A cappella music has been around for centuries, with religious origins and both Jewish and Christian music sung unaccompanied by instruments. In fact, the term “a capella” means “in the manner of the chapel,” in Italian.
But modern a capella has transformed popular music. Inspired by popular groups like Pentatonix and movies like “Pitch Perfect,” most high schools now have a capella groups and more young people are developing a passion for training their voices to sing together with no instrumental accompaniment.
Holly Gyenes, a lifelong Kettering resident and graduate of Fairmont High School, started singing at a very young age, honing her craft with years of classical voice lessons.
“I didn’t really start performing in front of people until I was at Kettering Middle School,” Gyenes said. “School musicals started my love of being on stage and theater.”
At Fairmont, Gyenes joined the school’s award-winning a capella group, Eleventh Hour, and sang with them for two years. And it was there she developed a passion for this type of music.
“I went to UD (University of Dayton) and I joined their a capella group, Remedy,” Gyenes said. “I kept up singing all through college.
As Gyenes entered her senior year at UD, with a major in music studies, she joined a Dayton a capella community group called Vocalight and has been the soprano in this group of five members ever since. Vocalight recently headlined at A Capella University and Camp A Cappella and recently won the Midwest Regional in the A Cappella Open, making them one of the top groups in the world.
Having just graduated from UD last spring, Gyenes said she wasn’t certain where this career in music would take her. That was until she saw a casting call on Facebook posted by Deke Sharon, the musical director and founder of several Walt Disney World and Disneyland a capella groups and the music arranger of the “Pitch Perfect” films. His latest venture is D Capella, a seven-voice group that will travel the nation performing new, contemporary arrangements of Disney repertoire.
“I have known Deke for a couple of years,” Gyenes said. “I worked for him at Camp A Capella and when I saw they were doing a nationwide search for the Disney group, I sent in an audition video.”
Gyenes sent in the video in early January and heard back within a week that they wanted her to come to New York City for an in-person audition. She went through two rounds of auditioning and was then asked to fly to Los Angeles for the final callback.
“I flew to LA on Jan. 22, three days after the New York audition,” Gyenes said. “I thought they would be choosing the final cast there.”
Gyenes was surprised to learn that all 14 singers in LA for the callback had already been chosen to be in the two casts of seven each. The casts are scheduled to begin regular rehearsals in March and hope to have the tour begin in the fall of this year.
“We will be performing all Disney songs, but not necessarily all from movies,” said Gyenes, who describes herself as a lifelong Disney fan. “I think Disney is so timeless and appeals to so many generations young and old. I think many people will say that Disney is one of their first memories as children.”
Now with an exciting future ahead of her and with a job she loves, Gyenes said she still sometimes can’t believe this has happened.
“I had no idea what I would be doing for a career,” Gyenes said. “I thought about going to grad school for opera, but I knew I wanted to take a year after college to try different things and figure it out. And then the Disney opportunity just fell into place.”
Gyenes said she plans to continue with local group Vocalight but will be moving to Los Angeles while the Disney group rehearses.
“Disney will be taking up most of my time,” Gyenes said. “But it’s really exciting to see what the magnitude of this show could be. There is so much hype around it. I think that this show will be innovative, and it’s going to be a unique experience of a capella music combined with the magic of Disney — visually and digitally amazing!”