Dave LongoProducer, Chief Executive Officer
Dave’s been a high-tech fixture on the a cappella scene since he joined RIT’s Eight Beat Measure in 2005. But it was Five O’Clock Shadow’s visit to his high school (where Dave was already performing in two different choirs) that triggered his fascination with the form, from the beatbass stylings of Stack to the endless ways to use technology to enhance – but never replace – unaccompanied human vocalists.
True, Dave’s amassed an impressive array of accomplishments, from serving as Eight Beat Measure’s producer and founding the group’s non-profit alumni association, to his BS in Computational Mathemetics from RIT and his Master Certificate in Music Production using Pro Tools from Berklee College of Music. (Still hungry for more, he then became an Avid Certified Pro Tools HD8 Operator in Music.) He’s worked with groups ranging from small high school sextets to NOTA. He’s founded Sled Dog Studios, Six Dots Sound, and SMACC. His work has appeared on compilations like Sing, BOCA, Voices Only, and Voices Only Forte. But resume highlights don’t capture the essence of how his passion for a cappella became a career-path one-eighty that’s now changing the industry. Or the aggressive idealism that leads him to treat a cappella – and the groups and individuals that perform it – as a microcosm of life’s “best-of” when it comes to talent, tradition, and business. Or the sense that the moment you (whomever you may be) enter Sled Dog’s studio, Dave Longo’s got your back.
Mark HinesSenior Producer, Chief Operations Officer
Technically, Mark’s singing career began at age six with a featured solo at his parents’ dinner party. He continued to perform throughout his school years, but it was his response to a performance of “Ave Maria” by NC State’s Grains of Time that solidified a cappella as his musical calling. He made it his mission to join the group (he succeeded), then proceeded to lead the Grains on an international tour, produce their albums, and arrange their ICCA award winner, “Homeward Bound.”
Along the way, he worked with and learned the art of recording from Dave “Dio” Sperandio, joined forces with The Vocal Company co-founder Nick Lyons, co-founded SoJam and became its first executive producer (times three), was appointed to the CASA Board of Directors, and teaches the high-demand “Serious Business” a cappella course.
And on the subject of business: Mark’s been known to frustrate a biz manager (or ten) by insisting that they talk music before money and put nuance before numbers. But in his view, developing a rapport between groups and producers is the best way to ensure that everyone views the project as a success – his clients first and foremost.
Nick LyonsSenior Producer, Chief Creative Officer
A cappella veteran Nick Lyons is known (with good reason) as one of the quieter, more humble members of the team. He isn’t necessarily concerned with telling the world about his degree in Music Education from UNC Greensboro or the fact that he founded the UNCG Sapphires. He doesn’t brag about his performances in the original CARA-winning incarnation of transit or with Almost Recess on the CARA-nominated Number 2. Truth be told, he tunes out a bit when people start asking about his long list of achievements.
No, tooting his own horn isn’t one of Nick’s favorite pastimes. If you really want to get him talking, just ask about gorgeous wife Kaitlin (a former Sapphire, by the by) and son Emerson, the world’s most delicious aca-baby. We promise: he’ll talk your ear off.
Angela began her a cappella career in home territory at Florida State University, where she directed the award-winning all-female group AcaBelles and led them to ICCA finals as the ‘09 South Champions. She also co-produced their album “Just Got Real” (which was nominated for three CARA Awards), and co- produced their latest album, “Seamless.” Since her time at FSU, she’s studied audio engineering, sung with The Red States and founded NYC’s all-female Empire, where she served as musical director. She’s now a member of Musae, another red-hot all-female group – and she recorded, edited, and mixed their H-O-T CD, “(There Is No Easy Way) From the Earth to the Stars.” Industry veterans have dubbed her one of the most talented up-and-coming engineers…and given the sources, that’s saying a lot.
Ben StevensDirector of Education
Dr. Benjamin Eldon Stevens (Ph.D., M.A. University of Chicago; B.A. Reed College), Director of Education for The Vocal Company, joined Sled Dog Music Group in 2013. Dr. Stevens oversees the group’s educational programs, including:
- Next Level Music Education events at Sled Dog Studios Rochester and elsewhere
- DIYacappella, which puts recording technology and technique in the hands of student groups
- The Eight Beat Measure Foundation Scholarship, which helps deserving young students of music attend events with educational purposes
Dr. Stevens is also a Board member of the Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA), where since 2009 he has been Director of Education, overseeing programs including CASAacademy, Harmony in the Halls, high school outreach, and Tunes to Teens. As program manager for festivals education, he is primarily responsible for curricula at CASA’s many annual regional festivals. A noted clinician and lecturer, he also leads master classes and a lecture series on music history and criticism, “Essential Listening,” at these and other events.
Dr. Stevens has been formally involved in contemporary a cappella for nearly twenty years, reviewing for the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB). A reviewer of more than 125 albums through 2003, he went on to coordinate RARB from 2003-2010, overseeing the publication of nearly 2,000 individual reviews. He has judged international a cappella contests and awards. From the other side of the microphone, he has performed with groups based in Portland, OR, and Boulder, CO, and has appeared on recordings as a session musician.
A professional educator, Dr. Stevens is currently assistant professor of Classical Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, where he also contributes to Cognitive Science, the Language and Thinking program, and the Bard Prison Initiative. He has also taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research has focused on Latin literature, linguistics, the history of the senses in culture, and classical traditions and reception studies. A gifted linguist who reads or speaks more than a dozen languages, Dr. Stevens also writes poetry of his own.
Dr. Stevens – who in the a cappella community is sometimes called “The Professor,” “Professor Gunz,” or “P-Gunz” – lives in Red Hook, NY. (Not that one. The other one.)
Though Ted sang with two different groups (CARA winning Kaskeset and the infamous The Binghamton Crosbys) at Binghamton University before graduating in 2010 with a BA in Music, he considers himself more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. And while his sweet spot is in the mixing studio, he’s a start-to-finish producing powerhouse.
For Ted, there’s no such thing as “outside the music,” though a cappella is just the beginning. He’s constantly coming up with new ways to make groups sound their best. So if you see him clowning around the studio, tossing a set of juggling pins, or perched on a unicycle, pay attention – not just to his latest tricks, but to the singers around you. Everyone’s loose and ready to give it their all…and that’s just how Ted wants it.
Jeston LewisLive Producer
From his first performance of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” to singing with The Stony Brook High C’s and starting The Executive Board, Jeston has long since known that a cappella is where it’s at, musically speaking. And upon watching Sonos and Basix perform at SoJam 2010, he made it his mission to continue finding new ways to push the limits of the human voice.
But for Jeston, the sound is just the beginning – live performance and production have captured his attention. Whether it’s recreating that epic stadium concert thrill or lighting a soloist so that the audience forgets to breathe, Jeston wants to help every a cappella group do more than just sing their best. He wants them to get the crowd to the edge of their seat – and then to their feet.
Vocal percussion sensation Jill Clark has been a musical multi-tasker since age five, dividing her time between singing and playing guitar, drums and piano. In 2010, she graduated from her four year run with the UNC Greensboro Sapphires (where she won Best Vocal Percussion at SoJam ‘07 and ’08, and at the ‘10 ICCA South Semi-Finals).
When she’s not engineering aca-magic with The Vocal Company and Sled Dog Studios, Jill builds incredible stage sets for UNCG (yes, she can weld), writes album reviews for CASA, and is a semi-rabid Packers fan.
Sean FortneySocial Media
Sean Fortney is keepin’ it collegiate. Besides performing in several choirs at Harrisburg Area Community College, Two Past Midnight and Concert Chorale at Bucknell University, and the Accafellas at Michigan State, Sean’s also making college his career: he’s studying Student Affairs Administration and plans to serve as president of a (most would say lucky) college someday.
He’s got a thing for creative leadership, whether it’s in vocal percussion and arrangement or running residence halls and heading up student-life groups. And his career aspirations will mesh nicely with his kid-at-heart style; in his down time, he strums a variety of stringed instruments, enjoys the runaround in games from flag football to Red Rover, and is a fan of the “grand and goofy gets the girl” gesture.
Oh, and yeah…he’s The Denny’s Guy, and got to wait on the Plain White T’s. Ask him about it.