Former Rochester Hills resident Joe Santoni grew up listening to his parents play music on the radio. Now, it's his voice you might hear singing bass with Disney's new musical group DCappella.
"It's crazy," Santoni said of the group's recent and upcoming performance schedule. "Three weeks ago (over Memorial Day weekend) we did Beauty and the Beast for a sold-out audience at the Hollywood Bowl for our first performance on stage. It was such a cool experience."
The seven-member, a cappella group sings new and classic Disney songs, including tracks on Disney's Incredibles 2 Soundtrack and a full-length album to be released throughout this year. The album will be followed by a tour of North America. In April, the group performed on "American Idol" on ABC. The performance followed the group's digital single release of a version of "Immortals," from Disney's Big Hero 6.
DCappella was formed after a nationwide talent search for vocal performers. With thousands trying out for the group, Santoni said he wasn't sure he was going to send in an audition video until his father convinced him otherwise.
"My dad pushed and pushed for me to do it. I was convinced in my head that this wasn't a thing for me, and this wasn't going to happen," he said. "Thank God for him. He was the one who essentially pushed me to get this gig. Now, I'm recording an album and going on tour."
If you turned on a FM radio in Detroit, you probably heard his dad, Chuck Santoni, as a disc jockey and on-air personality on former stations WABX, WWWW, WLLZ and others. In 2005, when Joe was a freshman in Rochester Hills, he and his father moved to the Port Huron area. Joe returned a few years later to earn a vocal degree from Oakland University.
After graduating from Oakland University, Santoni headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.
"I had been out here for three years and was getting discouraged. This is where the industry is, unless you go for theater, then you go to New York, and that's not my thing."
Santoni said he was self-conscious about the audition process, which in the case of DCappella included a video submission and second live audition.
"It's very hard, but every time I put myself out there, it has worked out," he said.
At Oakland, Santoni was a member of a cappella groups Gold Vibrations and Oakordz. He also performed in four operas and other local shows, such as Karen Newman's Holiday Show. In Los Angeles, he got involved with the L.A. Choral lab.
Prior to moving to Port Huron, Santoni said he and his family moved throughout Oakland County, eventually living in Rochester Hills for about seven years. He said he likes to return to the area and visit, particularly his old college campus and teachers that helped guide him.
"I always go to campus," he said. "I love being there."
While his personal music tastes vary greatly, he said his path at Oakland was more of a logical decision. With theater or opera the basic choices for vocal performance studies in Michigan, he followed a mentor's path to Oakland University.
"It wasn't more complicated than that. I just wanted to sing at the end of the day," he said. "I grew up hearing The Beatles, ELO and Procol Harum. My dad has been a huge influence on my musical taste."