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A Cappella With An Edge

A Cappella With An EdgeTufts graduate and former Beelzebub Deke Sharon is considered to be “one of the most respected innovators” in the field of contemporary a cappella music.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.23.06] What does it take for an a cappella band to really “rock”? Just ask The House Jacks. It’s what they do best. Since the group came together 15 years ago, the five-man, self-proclaimed “original rock band without instruments,” has garnered a landslide of praise from music critics and cultivated an international fan base. The House Jacks’ lead arranger, Tufts graduate Deke Sharon, is “one of the most respected innovators in an area that is drawing increasing attention in the music world – contemporary a cappella,” according to the Elkhart Truth.

Contemporary a cappella – a genre of music in which singers cover popular songs or perform original ones using their voices as instruments – bears little resemblance to a cappella music of the past. The House Jacks, in fact, describe their music as “everything from mile-a-minute funk to screaming rock to aching-heart ballads,” according to the band’s website .

DekeSharonDie-hard contemporary a cappella enthusiasts, like Sharon, who earned a degree in child study from Tufts in 1991, are on a mission to spread the word and introduce younger generations of aspiring musicians to the cutting-edge musical form.

Sharon travels around the country talking to students about contemporary a cappella, which “struck him ‘like a shaft of light,’” when he first heard it as a child attending summer camp, according to the Truth.

“Someone started to harmonize in thirds on a popular song,” he told the newspaper. “I thought … how do they do that?”

Sharon hopes to zap other youngsters with the same excitement and curiosity about a cappella that captured him so many years ago. That goal recently landed him at Elkhart Memorial High School in Indiana, where he gave a presentation about contemporary a cappella to choir students. Through his travels, the Truth reported, Sharon aims “to reach new students and educators.”

“Get kids involved in music through the music they are familiar with,” Sharon told the Truth. “It opens all kinds of musical doors.”

When the former member of the Tufts Beelzebubs and president and founder of the Contemporary a Cappella Society of America isn’t reaching out to schoolchildren in the United States, he is touring internationally with The House Jacks, which has a strong following is Europe and Asia.

Additionally, Sharon publishes sheet music through his company Total Vocal, helps form and direct groups, like Disneyworld's American Vybe and LA's Vybration, and produces a cappella recordings.

But having a full a plate is something that Sharon, who also earned a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1991, has grown accustomed to, according to the Truth. While he was a student at the Tufts, Sharon participated in a unique program, which enabled him to earn bachelors’ degrees from both Tufts and the NEC.

“I got a liberal arts and a conservatory education at the same time,” he told the newspaper. “It’s good to multitask.”


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