Recent Alum, Neil Howland ’12, recently had the opportunity to interview DDS alum Daniel Leopold ’02, who participated in the hit television series on NBC, The Sing-Off in the fall of 2011, with his a cappella group, The Dartmouth Aires.
1. When did you realize that one of your greatest passions was singing?
I grew up in a household of singers. My mother and sister would always be singing along to James Taylor or The Indigo Girls in the car, my grandmother watched operas almost daily, and my father sang every Saturday at synagogue. The combination of early exposure and the value placed upon the power of the human voice made for an easy transition into 3rd grade chorus at DDS.
2. How did you get involved with the Dartmouth Aires?
I heard about the Aires from a friend in my high school a cappella group during sophomore year. I was quickly blown away by the creativity, blend, and energy of their music. It was then another two years before I got into Dartmouth my senior winter and realized that I could actually join the group! I saw some of their performances during orientation and eagerly tried out for the group the day before my first day of classes at Dartmouth. After an exhausting but fun audition process, lasting from 4pm on Tuesday until 5:45am on Wednesday, I was in the group. The next 5 years with the Aires took me across the United States each year, into Quebec, Vancouver, Costa Rica, and ultimately onto national television!
3. What was it like being on The Sing-Off?
I can imagine few things more fun and rewarding than spending ~ 14 hours each day making music with my best friends. Two months of 90-hour weeks taught us a great deal about ourselves, how to effectively work as a group, and even how to dance. We had the chance to visit unique locations around LA, work with tremendously talented vocal coaches and choreographers, and meet some of the silliest and most talented people I’ve ever encountered. I also learned a great deal about the entertainment industry and how the amorphous hierarchy of directors, producers, production assistants, production companies (Sony), and distribution networks (NBC) works. During our time on The Sing-Off, the Aires grew closer and older together, which I something I hope to do for the rest of my life. Being on The Sing-Off was a fun, educational, and ultimately humbling experience that I will never forget. I thoroughly plan on re-watching the season with my grandchildren some day.
4. What were the schools that you went to after Dutchess Day?
After DDS, I attended The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, followed by Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
5. What are you doing now, besides singing?
I currently work as a research assistant at the University of Denver and live in Boulder, CO. I mainly study the normal and abnormal development of reading skills (i.e. dyslexia) among 8-15 year old Hispanic and African American children. I’m currently hoping to attend graduate school for a PhD in clinical psychology.
6. Did Dutchess Day help start your singing career? If so, how?
I have very fond memories of holding down the bass section in Mrs. Bialek’s lower school choir. My voice changed quite early, so I found myself on the risers with other guys two, even three years older than me. Mrs. Bialek’s encouragement was a constant motivator to develop my musical ear and sing as best I could. When Mrs. Bialek went on sabbatical, a gentlemen name Paul Cavaciutti stepped in to run music classes and the choir. I vividly recall a particular day after 8th period music class when Mr. Cavaciutti coached me through singing a famous aria from Turandot. He had me sing through the aria a dozen times, each time adding more power and character to my voice. By the end of those 10 minutes, I was using my diaphragm and projecting like a true opera singer. The enjoyment and confidence in my voice that DDS inspired within me helped me become a better performer, musician, and public speaker. I decided to continue voice lessons in high school, singing various opera and Broadway pieces, along with major roles in West Side Story, Chicago, and Oklahoma.
7. What are your singing plans for the future?
Although I’d love to continue singing a cappella on a regular basis, graduate school will likely prevent me from doing so. After graduate school however, I’d love to join a recreational a cappella group or perform in some local musicals. Despite this current hiatus from singing, I’ll continue singing and beat boxing in the car, while walking outdoors, and generally everywhere.