For the first time in YAA history, we are offering an A Cappella program and we are so excited. Leading the program as A Cappella Director at YAA’ Summer Performing Arts Intensive is Anthony Collisimo. We sat down to chat with him about his career, his love for a cappella and what high school students can expect this year if they join us for The Academy!
So, you’re the A Cappella Director for our The Academy this summer. What does that mean exactly?
I'm overseeing staffing, curriculum, rehearsal, repertoire, and performance of all students in the a cappella program. The goal of that program is to take dedicated, talented young singers and teach them high-level a cappella technique and create a professional-level a cappella performance at the end of the program.
You have been competing in quartets since you were 12. What words of advice do you have for our young artists who are looking to keep singing into their adulthood?
To be a lifelong performer and singer is to be a student of vocal music. Singers before us have built a culture of listening and enjoying a cappella and accompanied music which gives our music an engaged, excited audience. Listen to their music and their audiences. Wrap yourself up in their legacy, and emulate their styles until you find parts of what they do that express EXACTLY what is inside of you.
Never quit being a student of singing.
Listen to the Hi-Lo’s, the Nylons, Manhattan Transfer, Rockapella, The Suntones, The Mills Brothers, The House Jacks, M-pact, Pentatonix, Street Corner Symphony… and then keep going. You'll never run out of great musicians who sing. Talk to those artists that still perform and ask what they love about singing. Ask how they do it. And then sing so, so much. Perform. Sing socially. Record yourself. Sing in public. Sing on stage. Learn from yourself! It's a never-ending well of encouragement.
What can an a-cappella track camper expect for this summer's program?
Our campers will learn from world-class performers and teachers about the best ways to create a cappella music today.
Contemporary a cappella is commonplace in today's college scene, but professional level experience, curated repertoire, and state of the art equipment (and the knowledge of how to use it) is uncommon. Students will learn singing techniques used by the best a cappella singers in the world, how to record and to mix live sound, how to engage audience members during a performance, and how to create and interpret arrangements made for a cappella ensembles. Only a few places in the world offer this comprehensive coverage of the a cappella style.
What is your favorite thing about working with young singers?
Young singers are full of fire, and they learn so incredibly quickly. The passion that i have for singing is reignited every time I see someone discover a concept, chord, or melodic line that i have known for years. Seeing the excitement in their eyes and hearing their exuberance about these new ideas reminds me just how great these elements of singing are. It keeps me loving singing to teach and work with young singers.
What do you look for in a dedicated singing student?
Dedicated singing students fail. Students who work hard only when they are successful or perfect make for tired, uninspiring future artists. Wide ranges, powerful voices, and hours of voice lessons aren’t nearly as valuable as seeing the joy in failure. Students who take risks and fail are the same students who take risks that create moments irreplaceable by any other musician. Growing into a musician who takes risks and who values others who do the same is the number one quality I look for in a dedicated singing student.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your singing career?
Singing with others can be very special. In 2014, I was singing with a chorus who traveled to France to honor the 70th anniversary of D-day. We sang at Sainte-Mère-Église, Omaha beach, and Utah beach. We engaged in moving performances of American music intended to honor the lives lost and spread hope for a peaceful, united future. Already, this trip and these performances held special meaning to me. However, the moment that stood out was one of significantly smaller historical scale, a small town called Les Ventes. This town was significant because of a single man who flew reconnaissance missions for the Allied forces named Billy Harris. His wife, Peggy, heard that he was MIA after some time of him being away. He was not found for decades after his death because of mishandled military records. Because of Peggy’s persistence, his grave was found at Omaha beach at which point more came to light about his heroic death. The small town of Les Ventes has approximately 500 residents today. During the war, it was even smaller. During a mission where Capt. Harris was gunned down in his plane, he was headed directly for this small village during his descent. Instead of risking the lives of the innocent French people, Capt. Harris sacrificed his own life to continue steering the plane away from the town and into a nearby field. He was, and still is, celebrated as the town’s greatest hero. A statue of him stands in the middle of the town today, and our chorus performed in his honor during this trip. I sang Bring Him Home with the chorus while his wife Peggy, the mayor, and basically the entire town were sitting and listening. The energy, care, and hope sent from the audience to me pulled me through the performance, and I never viewed singing the same way again. Not a single person was without significant emotional connection to the moment, and most people, singers and audience members, were crying.
What we do as singers is incredibly meaningful and important, and I understand that more now than I ever would have without that experience.
Anthony has been a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) since 1991. He has competed in quartets since the age of 12 with many of them being notable competitors in regional, national, and international competitions. Anthony is the baritone singer of Better Together (2018 MAD Mixed quartet champions) and First Take. He is best known for his role as the lead singer in Da Capo (2016 BHS international finalists), as the associate director of the Alexandria Harmonizers, and for being a certified singing judge. He is an active coach and clinician for youth and adults in BHS events. Anthony is a professional singer in the Washington D.C. area. He has performed at the White House, Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, on TNT, and under many notable choral batons. In 2005, Anthony sang on stage with Andrea Bocelli as the recipient of the NIAF Andrea Bocelli scholarship for music at Christopher Newport University where he received degrees in Vocal Performance and Choral Music Education. Anthony taught choral and general music in public schools for a decade. Presently, he is a freelance voice teacher and coach in addition to cantor and chorister at St. Stephen-Martyr Church in Washington D.C.