Walton Arts Center brings voices together for April competition

Walton Arts Center brings voices together for April competition

Edward Mountz and Erick Amaya came to the first year of WACappella from very different places.

Mountz, from Bentonville, is an actor focused on musical theater. Amaya, from Fort Smith, is primarily a singer. Together, they were part of the first Walton Arts Center-sponsored ensemble to perform at the annual VoiceJam Competition in 2023. And they’ll both be back this year for VoiceJam on April 13. The 20-person chorus includes 12 returning members and eight new ones.

Returning members in addition to Mountz and Amaya are Allison Earhart of Bentonville; Elizabeth Rogers of Bella Vista; Dekarius Dawson, De’Von Smith, Diane Higgins, Sara Jones, Chris Jones and Sammi Stinson of Fayetteville; Kendal Strong and Jim Bob Lloyd of Springdale.

New members are Elli Stewart of Pea Ridge; Lorna Nulph of Prairie Grove; Shelby Green, Carley Adams and Kelly Daugherty of Fayetteville; Catherine Warren of Farmington; Heath Parnell of Bentonville; and Isabel McDowell of Decatur.

Edward Mountz

“I wanted to explore other options for singing outside of musical theater, plus performing on the WAC stage was definitely a plus,” says Mountz, who was most recently in the Perry Ryan Theatre production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” “I met several different people from all different walks of life. I even met some people that I would go on and do shows with later that year, along with others that I joined a band with — even if it’s only for Shul.

“[And] I learned a lot about staging and handheld mics that differs from theater and took a while to get used to.”

“I heard about WACappella last year through social media,” says Amaya. “At the time, it sounded like an incredible performing opportunity and a chance to get involved with a style of vocal music that surprisingly isn’t heard around Northwest Arkansas too often.

“As a vocal percussionist/beatboxer myself, performing opportunities don’t come along too often,” he adds. “I am a high school choir director in Fort Smith, and I think this is a great way to familiarize myself with a genre I’d love to expose my students to. Who knows, maybe you’ll see a young a cappella group from Fort Smith in the coming years!”

This is just the second year for the WACappella ensemble, who will perform “a special music arrangement” by Deke Sharon while the judges deliberate during the annual VoiceJam Competition.

“Heralded as ‘the father of contemporary a cappella,’ Sharon is a performer, arranger, music producer, author, producer and coach, and is responsible for the current sound of modern a cappella,” says Jennifer Wilson, WAC spokeswoman. “His work is well-known on camera and/or directing behind the scenes on ‘Pitch Perfect,’ ‘The Sing Off,’ ‘Pitch Slapped’ and more.”

“I enjoyed last year’s WACappella group and left the performance wanting more,” Amaya enthuses. “When I heard they were letting us return, I absolutely had to clear up my schedule. The learning process was especially fun. As an adult level group, everyone arrives prepared, and it makes the process enjoyable. I plan on returning every year whether that’s as a WACappella member, teacher, or simply to help out.”

Mountz says he came back to “join my friends from last year and to make new friends this year,” much as one does in theater. “And to learn more about the singing side of performing. I’d never pass up an opportunity like that.”




The two-day festival includes Take Six performing at 8 p.m. April 12 ($10); VoiceJam workshops from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 13 (free); and the VoiceJam Competition at 7:30 p.m. April 13 ($27). A combo ticket for both shows is $29 at waltonartscenter.org/voicejam.

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