- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Deke Sharon, vocal producer for the film “Pitch Perfect,” the television competition “The Sing Off” and the a cappella show Vocalosity, stopped by Wednesday afternoon to talk with Ken Upchurch’s choir class at Jackson Creek Middle School.

Deke Sharon is the producer for NBC’s “The Sing-Off” and the arranger, onsite music director and vocal producer for the “Pitch Perfect” movies. On Wednesday, he added one more title to the list: guest instructor for Jackson Creek Middle School’s seventh-grade choir class.

Wearing a blazer over a “Camp A Cappella” T-shirt, Sharon led choir teacher Ken Upchurch’s class in a workshop-style lesson, conducting exercises in projection and fun vocal activities at the suggestion of his audience. He worked with students on their dynamics - manipulating the volume and intensity of their voices - and taught them how to use their voices to imitate musical instruments.

“When you’re singing, you are the mood. You are the instrument,” he emphasized to his rapt audience, before showing them how to make their voices sound like a trumpet, trombone, flute and harmonica. For percussion, he showed them how to emulate a plucked violin string, and devoted a full five minutes to beatboxing.

“The snare sound is a nice, tight ‘pft!’” he said, expelling a short burst of air. Giggles rippled through the class. “I know, it’s a little farty sounding.”

Sharon, who has a middle-school-aged daughter of his own, was in town as the artistic producer of “Vocalosity,” an a cappella concert that took place Thursday evening at Indiana University.

When universities and venues bring Sharon to their communities, he said they usually pair him up with local musical groups so he can lead workshops with aspiring singers. In addition to his lesson with Upchurch’s class, Sharon also paid a visit to University Elementary School, sat in on a rehearsal with IU’s Singing Hoosiers, led a workshop with IU’s a cappella groups and led three seminars for classes at the Jacobs School of Music.

In all, he participated in eight outreach events before “Vocalosity” even took the stage.

It adds a little stress to the touring life, but Sharon said he loves getting to educate young singers and share his love of a cappella.

“My life’s work is to spread harmony through harmony,” he said. Sharon founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society while he was in college, and he said the experience brought him in contact with people he would not have usually interacted with outside of the vocal performance group. “It brings people together. It teaches people how to listen.”

This is an important quality in today’s contentious political climate, he said - and it is especially important for middle school students, who may be experiencing complicated social dynamics for the first time and whose voices are just starting to come into maturity, allowing them to sing four-part harmony.

“They’re getting in on the ground floor, basically,” Sharon said. “They will have music and harmony in their lives for the rest of their lives.”

In the last few minutes of class, Sharon took questions from his young audience, telling them a little about his work with the upcoming “Pitch Perfect 3” and getting to know the singers of Pentatonix, the five-person a cappella group who came to fame through “The Sing-Off.” After enthusiastic insistence from the students, Sharon promised to forward their greetings to Anna Kendrick, the star of the “Pitch Perfect” movies. As the bell rang to signal the next class, he had the students mob around him for a group photo.

“You have a tremendous program here,” he told Upchurch at the end of the class. Upchurch had been participating in the vocal exercises right along with his students, thrilled to have the a cappella expert at the helm of his class for the hour.

“You never stop learning,” Upchurch said. “When you think you’ve got it, that’s when you fall flat on your face.”

His only worry was, “How do I take over after that?”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, http://bit.ly/2f1sTMS

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Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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