STAFF

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Avi Kaplan

co-founder, camp director
Avi Kaplan is best known as vocal bass of the world-renowned a cappella group, Pentatonix, but he is also a Grammy-winning arranger, composer, and solo artist. He majored in opera and choral studies at Mt. San Antonio College, a school known for its strong choral and a cappella tradition. While at school, Avi sang with a cappella group Fermata Nowhere, vocal jazz group Singcopation, and the Mt. SAC Chamber Singers, racking up competition wins at the ICCA, Monterey Jazz Festival, and Choir of the World competition. Avi has worked with artists such as Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Sara Bareilles, Nick Lachey, Ben Folds and many more.
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Ben Bram

co-founder, camp director
Ben (he/him) is a Grammy-winning arranger, vocal producer, and music director from Los Angeles. A graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music, Ben sang with, arranged for, and directed four-time ICCA champions the SoCal VoCals during his time at USC. He is a longtime collaborator with Pentatonix, having co-arranged, engineered and produced all 5 of their currently released albums, including the platinum-selling "That's Christmas To Me". Ben also has an extensive resume in film, TV, and commercials, which includes work for Pitch Perfect 1 and 2, The Sing-Off, Glee, Covergirl, Lifetime, and MTV. He is currently developing two exciting new a cappella groups.
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Rob Dietz

co-founder, camp director
Rob Dietz (he/him) is a multiple CARA winning producer who has been arranging, performing, and critiquing contemporary a cappella music for over ten years. His career began in high school as director of the critically acclaimed group Ascending Height, with whom he produced the first all-original high school a cappella album. Rob has studied at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney and at the Ithaca College School of Music, where he directed the award winning all-male group, Ithacappella. Since graduation, Rob has been an arranger and group coach for seasons 3, 4, and 5 of NBC’s The Sing-Off, as well as a vocal percussionist for the Warblers on Fox’s hit show, Glee.
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Beth Davis

director of operations
Beth (she/her) is a multi-genre voice teacher, coach, adjudicator, and singer/actor. She has run her own private studio since 2007, and also teaches in university and theatre settings. She received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Ithaca College, and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from California State University, Northridge. She has sung in opera, musical theater, choir, and pop a cappella settings, and worked extensively as an administrator and church music director.
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Shams Ahmed

group director
Shams Ahmed (he/him) is an arranger, music director, and educator from Cherry Hill, NJ. He is a graduate of Northeastern University, where he directed a cappella heavy-hitters and two-time ICCA champions, The Nor'easters, while studying Business. During his tenure, Shams earned numerous awards, including Outstanding Arrangement wins at the ICCA, as well as several CARA awards. Shams is also featured alongside the Nor'easters in Pop TV's reality docu-series, Sing It On, where he can be seen coaching the group. He founded the all-female group, Pitch, Please! who are featured on the show as well. In the fall, he can be found bringing a cappella to South Beach alongside a panel of experts including Ben Bram, Robert Dietz, and India Carney at The Betsy's A Cappella Festival. Shams serves as a regular judge at ICCA, ICHSA, and CASA events all over the country. Outside of a cappella, he serves as Director of Talent & Creative for Northeastern University's $1.4 billion Empower fundraising campaign. He is currently based in Los Angeles, arranging, coaching, and overseeing projects in the a cappella world.
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Will Cabaniss

group director
Will Cabaniss (he/him) is a vocal arranger and composer. He is a former music director of the University of Chicago a cappella group Voices in Your Head and an alumnus of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. He’s sung on four continents and in three ICCA Finals. He also produces electronic music and helps maintain the studio space he shares with three visual artists. Will lives and works on the South Side of Chicago.
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VJ Rosales

group director
VJ Rosales (he/him) is a singer, songwriter, arranger, and music director from Los Angeles. Hailing from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music (CSU Long Beach) with a B.M. in Jazz Studies, VJ is a versatile musician who is equally adept in jazz, pop, and R&B. During his college career, he sang in the top vocal jazz ensemble “Pacific Standard Time” at CSU Long Beach, performing at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival. Presently, he works as a voice teacher at the Silverlake Conservatory, founded by members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In April 2013, he co-created The Filharmonic and competed on NBC's The Sing Off, making it to the semi-finals. With The Filharmonic's success on national television, he continues to work with them, with plans to record and tour.
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Christopher Diaz

group director
Christopher (they/them) is a singer, songwriter, arranger and vocal coach from Newport News, VA. A graduate of the FSU School of Music, they led the co-ed All-Night Yahtzee to three consecutive ICCA Finals appearances and is a two-time winner of the Outstanding Soloist award. As a coach, Christopher has adjudicated, sung and instructed at vocal festivals across Asia, Europe, Australia and the US. In 2012, Christopher joined the music eam of The Sing-Off (Season 3). After the show, they co-founded the international touring group, The Exchange, which has performed hundreds of shows for audiences in over 25 different countries on 6 continents. The Exchange joined The Backstreet Boys as support for their 32 city “In A World Like This” stadium tour, and competed on Season 5 of NBC’s The Sing-Off, taking the runner-up title. In 2016, Christopher and The Exchange will tour central Asia as part of a cultural diplomacy tour supported by the US Department of State.
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Brave James

group director
Brave James (James Rose, they/them) is a prolific arranger, performer, producer, songwriter & educator, based in London. Over the years, James has become a veteran performer of a cappella & vocal harmony, touring worldwide with acclaimed internet sensation group, ‘Accent’. James has an extensive portfolio of arrangements and originals for prominent groups, choirs and bands, including The Real Group, Voces8, Naturally 7, The Swingle Singers, Rajaton, Accent, NBC’s ‘The Sing Off’ winner Committed, The Filharmonic, Arturo Sandoval, Peter Hollens and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. James also worked as a vocal coach and arranger for BBC1’s prime-time show, ‘Pitch Battle’, collaborating closely with Bebe Rexha. Driven by a love of teaching, James works as the vocal harmony professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, alongside leading vocal courses internationally with students and choirs worldwide. Instead of sleeping, James also composes for videogames, creates musical apps, and is a producer of original electronic music. links: cync.app imbravejames.com
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MaryAnne Muglia-Smith

group director
MaryAnne Muglia-Smith (she/her) is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and arranger from Tempe, Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelors Degree in Choral Music Education, singing in the top vocal jazz and choral ensembles during her college career. She has had the honor of singing in choirs for artists such as Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, The Real Group, and Pentatonix. Since graduating, she has produced and recorded an EP, and three full length albums for projects she's involved in: a cappella groups "Red Letter Daze", "Unaccompanied", and folk band "Ezekiel". She currently directs choirs at All Saints Church in Mesa, works with high school choirs in Phoenix, arranges for various choirs around the world, offers private lessons to students with all ages, and sings with her group "Red Letter Daze" which has a following of over 200k on Tiktok!
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Amanda Taylor

group director
Amanda Taylor (she/her) is a GRAMMY®-nominated arranger specializing in music for vocal ensembles. At 16, she joined professional jazz ensemble Groove for Thought (NBC’s “The Sing-Off”) as their lead soprano, and quickly began learning to write for contemporary a cappella & vocal jazz. In 2010, Taylor attended Central Washington University to study music composition. She began exploring more collaborative opportunities, and started to perform locally with friends. She spent two years in Tennessee, doing studio work, bartending, and collaborating with other artists. In 2015, she released her first self-produced EP, “Little Hearts, Big Words”. Since her time in Nashville, Taylor has travelled the U.S. to teach and write. She has recently founded vocal arranging company Wicked Pigeon, and has relocated to Seattle to write full-time. In 2018, she joined forces with powerhouse artists Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick, & Erin Bentlage to form the critically acclaimed “vocal supergroup” säje. Taylor is a frequent performer, guest clinician and adjudicator, and continues to arrange for both scholastic and professional vocal ensembles. She is an active composer, arranger, & studio singer (World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Destiny, Shadow of Mordor, DOTA, and more). You can find more about her arrangements at www.wickedpigeonmusic.com.
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Tehillah Alphonso

group director
New-Jersey-born and Nebraska-raised, Tehillah Alphonso (she/her) is a Nigerian-American vocalist, pianist, music director, and GRAMMY®-nominated arranger based in Los Angeles, California. She received her B.M. in Popular Music Performance from the Thornton School of Music and was named 2020 Outstanding Graduate, becoming the first Black woman from the pop program to achieve this award. While a full-time student at USC, Tehillah served as Business Manager and Music Director of USC’s premiere a cappella group and five-time ICCA champions, the SoCal VoCals. Her time in the VoCals has led her to perform in venues such as the Staples Center, the Rose Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and many historic theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Upon graduating, she quickly made a name for herself in the session music industry, having sung on a number of films and television shows and alongside notable artists, including Lebo M., NIKI, Dan Wilson, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo.
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Taylor DiBernardo

instructor
Taylor (she/her) is a singer and teacher living in Los Angeles, California. She earned her B.A. in English and Masters in Education from UCLA, where she sang with the award winning co-ed a cappella group, the ScatterTones. During her time in the group, she performed at prestigious venues all over the country including the White House, the Hollywood Bowl, and the ICCA Finals stage in New York City. Currently, she is a full-time 8th grade English teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School. At camp, Taylor teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Kittens.
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Quinn D'Andrea

instructor
Quinn D'Andrea is a singer/songwriter from Santa Monica, California. She is currently finishing her undergrad in the Popular Music Program at the University of Southern California.She has spent 15 years studying classical piano, and 10 years performing in musical theatre. While at USC, she formed a folk/pop band, "Trousdale," with fellow classmates and has been performing and recording with them for past two years. Last summer she toured the east coast and spent time songwriting with her band-mates in Nashville. Four years ago, Quinn started a choir at a Los Angeles high school that was lacking a music program, and teaches there once a week.She is also currently the Music Director of the 4-time ICCA champions the SoCal VoCals, and hopes to use some of her experience with VoCals this summer at academy!
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Marisa Esposito

instructor
Marisa (she/her) is a seasoned vocalist living in Los Angeles who has over 15 years of experience in choirs, musical theatre and a cappella. She studied Psychology and Musical Theater at USC, and also sang with and was president of the award winning a cappella group, Reverse Osmosis. Marisa also worked at acclaimed performing arts camp Arts Unlimited for 5 consecutive summers, working as a counselor, coordinator, teacher, choreographer and musical director. After graduating, Marisa helped found award-winning a cappella sextet Simply Put, who shared the stage with Sing Off champions Nota and Committed. Marisa now manages and sings in the L.A. Choral Lab and is also the Co-Founder and COO of Endeavor Studios, LLC, a recording studio located in West Los Angeles. Marisa also lends her voice to recording projects from time to time.
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Austin Kiley

instructor
Austin Kiley (he/him) is a vocal music teacher at his hometown high school in Vestal, NY. He received a BM and MM in Music Education from Ithaca College, where he served as the president of Ithacappella. At Vestal, he directs the annual musical, two a cappella groups, a jazz choir, and a select choir, and teaches music theory and history classes. One of his groups, Bear Necessities, has won multiple awards at the ICHSA's and is represented on BOHSA. Austin runs The Vocal Connection in upstate NY, which pairs up high school and collegiate a cappella groups for year-long mentorships. He loves community theatre and reading fantasy/sci-fi!
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Tracy Robertson

instructor
Singer, instrumentalist, director and arranger Tracy Robertson (he/him) maintains a life-long passion for music and vocal harmony. Upon transferring from SUNY Fredonia’s classical vocal and compositional training to Berklee College of Music, he joined the award-winning a cappella group “Pitch Slapped” (SoJam and ICCA Champions) and became their musical director. He has worked with names such as Rhiannon Watson, Joey Blake, and Bobby McFerrin, and performed with renowned musicians of Quito, Ecuador where he also led a vocal improvisation workshop at UDLA. He has performed throughout the US, recently at the 2014 JEN Conference in Dallas with Berklee’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble.
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Carly Wood

instructor
Carly Wood is a singer, songwriter, and actor from Portland, Oregon. She is an Academy alum, and recent graduate from UCLA, where she studied musical theater in the School of Theater, Film and Television. At UCLA, she was the music director for the renowned a cappella group, the ScatterTones. With this group, she has performed throughout the country and placed twice at the ICCA. Carly has years of experience singing in choirs and performing in theatrical productions. She loves connecting with people through music and storytelling. Carly is a songwriter and member of the vocal trio, No Spare Change, which she formed alongside two close friends from college. Carly lives and works in Los Angeles.
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Selame Scarlett

instructor
Selame Scarlett (she/her) hails from Okemos, Mich. As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, she was part of Capital Green A Cappella, and served as music director, arranger and vocal percussionist. Currently, she is a clinician for high school and collegiate groups in the Midwest. She serves as a percussionist and vocalist for the CARA-winning, all-female sextet, Lady Jaye, and the all-female gospel powerhouse group, Traces, which was featured on Season 5 of NBC's “The Sing-Off.” Selame has been fortunate enough to record alongside groups such as Naturally 7, The Boxettes, Pentatonix, Duwende, and Traces of Blue (formerly Afro-Blue)! She has led percussion workshops and masterclasses, both on her own and with her beatboxing colleagues. Aside from music, she is currently pursuing a Masters in Healthcare Management and hopes to run her own hospital one day. Listen/stream her newest single, “Warm” on all musical platforms!
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Sean Patrick Riley

instructor, nurse
SPR (he/him) is a classically trained vocalist, seasoned competition judge and a cappella coach, as well as a registered nurse. With roots in the Midwest and wistful branches that have carried him all the way to NYC, Sean got his start in third grade with his break-out role as Brigitta in a local production of The Sound of Music. He continued with musical theater through high school, broke into a cappella and opera in college, and his love affair with musical performance has never ended. He earned his bachelor’s in both vocal performance and advertising, as well as his master’s in nursing from Saint Louis University where he music directed the award-winning - recent ICCA finalists - Bare Naked Statues. Along his way, he's grown comfortable singing anything from Britney and Beyoncé, to Bach and Buxtehude. Highlights from the past year include: relocating to New York, judging ICHSA Finals, and performing alongside the soundtracks of Pitch Perfect 1 & 2. SPR currently works as a surgical ICU nurse at NYU Langone Medical Center.
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Tom Keyes

technical director
Tom is a passionate and dedicated a cappella facilitator, event producer, and music director. He is the exec. producer of the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival, and has formerly served as director of the Contemporary A Cappella League. With a considerable background in vocal and instrumental music, Tom was bitten by the a cappella bug in 2009 when he decided to create and direct his own group, the award-winning Frequency, and has been a passionate advocate of all-vocal music ever since. Currently music directing the award-winning Frequency as well as a spiritual center, he balances music, work, and family, and lives with his wife and three children in South OC.
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Chris Juengel

live sound engineer
Chris Juengel (he/him) is an award-winning studio album producer and live sound engineer with more than a decade of experience. He is part owner and Chief Creative Officer of Liquid 5th, a leading international a cappella production company headquartered in Durham, NC. Chris has run sound for hundreds of shows, which has earned him an acute ear for the specific needs of a cappella groups in an amplified performance setting. He toured with Pentatonix as their sound technician in 2013 and has also worked with Varsity Vocals, PopTV's Sing it On, A&E's Pitch Slapped, CASA and many more. Chris and his family currently reside in Burlington, NC.
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Darby Lestin

intern
Darby Lestin (she/her) is a two time CARA award-winning arranger, vocalist, trained pianist, student director and song-writer. She’s currently pursuing her degree in Music Entrepreneurial Studies at Florida State University. She attended West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida where she served as the Artistic Director of the award-winning high school a cappella group known as "Noise Complaint" from 2018-2019. Lestin also went on to serve as the Music Director for Florida State University's Priemere A Cappella Group, "All-Night Yahtzee" from 2019-2021. After graduating high school in 2019, she attended A Cappella Academy as a camper in that same year. She’s now back in action at Academy joining the staff this summer!
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Mani Garcia

intern
Mani (he/him) is a jazz vocalist and arranger from Miami, FL, where he received his bachelors in Music Business and Jazz Voice from Florida International University. While at FIU, Mani was part of their DownBeat Award-winning jazz vocal ensemble. He now works for The Orchard under Sony Music Entertainment, where he’s a Video Services Manager for some of the highest priority Latin artists in today’s scene. In addition to his extensive knowledge of the current music industry, Mani also has experience providing private voice and piano instruction to ages 5-50. After attending A Cappella Academy in 2016 and 2017 as a camper, he has come full circle by joining the staff for this summer!
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Chester Capistrano

photographer
Born in San Francisco and living in Las Vegas, Chester (he/him) is an instrumentalist, beatboxer, and a photographer. His love for music started in band and eventually made it into one of the greatest halls in America, Carnegie Hall. His participation in the NMEA (Nevada Music Education Association) All-State Band and All-State Jazz as a bass trombonist for three years straight solidified his career in music. In 2017, Chester became a member of A Capella Academy as a Vocal Percussionist, and is coming back as a proud photographer for the program.
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Anthony Gargiula

content director
Anthony Gargiula (he/him) is a CARA award winning vocalist and arranger from Albany, NY. He is a social media creator and a founding member of the viral a cappella collective, EARCANDY (2.6 million followers). Anthony’s has performed at Madison Square Garden, appeared as a challenger on FOX’s “The Four”, and was a Principle Vocalist at Walt Disney World. His work with EARCANDY has led him to singing and arranging for notable brands such as Republic Records, CNN, and Universal Pictures, as well as working closely with artists like Andy Grammer, MAX, and Ben Platt. As an Academy alum (2014-2017), Anthony is looking forward to combining his love for social media and all things a cappella as he returns as a member of the staff!
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Kate Crellin

social media director
Kate Crellin (she/her) is an A Cappella Academy alumni and is a conductor, composer, vocalist, and educator. Kate has a Masters in Choral Music from Queens' College, Cambridge, and a double BA in Choral Music & Law, History and Culture from USC. Kate has sung with many a cappella groups, including Cape Harmony (Cape Cod, pro group), Reverse Osmosis (USC), and Acasola (CSUN). She is now the Choir Director at Mira Costa High School and Manhattan Beach Middle School.
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Erin Shults Smith

director of development
Erin Shults Smith is a nonprofit management professional with 10+ years of experience in development and arts marketing. She has helped to secure millions in philanthropic funding for arts organizations and universities, and has provided contracted consultation and grant writing services to nonprofits nationwide. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Ithaca College, and a Master of Arts in Arts Management from Florida State University. Erin started her a cappella journey in high school, later serving as President of Premium Blend (Ithaca College), presenting workshops and clinics for SoJam, arranging for college and community groups, and adjudicating ICCA/ICHSA.