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DCappella singers talk with Long Island kids

DCappella singers, back row from left, Morgan Keene,

DCappella singers, back row from left, Morgan Keene, RJ Woessner, Shelley Regner, Sojourner Brown, Joe Santoni, Orlando Dixon and Antonio Fernandez with Kidsday reporters, front row, Tia Odigie, Laura DeGennaro, Anabelle Skillman and Madison Campo, at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We met the DCappella singers before their incredible performance at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. The seven-member group is: Morgan Keene, soprano; RJ Woessner, tenor; Shelley Regner, mezzo; Sojourner Brown, alto; Joe Santoni, bass; Orlando Dixon, baritone; and Antonio Fernandez, beatboxer. They sang so many Disney hit songs. Amazing group!

Is it easier to sing solo or with a group?

RJ: For me, I find it easier to sing with a group. I think it’s because you have other people to feed off of. And you don’t feel so alone up there. And you know that you have a team, if you are off for a slight second, you have the rest of your team to help you with that.

Joe: It’s definitely like a sense of camaraderie, good backup, just in case, you never know, because you can look at them. And it’s really nice to have that company out there.

Shelley: Performing solo, you’re the one in control of your own performance. And I think for me, that is easier for me because I don’t have other voices that I’m worrying about. So it’s not to say that performing in a group is not easier, it’s just more of a challenge, I think, because it is an adjustment. It’s a different way of performing.

Do you like getting recognized in public?

Antonio: I have been recognized a few times. But granted, I also work at Walt Disney World. So, Disney and Disney. So it’s the same family.

Morgan: We live in New York. So that’s like a hop from Broadway. So every once in a while some people, who are fans of the show, visit New York, sometimes they recognize who I am, but who knows. I’m fine.

Shelley: I live in Los Angeles, and I went out to get coffee. They go, "Are you . . .?" "Yes." They go, "That’s cool." And then you go about your day.

Antonio, why beatboxing?

Antonio: I watched a video when I was about 10 years old, and I was seeing it for the first time ever.

Did you know each other before you all became a group?

Orlando: RJ and I went to school together. We went to college together. And we actually did perform a show together.

Joe: Me  and Antonio were in a previous audition together so we had known each other from that. We crossed paths once again in auditions. And Shelley shot a previous music video together. She was the one who was swept off her feet.

Shelley: I was the female lead!

Joe: Yeah, she was the female lead. It was the funniest video. That’s how we knew each other. But then everyone I think didn’t know each other.

With so many performers, and so many parts, do things ever go wrong?

Morgan: Every night. It’s a long show. I think if that doesn’t happen, it’s boring! It’s fun to have little things like go wrong. And go, how am I going to fix that? You know, like Orlando and RJ — they had a thing. Like musically, like RJ goes on without a shoe. So then Orlando also took off a shoe to match RJ. There’s been way more than that. I think it’s fun. And I think it’s fun to figure out what to do. Even if it’s something musically. You know, laugh it off. Or make a joke out of it. Or just keep going.

Shelley: That’s the fun part about little mistakes, or things that “aren’t perfect” especially musically when you sing. Most of the time we’re singing for audiences that have never seen the show or seen us perform live, so they don’t know what we’ve done perfectly and what we’ve messed up on. So as long as you don’t react like, “Oh, man, I didn’t do that right.” Or "Something went wrong." As long as you keep going. You know what, that was supposed to happen, you guys! [Winks.] You guys, you know. No one knows any different. And that’s the exciting part of doing everything live.

Antonio: And it’s also, when everything is going wonderful, it’s not just the negatives but also wonderful to vibe off of everybody else and whenever everybody is in sync. It’s the energy that you get to feel on stage, also. It’s incredible, and you get to share it with everyone.

How can we get to do what you do?

Joe: Luck. It’s luck. But we are the definition of luck meets preparation.

Shelley: If you’re prepared, and you have that right opportunity. It’s like, how did you get the job? You must be so lucky that you’re working in the arts, or that you’re being an entertainer. Yeah, it’s luck. It took a lot of practice.

Sojourner: What really stops people is  that they are afraid they’re not ready. I also think you need a lot of vocal lessons. My vocalist helped me understand technique and your own personal voice. So that way you can have a foundation to start with. Training helps you do that.      

Shelley: I’ve always been a fan of “training often.”

Antonio: It’s definitely on-the-job training, and it’s also practice, practice, practice.

RJ: Don’t be afraid to fail. Because failing, what breaks you down, eventually it builds you up. It’s like working out. Breaking down your muscles to get larger muscles.

If you were a singing superpower, who would you be?

Sojourner: I would want to be able to sing, make everybody stop, and be present in the moment.

Joe: You already have that power.

Who has been most supportive of your career?

Morgan: My family is always very supportive. My mom, because she says, "We are always going to support you. Making sure that everything you’ve got to do gets done." Just, "We love your performance." It wasn’t [all] like that, it was more like, "Get your butt going." "Why didn’t you take this class?" I like that little push, the pressure. I think it’s fun, and it makes me work harder. And also my first voice teacher. I started taking voice lessons when I was 13. She taught me everything. She helped me figure out that performing is what I wanted to do for my career for the rest of my life.

RJ: That was exactly my answer. My parents, and my original music teacher in high school. Without that, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. It’s amazing.

Shelley: My mom. Also my sister, I have an older sister. And she’s the one that actually — I was very shy as a child. And my sister had this loud personality. She loved being the center of attention. And she was borderline annoying. And she did all these musicals and school plays. Without her guidance and inspiring me to want to break out of my shy shell, I wouldn’t be doing this.

Sojourner: My parents, since 12, were my biggest support system and always supported my dreams no matter how crazy, and I really appreciate that. They never said no to me. They always said, "Yes, you can do it."

Joe: My parents. First of all, my dad. He’s my rock. He’s been my best friend my entire life. He got me interested in music. Because of him, I continue to pursue music as my professional career. And he’s somebody I call every single day for positive uplifting, and he’s so grounded.

Antonio: My mother, pretty much as everyone has shared this — she’s always been my rock, supports me throughout everything that I do.

Kerry Abernethy’s fourth-grade class, Waverly Avenue Elementary School, Holtsville

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