Darke County Center for the Arts annually presents high-quality performing artists to students of each grade level in all local public schools; DCCA’s Arts In Education series exemplifies the organization’s mission to encourage cultural enrichment by providing exciting, engaging programs that entertain and educate youngsters, many of whom may not otherwise be exposed to the wonders of the performing arts. Innovative a cappella quintet VoicePlay toured Darke County as part of DCCA’s AIE program last week, performing at almost every high school in spite of wintry weather causing delays and scheduling adjustments.
As is often the case for Arts In Education presentations, “Follow your dreams” was the inspirational theme for this program; however VoicePlay members offered down-to-earth experience to accompany their esoteric advice. Earl Elkins, Jr., always knew he wanted to sing, and studied vocal performance in college; now, he utilizes the musical skills he so dutifully honed not only in VoicePlay performances but also for Disney Entertainment, which also employs other band members. But Earl’s straightforward path was not shared by all group members.
Eli Jacobson studied business in college, and has found management skills learned there extremely beneficial in “getting to do what I wanted to do,” which was a career in music. His advice to the high schoolers was to focus on not only your likes, but also your strengths and to know that achieving your dream takes a lot of hard work. Layne Stein, who creates the percussive beat and sound effects driving VoicePlay’s shows, loved to sing, but was also really interested in science and math and computers. He held on to all those interests, and now, in addition to performing with VoicePlay, runs his own successful recording studio. His recommendation: “Remember, you don’t have to give up on something you love while pursuing other goals; see what life brings.”
And life often takes an unexpected turn. Tony Wakim grew up in culturally-rich Manhattan, where he was involved in drama, music, and visual arts from an early age. He became a successful hand-drawn animation artist, but when that form of animation became obsolete, turned to a career in music and drama, meeting up with his VoicePlay cohorts in a production at an Orlando theme park.
Geoffrey Castellucci was also into music and the arts for as long as he can remember, and as a high school freshman happily formed a barbershop quartet with three of his current bandmates, which became “the biggest group of nerds” in their school. Geoff’s college major was music education, but he continued to perform, singing in theme parks and in musicals as well as with VoicePlay, which caught the eye of The Sing-Off producers. The group appeared on the TV program during its fourth season, where they did well, but did not win; however, they joined The Sing-Off”s national tours, and earned acclaim around the nation.
Since all the music they perform uses only their voices, the fact that the vocal range of the singers who comprise VoicePlay covers 5 ½ octaves is intrinsic to their success. At one end of the musical spectrum, Earl’s soaring “rock opera” tenor can reach remarkable heights; the short, compact, fitness aficionado says that audiences find it difficult to believe that a guy who looks like he does can sing so high, but singing is what he always wanted to do. He had a dream, followed that dream, and although for a while he got paid in pizzas, found a way to fulfill that dream.
Undergirding the harmonies, chords, and rhythms that seem so easily achieved by the charismatic quintet is Geoff’s rich deep bass. When asked how low he can go, Geoff responded: “Picture a piano keyboard; from the very last key on the left, go up three notes to c; that’s the lowest note I can reach.” When he hits that amazing note, which he does with ease and grace, it resonates richly. And the message communicated by these five guys who followed and fulfilled their dreams resonated with audiences, and will reverberate positively in lives for a very long time.