“Godfather of a capella” Deke Sharon speaks to Paly choir

Carissa Tsui and Lucianna Peralta

Acapella legend Deke Sharon speaks to Palo Alto High School students in the Performing Arts Center. Sharon came Monday afternoon to advise Paly’s various choirs and has played a crucial part in promoting acapella worldwide. “If nothing I say will keep you from doing [music], welcome to the club” Sharon said. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

Choir students have a new perspective on music in the wake of a visit from a capella sensation Deke Sharon, who came to speak to students Monday afternoon at the Performing Art Center.

All Palo Alto High School choirs got together to hear Sharon’s advice. Sharon discussed the multitude of career paths for students in performing and overall success onstage. The choirs present were Premier Choir (Freshman Choir), Concert Choir (10-12 grade), Madrigal Singers (Soprano Alto Tenor Bass Adv. Vocals), Spectrum Singers (Soprano Alto Voices, Adv. Vocals) and Acapella Groups.

Sharon, widely known as the father of contemporary a capella, is a leading figure in the acapella community and a renowned singer, composer, arranger, and director.

Sharon has also worked on all three titles in the “Perfect Pitch” movie trilogy, though his presence can also be felt in the likes of reality television and musical theater. He grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Tufts University in Boston, later getting a degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

According to Sharon, very few people had faith in his career choice despite his successes later in life.

“Everyone I told in my college laughed in my face,” Sharon said. “Literally everyone laughed at me. I didn’t care… I love this thing so much I’m just gonna do it… I’m going to make a career out of this.”

Sharon touched on a large variety of points but especially emphasized the power of placing emotion into music rather than just focusing on its technical aspects.

So many choirs are all about technique, and the audience applauds politely, but they leave the concert and they just weren’t touched,” Sharon said.

Choir students raise their hands for a group photo with Deke Sharon. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

Kyle Lehman, a junior in the Concert Choir and Paly Madrigals, was very eager to hear from a musical expert.

“I was really excited when I learned he was coming,” Lehman said. “I think it is so cool that someone who created such famous things gets to help make our choir better.”

Senior Kyle Xu, another member of the Concert Choir, said Sharon’s words really resonated with him.

“One thing he said that I thought was important was how music doesn’t have to be perfect, especially in vocal ensembles,” Xu said. “We like to strive for perfection in notes and rhythms but we tend to forget about the purpose of the piece, and sort of the essence of the music. As someone who struggles with bringing that out during performances, it really stuck with me.”

For junior Eloise Dumas, coming to Sharon’s talk was invaluable.

“I was initially stressed about missing three classes, but it ended up being a very enriching and fun experience, so I’d say it was worth it,” Dumas said.

Junior Rori Escudero learned from Sharon that music isn’t supposed to be flawless but should have distinction.

“He said how music isn’t always about having perfect technique, but expressing emotion and giving the audience an experience,” Escudero said.

After directing “Pitch Perfect”, Sharon has gone back to his initial goal of helping younger generations of singers.

“This is my role in life,” Sharon said, “To spread harmony with harmony.”