The Vocal Company Blog

Jon Smith: From Self-Taught to Swingle

Posted by AJ Marino on Mar 9, 2018 10:18:34 AM
Jon Smith has many titles. Educator. Singer. Arranger. Director. Friend. Leader. No matter where he goes, he is the resident over-achiever. What makes him so successful isn't just his talent, though he has that in spades; what makes Jon Smith a superhero is his boundless passion for what he does.

Our Director of Arranging started with humble beginnings. "I was originally a self-taught arranger," Jon remembers. "I started by transcribing a cappella songs and New York Voices charts that I thought were cool back in 2007." As he began understanding them more and more, Jon tried his hand at creating his own arrangements. That led him to form and direct an a cappella group in high school, and again in college, which brought him down a path to where he his now. That includes arranging for the Swingle Singers, and getting the chance to come full circle, arranging a song at the London A Cappella Festival featuring the New York Voices who inspired his abilities.
Although he learned from transcribing, he has enjoyed having the ability to discover his own style. Jon believes that every great arranger has his/her/their own voice. In his work with groups, he'll hear someone singing a chart and immediately be able to recognize the style of Shams Ahmed or Chris Harrison, and people can say the same thing about a Jon arrangement. When asked to describe that sound, Jon says that in his arrangements, "you can definitely hear that I come from a diverse background of choral music, gospel, jazz and pop all fused together. I love to tell a story...and make each note connect with the lyric in some way."

This year, that sound and passion brought Jon some well-deserved attention: he is involved in 16 CARA nominations for the 2018 awards.

When asked to reflect on such an incredible year, Jon looks back fondly on all of his experiences but notes his experience with OneVoice as being particularly impactful.
"Arranging for OneVoice has been an absolute pleasure. Hearing those consummate young professionals bring my arrangements to life is just so magical and the work that J.D. does with them is incredible. I'm really looking forward to hearing the studio version of the last arrangement I did for them, it's going to be pretty awesome."

He recently got to masterclass the group at the first ever contemporary a cappella ACDA concert this past week in Pittsburg, earning the group a standing ovation mid-set after their performance of that very arrangement.

Looking forward to 2018, Jon is looking inward. He hopes to finish writing his first original song, inspired by his 1-year-old nephew, Dylan and all he will get to see and discover in the world. This will hopefully be the start of more personal projects. "I've set a goal for 4 this year (about one every three months). Hopefully now posting publicly about it will keep me true to my word!"

At the end of the day, Jon is looking to continue his involvement with fellow passionate artists. He hopes to continue pushing our genre forward and working with others to explore new territory, and the fire behind the music we create.

Join lead instructor Jon Smith at #NLARRANGE this August in Washington D.C.!
Next Level 2018. Apply Now!

Topics: Humans of A Cappella, arranging, Fam Feature