued to solidify his brand – confident and smooth, with a touch of unapologetic flamboyance.

Diego told A Cappella Records, “I wanted to do a track that I could definitely do a music video for that also showcased one of my other passions – dance – so I got two of my friends, also talented dancers and choreographers, to work with me in choreographing a piece that’ll work well for video, also emulating the original done by Beyoncé.”

Mission accomplished.

The video is the epitome of Manhattan high fashion – appropriate for the present New York City ambassador for the Contemporary A cappella Society of America, and a founding member of Restated (formerly The Red States), one of the city’s most celebrated a cappella groups. With a little help from his friends, he found videographer Gregg Monteith, photographer Kat Hennessey, makeup artist Alex Michaels, and dancers/co-choreographers Rommel O’Choa and Dennis Chin. The parts come together in a visual presentation that’s equal parts homage and originality.

The University of Michigan and Gimble alumnus returned to Liquid 5th (the production crew behind “The Whitney Project”) for the recording, mixing and mastering of “Ego.” And their studio mastery, combined with Diego’s bouncy arrangement and sultry, rangy vocals, make for a track that’s all about fun and musicality. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen even without the help of the video’s sexy visuals.

Download Diego’s rendition of “Ego” through Loudr or iTunes (where you can also find “The Whitney Project”) today!

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The Sing-Off Has Been Saved!

singoff 300x126 The Sing Off Has Been Saved!

Logo for “The Sing-Off.” (Credit: nbc.com/sing-off)

Following the international buzz surrounding “Pitch Perfect” (and the gold-record sales of the soundtrack), the success achieved by show alumni such as Pentatonix and Peter Hollens, and a massive, passionately maintained grassroots campaign, NBC’s hit a cappella reality competition “The Sing-Off” will be returning this fall!

“The Sing-Off” producer and all-around a cappella master Deke Sharon confirmed the news to Entertainment Weekly during a phone interview yesterday.

“I am happily able to confirm that casting is going on,” he was quoted as saying. “The show is back!”

The new season already has casting calls set up for Chicago (on April 27), Nashville (on May 4), Los Angeles (on May 11) and New York (on May 18).  A casting call website has also been established. However, while the show’s third season experimented with a full-length run, the fourth season is expected to revert back to the shorter, holiday format adopted by seasons one and two.

All the same, the return of “The Sing-Off” is a testament not only to the increasing prevalence and fandom of a cappella but, also, to the perseverance of the show’s biggest fans and advocates.

When news of NBC’s decision not to renew the show first broke, ambassadors of the a cappella community took to the Internet to express their frustration and disbelief that a network would turn its back on a successful franchise whose unique model inspired the creation of incarnations of “The Sing-Off” all over the globe.

“The fact that a cappella music stands lose [around] 4.5 million viewers per week is an awful thought,” Rob Dietz wrote in a post on the website for the Contemporary A cappella Society of America. “The fact that talent the likes of Pentatonix, Committed, and Nota will no longer have a national stage makes my stomach turn. The fact that people’s access to vocal harmony will be in any way diminished pisses me off.”

Celebrities associated with the show, including its judges and host, also condemned the decision using their social media accounts.

Now, months later, those combined voices have been heard – “The Sing-Off” will return, and with it, new opportunities. With the fourth season comes another chance for a cappella groups to show the nation, and the world, what they are made of, and a chance for a cappella to continue its rise on the world stage.

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Arranger Profile: Bradley Turnbull

Bradley Turnbull Arranger Profile: Bradley Turnbull

Bradley Turnbull. (Credit: wikipella.org)

Every song ever performed a cappella has started as an arrangement – an idea on paper, brought to life by a group of singers. Bradley Turnbull, experienced arranger for hire, understands the importance of a cappella arrangements as the foundational building block of any performance piece.

Turnbull was a dedicated musician throughout most of his life, though he chose piano as his instrument over voice – that is, until he was almost finished with his high school career. It was in college, though, that is love affair with a cappella – and arranging – began.

“I was introduced to a cappella in 2006 when I joined The Rochester Institute of Technology’s all-male group, Eight Beat Measure, in which I served as the music director and group’s primary arranger for three years,” he said.

During his final year in the group, Turnbull truly came into his own as an a cappella force to be reckoned with.

He produced and recorded the group’s first-ever single track album, “No Safety Nets.” On that album, he arranged eight of the CD’s nine songs. His arrangement of “Honor Him/Now We Are Free” was nominated for a Contemporary A cappella Recording award, and earned “Best Arrangement” at the collegiate competition held at SMACC.

Turnbull graduated from RIT in 2010, earning a degree in Applied Mathematics. He is now a third-year graduate student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, working toward a PhD in Statistics.

Of the many arrangement he has executed, he is especially proud of his work on “Honor Him/Now We Are Free” from the movie “Gladiator”.

“Being nominated for a CARA was an incredible honor”, Turnbull stated. “It was a surreal experience to see my name mentioned along with people I idolized”.

He has also completed an arrangement of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” for his alma mater (an arrangement that can now be heard on Eight Beat’s newest album, “Heatin’ Up”), whose emotional significance makes its execution especially memorable for Turnball.

“In the fall of 2010, several members [of Eight Beat Measure] had friends and family members pass away so I put together that arrangement in honor of those loved ones they lost,” he explained. “I definitely felt a personal connection to the song, which makes it an arrangement that I remember very well.”

Though he admittedly does not have much free time with his present workload, what he does have he dedicates to his love of music.

“Now that I’m in my 3rd year of graduate school, I have completed a majority of my coursework and my schedule is slightly more flexible since I spend most of my time working on my dissertation research,” Turnbull said. “This enables me to spend about one day a week devoted mostly to arranging, which is a nice release from the stresses and frustrations of research.”

He is an arranger and consultant for Sled Dog Studios and operates his own website, BT Arranging, crafting freelance arrangements for groups all over the nation – including Eight Beat Measure – as well as in Europe.

He also participates in a small band comprised of fellow statistics graduate students who enjoy taking top-40 hits and revamping the lyrics to relate to their field of study.

“It is exactly as nerdy as it sounds, if not more, but it’s nice to get together every week or so and relax and make music,” Turnbull said. “We have also been invited to perform at a few statistical conferences and departmental functions and I have really enjoyed the opportunity to perform for audiences after graduating from RIT.”

Watch “Honor Him/Now We Are Free,” as performed by Eight Beat Measure, below!

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