Known for their reimagined classics from the Disney songbook, Disney’s dynamic a cappella group DCappella features seven truly unique voices: Sojourner Brown (alto), Orlando Dixon (baritone/“The Voice”), Antonio Fernandez (vocal percussion), Morgan Keene (soprano/“Newsies”), Shelley Regner (mezzo/“Pitch Perfect” films), Joe Santoni (bass) and RJ Woessner (tenor). Behind each of their extraordinary arrangements is Deke Sharon, a.k.a. the father of contemporary a cappella, whose credits include the Pitch Perfect franchise and Straight No Chaser.
With the group’s first ever North American tour set to launch next month, we recently sat down with them to hear how they came together along with some tips for aspiring vocalists:
Each of you have very different performance backgrounds, how did you all come together?
RJ Woessner: Each of us initially submitted an audition video, which lead to a callback with casting in NY/LA. After 2 callbacks in NY, I was sent to LA for the third callback. Now all 7 of us are here! I coincidentally knew Orlando Dixon prior to the group because we both graduated the same year from Berklee College of Music and had sung together once. That was a treat when I realized we both made it into the group.
What do you all do to bond as a group?
Joe Santonio: PARTY!!! No but for real, we fully take advantage of the free time we have by hanging out with one another as much as we can! All of us are foodies, so in our off-time you will most likely spot us indulging at an awesome restaurant. We also love making music with one another even when it isn't DCappella related, each one of us bring so much to the table musically that jam-sessions are the norm!
How do you all come up with the songs you want to cover?
Sojourner Brown: Our music director, arranger, and producer Deke Sharon is the man behind all of our Disney song catalogue choices! What’s amazing is that the Disney music catalogue is truly never-ending, so sky’s the limit when it comes to what songs we’ll get to put our spin on next!
Are there any songs you all want to cover but they don’t translate to a cappella well?
Shelley Renger: I don't think there isn't a song that couldn't translate well to a cappella. There may be more challenging arrangements, but I believe, especially with the aca-genius Deke Sharon on our side, any song, especially in the Disney catalogue, could be translated to a cappella. I think the challenge for us lies in the idea of giving these classic Disney songs a new sound while still maintaining the integrity of the song that people fell in love with originally.
What are some tips you have for each individual member to be able to stand out in a group?
Morgan Keene: BE YOURSELF! Show the audience who you are and how amazing your personality is! Don’t ever feel like you need to be like someone else in your group. It’s not exciting to watch a group of people perform on stage who look, sound, and act like each other. Variety is a good thing! Being different is a beautiful thing!
How did being involved in performing arts in school inspire you?
Orlando Dixon: Performing arts education played a very influential role in shaping my musicianship, and inspiring my passion for music and singing. I was in a performing arts school environment from middle school through college, and without that exposure I would not have the foundational skill set as a musician and a vocalist that I’m able to use now on a professional level. As well, growing up singing in church along with my choral background gave me the opportunity to learn how to blend and make music with other voices in a group. In the world of a cappella that is essential, and it’s so interesting to see the symmetry between all these experiences.
What are the biggest challenges you have working as a group and how do you overcome them?
Antonio Fernandez: Likely the most difficult challenge you face singing in a group is becoming a unit. No matter what is on your mind, if it’s distracting from the musical moment, leave that distraction at the door when you walk in. Making synchronistic a cappella music together takes tremendous focus, dedication, and exploration of sound.
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