The Making of Rockapella
The original pitch perfect acappella superstars! Rock – like you’ve never heard it before. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more influential group out there in this Era of A Cappella, with movies and network television a cappella exposure, a cappella Grammy awards, and innumerable college groups on campuses everywhere. As one of the progenitors of the astonishing full-band sound of “contemporary” a cappella, Rockapella has shown every audience the raw power of pure vocal talent and originality. “There’s nothing in the way between the audience and the us; it’s very human music,” says Rockapella’s human beatbox, Jeff Thacher. No instruments, no hidden tracks, no mirrors…and never lame.
Since the early ’90’s when they first achieved national television fame on PBS’s Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, they’ve toured the globe and provided a funky powerful soundtrack to several generations of vocal music fans, while keeping it fresh along the way. With buckets of catchy original pop songs, and complete contemporary revisions of sparkling pop and soul classics, plus an unbeatable Christmas tour and catalog, this group has always been the one to watch. ”Often imitated – never duplicated” applies here.
Now they’re better than ever! “We make it rock and make it interesting,” explains Scott Leonard, the group’s chief songwriter, arranger, and an architect of their ever-evolving and imitated dynamic sound. USA Today summed up their lasting appeal: “The best musical instrument of all is the human voice – if you’ve seen Rockapella, you know that’s the truth.” The New York Times agrees: they’re “Pure entertainment”!
The current Rockapella lineup features Scott Leonard (high tenor & arranger), Jeff Thacher (vocal percussionist), Calvin Jones (tenor), Manny Houston (tenor), and George Baldi (bass). “People have a hard time believing it’s just us making all of that music. It’s still those same familiar elements that make modern band music: percussion, bass, melody and harmonies,” says Scott. With a cappella groups multiplying across the world, Jeff adds “we know our longtime success is in the art of it – it’s not what you do, but how you do it!” Rockapella has indeed proven that original pop & soul magic onstage is what sets them apart.
Pyrotechnics is a word often used to describe Scott Leonard‘s singing voice. Scott grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and though he departed the Hoosier State for the University of Tampa on a baseball scholarship, he ended up a voice major. He sang in rock groups for Disney in both Orlando and Tokyo for two years, releasing solo albums while in Japan. Scott’s soaring vocals and songwriting & arranging prowess have played indespensable roles in shaping Rockapella’s characteristic sound.
The astonishing percussion sounds you hear in a Rockapella show are performed vocally by Jeff Thacher, completing Rockapella’s band-without-instruments sound. Jeff was born of a very musical family and raised on music skills from an early age. Not long after receiving a degree in music and recording from Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, Jeff began experimenting with vocal percussion in various groups, developing his unique sound. Since joining Rockapella in ’93, he’s been known as a pioneering giant among professional mouth drummers (a select group of beatboxers) who, as he likes to put it, “spit for a living”. Jeff’s powerful virtuosity forms the funky rhythmic heartbeat of Rockapella, delighting and astonishing audiences everywhere. An American original, for sure!
Calvin C. Jones was born and raised in East St. Louis, IL, and grew up idolizing Michael Jackson & Stevie Wonder. He started singing at an early age, then joined the vocal group Men Of Note at 13 and traveled the world as one of their lead singers for many years. Singing led to a passion for theater, and he went on to be featured in shows such as Dreamgirls, Fabulous 50’s, & Little Shop of Horrors, and brought his talents as a lead singer to the group SouthTown Fever. Rockapella had the good fortune to find Calvin while he was showcasing his silky smooth voice as a featured singer at Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL. Cal is an amazing one-of-a-kind talent!
Our amazing & beloved bass, George Baldi, returned to Rockapella after stepping away a few years ago. His long tenure with the group graced many of our albums and tours and we’re thrilled to have him back! Those enormous bass “pipes” are very hard to find in combination with such virtuosic music skills. It wouldn’t be “Rockapella” without such fantastic thunderous talent holding down the low end!
Manny Houston is our newest member, and brings a wealth of musical savvy and experience to the group. He’s a seasoned broadway and solo performer with a degree in piano performance, and has just completed a run in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Freestyle Love Supreme” in Las Vegas! We can’t wait to keep showing off this super talented & charismatic performer!
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