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Before Glee and Pitch Perfect, there was Rockapella. This Saturday, Rockapella stopped by to record for WERS 88.9 FM. Rockapella is an all-male a cappella group that has been performing since the mid-80s. Since then, they’ve had many different members come and go, but today their current members include Scott Leonard, Jeff Thacher, George Baldi III, John K. Brown, and Steven Dorian. In the ’90s, they were well-known for being the band on the PBS Kids television show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Today they are touring all around the United States and sharing their love of making instruments with the voices.
When they arrived in the studio they sang a few songs from their new album, Motown & More. The first was a cover of a song that was made popular by the O’Jays called “Use Ta Be My Girl.” They then made a smooth transition into the Temptations’ “My Girl.” The transition was so smooth that one may have even thought that it was all one song. What made both of these songs different from their originals was more than just the fact that they were being sung a cappella. They were smooth and soulful, yes, but they were also upbeat. It’s as if Rockapella reintroduced everyone to the oldies that we all know and love, but now we’re hearing the songs with fresh ears. They made the songs fun to dance to; they made you want to listen. It was purely fascinating how well they used their voices to harmonize together.
All of the members of Rockapella had some sort of musical upbringing since being where they are today. All of the members had family members who played different instruments and showed them the way. In addition to this, John K. Brown grew up around church where he partook in his church’s choir. Other members like Jeff Thacher grew up learning how to play several different instruments. They listed their musical influences as Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, and pretty much anything with “funk bass players.” They also all agreed that “Blame It On the Boogie” was their favorite song to perform from Motown & More.
Since Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? the group members and their sound have changed. For starters, old members left and new ones joined. They also changed their sound over the years. In the ’90s, they performed with boy bands such as N’Sync and 98 Degrees and were even considered a boy band themselves. With the coming of shows such as Glee, a cappella got pretty big and Rockapella rode along with a cappella becoming more and more popular. Now, they’re all about entertaining and spreading the performance of a cappella to others to make it even more known. They were fascinated by the idea of more and more colleges and universities having their own a cappella groups.
For those who may want to join an a cappella group or start a music career, Rockapella gave some awesome advice. While they all agreed that practice was important and that it could be helpful to take voice lessons, Scott Leonard shared a few more words. He said that it was also important to be original. If you want to start an a cappella group, don’t just sing covers, be innovative and write your own songs. Original music would take a cappella singing to a whole new level.