BIG THANKS to Christopher Diaz (CD) for taking the time to answer a few questions for us AcaFans… from Hong Kong!
AcaFanBase: Who are The Exchange, and how did the group get started?
CD:The Exchange is a five guy vocal band from all over the US. We started out of a desire to do more than just hustle as a band to “make it.”
Aaron and I met on The Sing-Off Season 3 and connected instantly over some beers and philosophical discussion about the connective and transformative power of music. We decided to start a group that would use music to open up the world to us and to others. Aaron was in the YellowJackets with Jamal, and we met Richard while he was with Urban Method, and we all became fast friends. We hit up Fredo to join our squad and The Exchange was born.
AcaFanBase: Introduce yourselves and let us know how you each got started in music.
CD: I’m Christopher Diaz, and I am from Newport News, VA. I didn’t sing formally as a child, I just loved singing along with the radio. In high school I stumbled into choir and musicals, and then a passion formed that sent me to Florida State University, where I graduated with a degree in Vocal Performance and Russian Literature.
Aaron Sperberis from Rochester, NY and started at an early age as a classical musician. He’s an accomplished cellist, pianist, and singer and graduated from the Eastman School of Music with degrees in Vocal Performance and International Relations.
Jamal Moore is from Augusta, GA and grew up singing and playing drums. He also graduated from Eastman with a voice degree and an aspiration to be an opera singer.
Alfredo Austinis from Newark, DE and found his voice at an early age singing in church choir. He went to the University of Delaware where he graduated with a Music Business degree.
AcaFanBase: What are each of you doing now, as part of or separate from The Exchange ?
CD:The Exchange is our full-time job/career/passion/life! We spend about 2/3 of the year on tour in the US and abroad, but when we’re home, we all dabble in other things (arranging, songwriting, producing, cooking, web design). In The Exchange, Aaron is our founder, group leader and high tenor. Alfredo is one of our arrangers, lead vocalist and tenor 2. Jamal also arranges and is our baritone and style guru. Richard is our webmaster/designer and beatboxer/bass, and I am our de facto music director and bass. I also organize most of our educational programs.
AcaFanBase: Who would you say is your current fanbase for The Exchange?
CD: Our fan base is as diverse as we are, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our first fans were fans of our individual pursuits- Aaron and Jamal brought lovers of the YellowJackets , Richard brought Urban Method fans (and fans from several of the other groups he’s performed with) and Fredo did the same with his fans from Overboard and Hyannis Sound. Now, however, we have fans from all over the world.
We spend a great deal of time in Asia, Australia and Europe, so we have a broad base of new fans in those places. Hong Kong is a favorite spot of ours, and a place where we find a great deal of support, though we have also had a blast singing for the audiences in Taiwan and Singapore. This spring, we toured Europe as the opening act for the Backstreet Boys, so we got the chance to sing for thousands of people all across the continent, which was an incredible experience. We spend a lot of time in Germany performing, so many of our most loyal fans are there.
AcaFanBase: How do you select your songs? Who does the arranging?
CD: I’d like to say this this is an intense and developed process…but it isn’t. We just sing songs that we like, that we can’t stop humming, that we heard and thought someone would sound great on. Someone likes it and arranges it (or asks someone else to arrange it), we give it a sing, and if it works, we perform it. In general, Fredo, Jamal and I do the most arranging, but all 5 of us have arranged songs for the group and still do when something speaks to us.
AcaFanBase: What did it feel like when you found out The Exchange had been cast in The Sing-Off this year?
CD: Needless to say, it was really exciting to hear that we were going to get to perform on The Sing-Off. I have followed, promoted, and (as of Season 3) even worked for the show, so I know what an amazing venue it can be to have your music seen and heard. We do most of our performing and touring out of the country, and while it is our dream to see the world and exchange cultures and ideas through music, our families haven’t even ever seen us perform!
We are, and were, so thrilled to share our music and passion and love with a broader American audience, and I know for one that my grandmother is absolutely freaking out- she is so excited to finally see what it is that I do that keeps me away from home for so much of the year!
AcaFanBase: What would you like to say to all of the AcaFans out there?
CD: We feel really honored to get to show America what The Exchange is all about, but because of the nature of television, it’s a very condensed version of what we’re about. We perform often, and definitely have some boy-band qualities, but we also believe strongly that music *is* the universal language, and to that end, our mission is much bigger than just singing.
In almost every place we go, we concern ourselves not only with putting on a show, but also with engaging communities through service projects and musical outreach, inspiring young people to persevere in school and arts education through workshops and classes, and we have even pushed ourselves beyond singing only a cappella, including original music and music with instruments in our concerts.
At our core, though, The Exchange is about exploring and promoting and sharing the power that music has to connect us all, across cultures, languages and oceans. And to us, there is no better instrument, apparatus, or gift more able to highlight and enhance our sameness- and uniqueness- than the human voice.
Thanks again to Chris for giving us some background info on his group! Here’s the contact info in case you missed it in our Sing-Off Season 5 intro post.
Despite being pretty disappointed that Season 5 of The Sing-Off is a single, 2-hour special, we are super excited for the groups that made it in!
For those of you who don’t know, The Sing-Off is a reality show competition for a cappella singing groups. Probably its most famous winners to-date are Pentatonix from Season 3 in 2011, but last year’s Season 4 winners Home Free seem to be holding their own with their a cappella and country fans. Whatever gets a cappella out to the masses, it’s all good to us.
2. THE EXCHANGE
Seems like there is always one group on The Sing-Off with alums from a previous season, and this one is it. You’ll recognize Jamal and Aaron from the University of Rochester Yellowjackets (Season 3) and Richard from Urban Method (Season 3), plus Chris worked as a TSO vocal producer, and Fredo recorded studio tracks for TSO theme music.
The Exchange have a couple of albums, bunches of videos, and they tour extensively, often overseas, with a very loyal following. Here is the video for their original song “Kerosene,” which really shows off their individual personalities.
3. MELODORES (Vanderbilt University)
All-male, collegiate a cappella – it wasn’t a matter of if, but who. And this year we’re not disappointed because we already stalk follow the Melodores.
Just go ahead and go straight to download their single “Mas Que Nada” on iTunes or Loudr right now. Here they are singing it live at Sing Strong Chicago 2013 (h/t our own Tara Marie Ahn for the video):
And there you have it. This season’s six competing groups.
Now that you’ve met the players, who will YOU be cheering for this season? Let us know in the comments or via Twitter or our Facebook page.
Remember, the hashtag is #SingOff with no “the” in front. Get it trending when The Sing-Off: Season 5 airs on Wednesday, December 17 on NBC.