I’ve had the pleasure of hearing many fantastic groups over the past few years in the a cappella world and Detroit Voice (MI) is definitely one of them. I was very excited to talk to Brian Haverkate, their director, and get an idea of all of the awesome things that are to come from this group. Currently you can help them record their first ever CD by donating to their KickStarter project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/996652856/help-detroit-voice-record-their-first-a-cappella-a?ref=live. This group doesn’t disappoint and can certainly use all of the help it can get from the a cappella community to keep its dream alive of recording their first CD. I hope you enjoy an interview with Brian Haverkate and Detroit Voice!
1. How long has Detroit Voice been together and can you give me some background history on the group?
Detroit Voice has been around since last spring when we first auditioned the group, but we really got started this past September when school got back in session. So, all in all, about 7 months. The name Detroit Voice was first an idea I had for starting a Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) group here in Michigan. Although I sang with CAL group Two Weeks Notice for a year, I quickly realized I didn't have the time or energy to start my own CAL group on top of running a middle school and high school choral program as my day job. During the same time frame I was incorporating contemporary a cappella into my high school choirs and made it a part of the curriculum. At one point I had three contemporary groups going and competing in ICHSA (1 co-ed, 1 female, and 1 male group) with two of them being curricular choirs within the school day. Our co-ed group made it to the ICHSA Finals in 2010, were semi-final runners up in 2011 (also winning best arrangement), and we were really starting to gain some momentum with our a cappella groups. Due to budget cuts, I had to move the contemporary a cappella singing out of the school day as our choirs were moving from being 20-25 singers to being 35-40 singers. Not really an ideal number for a college-style a cappella group and the ability level within the curricular choirs was diverse to say the least. As I was making decisions on how to move forward with our choir program, I put in a call to Brody McDonald (who of course works with Eleventh Hour) to see how he went about running Eleventh Hour, what challenges they had to overcome, and generally what made the group tick. I had watched Eleventh Hour grow over the previous few years as I was a reviewer with RARB and had the chance to review two of their albums. It was clear to me something really exciting was happening down in Ohio, which is tough for someone from Michigan to admit as we believe the only exciting thing in Ohio is Cedar Point (America's Rollercoast!). After talking with Brody, I applied much of what he was doing with Eleventh Hour to Detroit Voice as we moved our a cappella to an extra-curricular group. It's been an adjustment for sure, but with the challenges come the rewards of working with a smaller group as well.
2. What made Detroit Voice decide to try and record a CD?
Well, there's a few reasons we want to record a CD. First and foremost it's an opportunity to shine a brighter light on Detroit music. We feel we have a real opportunity to tie our students to our region by performing the songs from artists that make the Detroit area great whether it be the music of Stevie Wonder and other Motown artists or Kid Rock. Secondly, it's an opportunity to promote what we're doing in performance to a much wider audience, whether we're talking the Detroit Metro area, the Midwest, or across the aca-universe which hopefully will lead to a stronger sense of ownership within our own community as well as increased exposure for the group and the Clarkston Vocal Music Department as a whole.
3. Do you have any professional groups or groups in general that you love and try to get ideas from?
Apart from seeing the success Brody and Eleventh Hour had, we've really been inspired by the professional a cappella groups we've been in contact with the past two years. In 2011 we hosted our own a cappella festival in Clarkston, bringing in Boston's Firedrill! for workshops and a show and this year we took part in Kettering's A Cappella Festival (with Brody in Ohio) getting the chance to see SONOS perform live and experience their effects pedal workshop. We are interested in experimenting with different live sound technologies like SONOS uses, but also really enjoy the high energy performing style of Firedrill! We're mostly interested in creating a fantastic overall sound that brings out the energy, emotion, and excitement of the songs we're singing. It's a work in progress as we find performing, singing, and arranging styles that work for us.
4. Who does most of your arranging?
Right now our arrangements are a smorgasbord, coming from lots of different directions. We've hired out custom arrangements by Nathan Altimari (of Firedrill!) and Randi Stanley (of NYC A Cappella). Both are fantastic musicians/arrangers and I highly recommend them to any high school director looking to take their group to the next level. We also utilize a few standard charts out of the CASA song books (quick learns to fill out our Motown music) and I also step in and arrange where needed (or when we run out of money).
5. When are you planning on starting to record the project and when would you like to release the album?
Well, providing our Kickstarter gets funded in full, we'll likely begin recording in June and look to release the album in the fall.
6. Please let me know anything else about your group or about the project that you would like for the a cappella world to know.
I know many have said the same thing over the years, but there's something about the a cappella community that is truly amazing in its ability to support each other and the goals we all have, all the while striving ourselves for perfection and those small moments of glory along the way. Detroit Voice feels like we're just a part of the community and are thankful for the support it’s received so far and any future support we might receive.
7. Is there anything that sets Detroit Voice apart from any other High School groups?
Considering most high school and collegiate groups spend the majority of their musical energy on top 40 pop hits, we're excited to bring something with a little more focus to the high school a cappella community. Although we'll likely get back to having another co-ed a cappella group put back into our school day this coming year which will likely perform those same pop hits, Detroit Voice has a niche that's all their own. It allows them to share the stage with Doo-Wop greats (as they plan to do in June with groups like The Chiffons, Shades of Blue, and Bill Haley's Comets), other high school/collegiate groups, as well as professional a cappella groups all the while maintaining their own identity. It's something Detroit Voice looks to expand and build upon and this Kickstarter project will help us fast forward our vision for what the group can be now and in the future.
About the author:
Ben Spalding is the head Choral Director at Centerville High School in Dayton, Ohio. At Centerville, Ben directs all of the choirs and the a cappella group Forte. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. Ben’s a cappella roots go back to college, when he was a member of the University of Kentucky AcoUstiKats and a semi-professional group called 5 by Tuesday. His love for music goes as far back as elementary school and music has and always will be a major driving force in his life.