BetsyAcaFest Instructors & Fellows
Showcase Jury Pool
Shams Ahmed is a masterful arranger, music director, and educator from Cherry Hill, NJ. He is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, where he directed SoJamX and 2013 ICCA Champions, The Nor'easters and founded Pitch, Please, while double majoring in Finance and Mandarin. During his tenure, the group picked up several compilation placements and CARA awards, and Shams earned more arranging awards than any other collegiate arranger. Additionally, Shams delved into the world of musical theater, music directing community productions of RENT, A Tale of Two Cities, and Spring Awakening. He is currently living in Boston, arranging music for The Vocal Company and coaching local a cappella groups.
Ben Bram is a two-time Grammy award-winning arranger, vocal producer, engineer, and music director from Los Angeles. A graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music, Ben sang with, arranged for, and directed four-time ICCA champions the SoCal VoCals during his time at USC. He is co-founder, collaborator, and a longtime friend of Pentatonix and has served in many different capacities, most notably as arranger, engineer, and producer. Ben also has an extensive resume in film, TV, and commercials, which includes work for Pitch Perfect 1 and 2, The Sing-Off, Glee, CoverGirl, Lifetime, and MTV. In addition to film, TV, and recording work, Ben enjoys staying involved in the greater a cappella community. Along with Avi Kaplan and Rob Dietz, he co-founded A Cappella Academy, a teen summer intensive designed to train and mentor up-and-coming vocal talents. He is a frequent guest clinician at various a cappella festivals and continues to arrange for scholastic and professional groups alike. He recently created Snowfall, a pop/jazz caroling company based in Los Angeles. [@thebenbram]
India Carney is a singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, and actress whose talents embrace a wide range of musical genres from opera to musical theater to pop. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Carney is best known for her television appearances as the Top 5 featured artist on NBC "The Voice" Season 8. Carney sang alongside Grammy-award winner Christina Aguilera, American pop artist Jason Derulo, opened for The Roots at the 26th Annual JazzReggae Festival in Los Angeles, CA, and was a featured artist at The Apollo Theater (NY), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (DC), The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA), Madison Square Garden (NYC) and Yankee Stadium for the New York Yankees. Carney serves as an adjudicator on the inaugural selection committee for A Cappella Education Association (AEA) "Come Together" compilation. Carney served as music director (2015) and instructor/counselor (2014) at the A Cappella Academy (co-founder Avi Kaplan, Pentatonix). As a former member of the award-winning UCLA ScatterTones A Cappella Group, Carney was music director for two years and earned Outstanding Soloist and Arrangement awards at multiple ICCA competitions. A graduate of UCLA, Carney earned her B.A. in Music with a Music Industry Minor. Carney is a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts and YoungArts Winner in Voice & Theater. [@indiacarney]
Rob Dietz is a multiple CARA winning producer who has been arranging, performing, and teaching contemporary a cappella music for over fifteen years. Based in Los Angeles, Rob is best known for his work as an arranger and group coach for NBC’s The Sing-Off. Through his work on the show, Rob has had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the top talent in the vocal music world, including Pentatonix, Streetcorner Symphony, The Exchange, Traces, and many more. As a performer, he is an award winning vocal percussionist, recognized for his work with Jazz/Pop super group, Level, and Pop/Soul quintet, The Funx.
Rob has a deep passion for a cappella education, and is a founding co-director (along with Ben Bram and Avi Kaplan) of A Cappella Academy. In addition to his work with the Academy, Rob is also the director of Legacy: an auditioned, community youth a cappella group based in Los Angeles. In 2017, the group’s inaugural year, Legacy won first place in both the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival’s Scholastic Competition, and the Southwest semifinal round of the Varsity Vocals A Cappella Open.
Rob’s work can be found online at www.human-feedback.com. [@rdietz55]
Alex Green is a recording engineer, producer, and arranger from New York City. He is a graduate of Tufts University with a dual degree in Music and Archaeology, where he sang with and directed the Tufts Amalgamates and with whom he recorded 2011′s Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA)-winning Hands Off The Mannequin. He is a co-owner and producer at Plaid Productions, a full-service a cappella production company with dual home bases in Brooklyn, NY and Somerville, MA. Alex shares two RIAA-certified Platinum and Billboard-charting albums with Ed Boyer, Ben Bram, and Bill Hare for his work with Pentatonix, while other clients of Plaid Productions have had songs featured on SING, BOCA, Voices Only, and have garnered over 150 CARA nominations. Since graduating in 2010, he has regularly served as a masterclass leader and instructor at a cappella festivals nationwide, as well as singing with Overboard (Boston, MA) and writing for the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB). [@atothegreen]
Showcase Jury Pool
An alumna of James Madison University's School of Theatre and Dance, Holli Kitching was a member of the BluesTones for five years, serving as music director and president. After graduation, Holli moved to New York City, where she taught middle school theatre and worked for a variety of children's theatre companies. While living in New York, Holli became one of the original members of the all-female CAL group Empire, serving as music director from 2011-12. In 2012, she moved to Washington, DC, where she currently resides and works at an independent school coordinating after-school programming and teaching theatre and voice. In 2012, Holli formed the all-female group The District and has been serving as music director ever since. Holli is currently a member of VXN, a professional all-female vocal group. In addition to her performance resume, Holli has been active in the a cappella community through festivals and event production for the past five years. Since 2010, Holli has also been an ICCA Producer for Varsity Vocals, serving both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, and a workshop and masterclass clinician at various festivals across the country. [@hollikitch]
Jessie Louise Mark
Scholastic Festival Producer
Jessie Louise Mark graduated from Duke University in 2011 where she majored in History and minored in Music. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. During her four years as a member and director of Duke’s award-winning all-female a cappella group Lady Blue, Jessie developed a love for music theory and a cappella education. She has taught beginner music theory for vocal arranging for several years at a cappella festivals around the country and now serves the Scholastic Festival Producer of The Betsy's A Cappella Festival and Education Coordinator for the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival. Jessie sings and beatboxes with VXN, a bicoastal all-female vocal quintet, and Ross’s house rock band, Risky Business. [@JessieLouise]
Showcase Coordinator Fellow
Social Media Fellow
Brittany Taman is a former member Florida State University's all-female a cappella group, AcaBelles. Brittany has won awards for her outstanding choreography, been prominently featured in the 'Belles viral cover of "Royals", recorded on the CARA-winning album “Rebel” and EP “Dimensions", helped her group to become SoJam Champions in 2014, and starred in season one of the a cappella docu-series "Sing It On” on Pop TV. Since graduating in 2015 with degrees in English and Studio Art, Brittany has stayed involved in the a cappella world as an ICCA and ICHSA judge. She currently lives in New York City, where she performs with her semi-pro co-ed group, The MetroChords. [@brittanytaman]
Elliott Von Wendt
High School Intensive and Education Fellow Lauren Wilson is a current graduate student at the University of Miami, where she is pursuing a Masters of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries. She is also a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she majored in Marketing and Media & Information. At Michigan State, she was the music director of Ladies First, the only all-female group at Michigan State. As music director, she led the group to perform in showcases, place at ICCA events, and recognition for their latest EP, “Run This Show”. She is currently the vocal percussionist and founder of Revel, a new all female vocal band. The group made its debut at The Open in 2017, where she also took home the award for Outstanding Vocal Percussion. She is also currently the vocal percussion instructor and Director of Marketing for A Cappella University. She has interned with Varsity Vocals, The Vocal Company, and hopes to continue her career in a cappella!
Hear What the A Cappella Experts Say about TBAF!
Deborah Plutzik Briggs
Vice President for Philanthropy and Programs at The Betsy - South Beach,
and Executive Producer of The Betsy A Cappella Festival
Showcase Jury Pool
Deborah is the daughter of poet Hyam Plutzik and wife of a composer Jeffery Briggs. She is founder of and chief maven for The Writer’s Room with her brother (and Betsy owner) Jonathan Plutzik. As Vice President for Marketing and Philanthropy at The Betsy, Executive Director of the PG Family Foundation, and Director of The Betsy Community Fund at the Miami Foundation, she’s forged new pathways for artists and thinkers to come together around ‘things that matter’ – through the Betsy Writers Room and through partnerships with over 200 community partners in South Florida, under the auspices of Betsy’s PACE program (Philanthropy, Arts, Culture, and Education). Deborah led Betsy’s successful effort to secure a Knight Arts Challenge Grant to capitalize The Writer’s Room. She shares her time between Baltimore, New York, and Miami.
Jean Blackwell Font
Senior Manager for Philanthropy and Arts at The Betsy - South Beach
Jean is a practicing artist and experienced hotel manager. She joined the Betsy Marketing Team in 2011 as Manager of Marketing and Philanthropy, and currently manages The Betsy’s voice and designs invitations for events. She maintains the Betsy A Cappella and Writer's Room websites.
High School Vertical, Co-Producer
Ryan Ellis is a jazz pianist and director of vocal music at Miami Arts Studio, an up and coming public arts magnet school in Miami, FL. Mr. Ellis received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Miami and his Masters in Music Education from Florida International University. After five years as the Director of Bands at Miami Southridge High School, he switched to Director of Choral Music at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. There, his advanced chorus, The Falcon Singers, performed throughout the United States with concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, and New York including three concerts at Carnegie Hall in 2009, 2011, and 2014 in which the group performed the world premiere of “Nou Se Limye,” by Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume. Since 2004, his ensembles have earned superior ratings at district assessment. In March 2018, Mr. Ellis will return to Carnegie Hall with his top ensemble from Miami Arts Studio. As a professional jazz pianist, Mr. Ellis has worked extensively in the Caribbean, Florida and Hawaii performing with a who's who of jazz including Kevin Mahogany, Eddie Jones, Paul Brown, Leon Foster Thomas, Bobby Ramirez, Ira Sullivan and Bobby Dukoff.
Vice President, Marketing
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County
Showcase Jury Pool
Andrew Goldberg has been the Vice President for Marketing at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County since August of 2007. Now in its ninth season, the Center is on track to exceed sales goals and operate with a balanced budget for eight consecutive years. Mr. Goldberg oversees all marketing, communication, and ticket sales efforts for the Center, including more than 90 titles spanning more than 500 events annually, including signature series with Broadway, Jazz, Classical Music, Dance, World Music, Pop, Gospel, Family programming, and an annual Flamenco Festival. Previous companies include Florida Grand Opera, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Ravinia Festival. Mr. Goldberg has a degree in music composition from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Andrew is a former member of the award-winning a cappella group The Other Guys at the University of Illinois. While in the group, The Other Guys were featured twice in BOCA, won the 1996 CARA for Best Male Collegiate Album, and participated in the first ever ICCA National Finals, taking 3rd place.