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.
co-founder, camp director
Ben Bram (he/him) is a 2x Grammy and Emmy Award-winning vocal arranger, producer, engineer, and educator from Los Angeles, CA. He is a co-creator of pop a cappella group Pentatonix, R&B girl group Citizen Queen, kids music brand Acapop! KIDS, and summer vocal program A Cappella Academy. In addition to these primary projects, Ben also has extensive experience in film and TV, working behind the scenes on NBC’s The Sing-Off, Glee, Pitch Perfect 1 and 2, and on commercials for Super Bowl LVII, Honda, Covergirl, Lifetime, and more.
co-founder, camp director
Rob Dietz (he/him) is a multiple CARA winning arranger who has been performing contemporary a cappella music for over twenty years. Based in Los Angeles, Rob is best known for his work as an arranger and group coach for NBC’s The Sing-Off. Through his work on the show, Rob has had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the top talent in the vocal music world, including Pentatonix, Voiceplay, and many more. He is an award-winning vocal percussionist, and his distinctive sound has been featured on FOX's Glee. His arrangements have been featured on several TV shows, including America’s Got Talent (NBC), To All The Boys: P.S I Still Love You (Netflix), and Pitch Slapped (Lifetime). As a teacher, Rob is a co-founder of A Cappella Academy and the author of A Cappella 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Contemporary A Cappella Singing published by Hal Leonard. His choral works are published by Alfred and Walton Music.
director of operations
Angela S. Huang (she/her/they) is an innovative force in the music industry, blending a rich decade of experience in the live music business with a deep-seated passion for the performing arts. From her prior roles at AEG Presents and APA Agency to her current positions as Academy’s Director of Operations, CASA Director of Marketing, and Day-to-Day Manager for Citizen Queen, Angela’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Originally from New Jersey and a daughter of Chinese-American immigrants, Angela is a graduate of Boston University where she was formerly the Music Director of BU’s all-treble group Aural Fixation. After moving to Los Angeles in 2014, she joined semi-professional group Top Shelf Vocal and served as their Business Manager and Chair of the Board. Angela's empathy-driven approach and strategic savvy breathe life into every endeavor she undertakes.
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.
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.
Hailing from Ecuador, Francisco Ruiz is a 3x Latin Grammy Nominee vocalist and arranger. He has worked with various artists including U2, Ivan Lins, Luis Enrique, Noel Schajris and KC Porter. He has worked as vocalist and choir director at various LA venues including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Wiltern, among others. Most recently, Francisco worked with producer Hector Crisantes as vocalist and arranger in 2022 Latin Grammy Nominated Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album "LA VIDA" by KURT [Universal Music Mexico]. Graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Francisco has been a vocal educator for over 10 years, touring with vocal projects and sharing his knowledge in vocal improvisation acquired by studying and performing with ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby Mcferrin and members of Voicestra: Joey Blake and Rhiannon.
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
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!
Matt Goldstein (he/him) is an award-winning vocal arranger, facilitator, singer/songwriter, and educator who is dedicated to building community through collaborative musical creation. After earning acclaim for the emotive, innovative arrangements he crafted for The Vassar Devils and Hyannis Sound, Matt has gone on craft over 200 custom vocal arrangements for ensembles around the world. He has earned numerous CARA awards, and his arranging work has garnered him accolades at a cappella festivals such as the ICCA, BOSS, and SoJam. Most recently, Matt founded Gaia Music Collective, a community arts organization and performance collective that emerged in New York City in 2021. Through Gaia, Matt leads weekly circle singing sessions, open mic nights, drop-in choirs, and house shows that seek to break down the barriers between performer & audience. Matt’s mission with Gaia is to facilitate experiences that allow singers to express themselves freely, build community with artistic peers, and connect with the powerful currents of music that flow in and around us all.
Isaiah Carter (he/him/his) is a multi-faceted musician, proficient in various styles on the drum set, melodic and auxiliary percussion, as well as piano, organ, and keyboard before becoming enamored with vocal music.
Isaiah has honed both his composition and arranging skills, graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2019 with a degree in Film Scoring. While there, he served as an arranger and the vocal percussionist for the internationally-acclaimed group Pitch Slapped, arranging for and featuring on two full length albums, the latter of which gained recognition from artists like Brandy, Jessie J, Darkchild and more. Since then, he has appeared in articles by the A Cappella Education Association, podcasts by a cappella talk show “head/voice”, crafted arrangements for ICCA-winning sets and won multiple CARAs both as an arranger and performer. Outside of a cappella, he has also appeared on the silver screen in feature films Daddy’s Home 2 alongside Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell and the Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance With Somebody. In 2022 He was the chosen arranger for the first live performance of the boyband 4*TOWN from Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red at the 20th Annual Unforgettable Gala, and most recently served as the Music Director and Drummer for girl-group Citizen Queen’s debut live band show. Isaiah currently works as a composer, arranger and songwriter for multiple media projects, and his work can be heard on Paramount Pictures, Republic Records, and Universal Music among others. As an alumnus of the inaugural session of A Cappella Academy, Isaiah is extremely excited to return to where it all began and help instill the same passion for a cappella and music in the next generation that galvanized his career.
Wilson Smith (he/him) is an arranger, vocalist, composer, songwriter, and music director based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Originally from the Indianapolis, IN area, Wilson moved to Nashville in the fall of 2018 to attend Belmont University, where he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Commercial Music (Voice, Composition/Arranging). While at Belmont, Wilson was a four-year member and music director of "Pitchmen," the school's premiere, all-male identifying a cappella ensemble, as well as a three-year member of "Jazzmin," the school's top vocal jazz ensemble. As a vocalist, Wilson has sung backgrounds at the Academy of Country Music Awards (Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton) as well as performed in the chorus/ensemble at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. As an arranger, Wilson is fortunate enough to work full-time for dozens of the nation's top scholastic a cappella groups and show choirs. Wilson is thrilled to be joining the A Cappella Academy staff for Summer '24, and feels highly privileged to be able to foster growth and community amongst such talented young people! wilsonsmithmusic.com
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Darby Lestin is a distinguished Haitian-American artist, celebrated for her multifaceted talents as an arranger, vocalist, trained pianist, and two-time CARA award-winner.
Her musical journey began at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida, where she held the role of Artistic Director for the award-winning a cappella group "Noise Complaint" during her Senior year. Her leadership contributed significantly to the group's success during her tenure.
Post-secondary school, Darby further honed her skills as a camper at the renowned A Cappella Academy, solidifying her dedication to the art form. This commitment continued to flourish throughout her academic journey.
In 2019, Darby embarked on her collegiate pursuits, culminating in the recent achievement of her B.A. in Music Entrepreneurial Studies at Florida State University (FSU). Notably, she served as the Music Director for FSU's Premier A Cappella Group, "All-Night Yahtzee," guiding them to First Place in the 2020 ICCA Quarterfinals.
In addition to her academic musical achievements, Darby has made significant strides in the field of transcription work, notably contributing to the orchestration of the live and recorded performances of acclaimed artists such as Jordin Sparks, Pentatonix, Rascal Flatts, and more. In tandem with this expertise, she extends her artistic guidance to groups through her impactful work as a clinician. This dual commitment showcases her versatility and influential presence both behind the scenes and in direct artistic leadership.
Darby actively contributes as an arranger with the esteemed production company 'VoicesOnly' and lends her captivating vocals to "Red Letter Daze," a group she shares with camp director MaryAnne Muglia-Smith. With an impressive blend of leadership, musical prowess, and a commitment to artistic excellence, Darby Lestin continues to leave an indelible mark on the world of a cappella. She eagerly anticipates her return to A Cappella Academy, stepping into the role of Instructor with enthusiasm and ardor.
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.
Sean Patrick Riley
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.
head of staff
Shannon McNulty is a fourteen year veteran teacher based out of Massachusetts, but most importantly, Mom to her two children Marshall and Arlin. She is passionate about incorporating music technology and contemporary a cappella into public schools which led to the creation of her one-of-a-kind Music Production class which teaches a cappella recording techniques to grades 9-12. This class has been recognized with placements on BOHSA and a 2016 CARA for Best High School Arrangement. In 2014, Marlborough High School recognized her commitment to students and her innovative programming by naming her “Teacher of the Year”.
Shannon joined the staff of the National A Cappella Convention in 2019, and was recently promoted to the role of Executive Producer. Shannon has a B.M in vocal performance and music education (Ithaca College, 2007) and a M.M. in music education (Boston University, 2012). She is also a member of Blacklight, a Boston-based a cappella group. She is a member of NAfME, ACDA, CASA, and AEA.
Parker Wright (he/him) is a multi-talented and award-winning creative. With a Bachelor of Professional Studies from Berklee College of Music, Parker specializes in mixing, vocal arranging, and vocal production. He is a vocal percussionist, singer, arranger, recording/mix engineer, voice-over artist, photographer, videographer, video editor, and graphic animator.
Parker has arranged songs, mixed music, and/or edited videos for several a cappella groups such as Varsity Vocals, A Cappella Academy, Acapop Kids, Squad Harmonix, IntoneNation, Jingle 5, and more. He has also performed with various a cappella groups throughout southern California and runs his own entertainment company, PHNX WING Entertainment, specializing in a cappella performances.
As one of the co-founders and vocal percussion teachers with Squad Harmonix, Parker values teaching kids the importance of music through camaraderie, cooperation, leadership, and fun.! He is excited to join the staff as the Media Maven, where he will be bringing the camp media to the next level.
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.
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.
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!
social media director
Kate Crellin (she/her) is a composer, conductor, 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, USC Reverse Osmosis, and CSUN Acasola. As a choral composer, her published works have been performed around the world. She is a conductor and choir director for the National Children’s Chorus, Mira Costa High School, and Manhattan Beach Middle School. As an Academy alum (2014 & 2015), Kate is excited to continue being a part of this incredible community!
Samuel (he/him) is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, where he sang with Pitch Slapped (two-time ICCA Champions), Upper Structure (two-time ICCA Runner Up) and award-winning vocal jazz group Point of Departure. His rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” with Upper Structure enjoys 600,000+ streams on Spotify. In film/TV, he has been fortunate to work on 2022 Academy Award Best Picture “CODA,” and Lifetime’s Pitch Slapped. Samuel is always sure to burst into song at his 9-5, where he’s the current Amazon’s Got Talent National Champion. His quartet Mixed & Mastered were inaugural mixed competitors at the International Varsity BHS Contest. An Academy alumnus (2016), he is ecstatic to join the staff and support the year-round operation!