HomeMeet Your CASA Ambassador: Sean Patrick Riley [Missouri / US]

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Sean Patrick Riley
http://www.casa.org/users/seanpatrickr

When did you first become involved in a cappella? In what capacity?

More than a few years ago I had to choose where I wanted to go to college. My sister had already been at Saint Louis University for two years and she was trying to get me more excited about it. The May before I started classes, she took me to my first a cappella concert – The St. Louis University Bare Naked Statues – the group I eventually joined and directed. To no one’s surprise, at that time I was more comfortable singing Ragtime than Radiohead. I knew this was an a cappella concert, which I immediately equated with choir, but my sister assured me that they had choreography, and the songs were contemporary, blah, blah, blah. When I got there I saw a group of guys on stage standing in a formation together getting ready to break into song, and I assumed I was going to see a show choir. What I saw and heard was most definitely not a show choir. From this moment on I instantly changed the way that I thought about performing music.

It took seeing this concert to realize that I had already heard of a cappella (Rockapella, Take 6, Boyz II Men, “In the House of Stone and Light” from that one BOCA) I just didn’t know it was a thing that people did in college. And I certainly didn’t know that it was something that I could do in college. Now it’s something that I do after college. 

When did you first become involved with CASA?

My freshman year, after I had gotten into The Bare Naked Statues, I went into a manic episode where all I did for 2 years was illegally download a cappella music. We’ve all been there. I knew immediately that I wanted to record an album with my group, but I didn’t know the first thing about doing that. Turns out none of us did. But god we tried.

While talking to a few aca friends from a local university, they told me about these things they called forums. I started reading them and then began stalking these forums. I never made a single comment. But I did learn a lot. I learned about Bill Hare, Deke Sharon, some mythical place called Tufts, and… CASA!

After college I took a much-needed break-appella for about 2 years. Then I realized that I still wanted to be involved. I heard about the ambassador program, and within 3 weeks I was booking a flight to a place I never thought I would willingly go – Raleigh, NC – to meet someone with a name that sounds more like two letters – TeKay.  Like so many others, SoJam changed my perspective on a cappella. I met the most wonderful and accepting group of people, and kind of fell in love with all of them. I knew I was in the right place. 

What area do you cover as a CASA ambassador?

I’m based in St. Louis, but I cover the entire lovely state of Missouri. Yes, it’s lovely. Come visit. I promise you probably won’t get shot.
 
What role do you play as a CASA ambassador and/or what role would you like to play?

At first I did what I was good at – Facebook. I tried to get members from all of the state’s groups into one Facebook group so they could start communicating with one another. For the last 2 years, I’ve brought clinicians into town to work with groups from all over the state, I’ve played go-between for groups/producers/arrangers, I’ve coached, advised, planned, promoted, and consoled. I’ve taken on a few roles within CASA as well, assisting with nearly every festival, and heading up social media for ACappellaFest, which was the Midwest’s first CASA festival. I hope to continue doing all of that!

What do you do for work and play?

This is usually the part in these awkward questionnaires where I say “a cappella,” but since we already know that, I would have to say school. I do school almost 100% of the time right now. It’s the pits.

Oh, and I love movies. A lot. I have a bunch. And I don’t really like the normal ones. I like the strange ones. Really strange. We’re talking debilitatingly-depressing-musical-dramas-about-capital-punishment-starring-Björk strange. It’s fine.

 Tell us one thing about yourself people would be surprised to learn

This is usually the part in these awkward questionnaires where I mention my love for movie musicals starring Björk, but since we already know that… I guess I’ll get personal and say that people would probably be surprised to learn that I have really bad social anxiety. For instance, it took me 2 years to write this. And it’s not because I kept forgetting.
 
Favorite a cappella group?

I have one. It’s The Swingle Singers.
 
Favorite type of music?

Music of the maudlin, folk variety seems to make me really happy for some reason. I also very much appreciate the collective musical offerings from the country of Iceland. And Explosions in the Sky.

Favorite a cappella concert?

The King’s Singers
 
Anything you'd like the CASA readership to know about your area? 

Seriously… you probably won’t get shot.