As you head down Walt Disney World’s Main Street, U.S.A., you’re bound to run in to the “Dapper Dans,” Disney’s own barbershop quartet. They’ve been entertaining audiences since the park opening in 1971, and before that at Disneyland since 1959. They’ve also been heard at Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris through the years.
I was able to chat with current group member, Drew Ochoa, to find out a little bit more about him and the group as well.
DMB: Drew, thanks so much for chatting with us about you and your involvement with the Dapper Dans at Walt Disney World! Tell us a little about you and your musical background.
Drew: Thank you for the oppotunity! I am 29 years old and I was born and raised in Northwest Ohio. Music and performing have been a part of my life since I was a child. Throughout elementary school, I participated in our school’s musical plays. I started playing trumpet when I was 9, but it only lasted for 3 short years. Through junior high and high school I focused on playing sports and had no involvement in music. In high school, a friend asked me to audition for “West Side Story” and I landed a lead role. That was a turning point for my life. I ended up dropping all of the sport activities and focused on musical theater. As far as an interest in barbershop music, I was introduced to it during my senior year and was immediately hooked. My choral director was a graduate of Bowling Green State University and he educated me on the history that BGSU holds in the barbershop genre. I attended BGSU as a voice major, but ended up graduating with a degree in Choral Music Education. I also hold a Master’s Degree in Voice Performance from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
DMB: When did you begin working for Disney, and how did that come about?
Drew: I went to an audition for the Voices of Liberty back in February of 2015 and there happened to be Dapper Dan auditions at the same location. I auditioned for both groups and a few months later was offered a contract to be a part of the Dapper Dans. My official beginning with the guys was in July of 2015. My original goal and dream was to become a member of Voices of Liberty over in Epcot. They were a group I highly admired over the years. When I began my year with the Dapper Dans, colleagues of mine encouraged me to audition for the VoL role in Epcot’s Candlelight Processional. I went through the audition process and happily accepted a contract as a VoL singer for the Candlelight Processional. It was definitely a highlight to my career. The story, music, and energy in the atmosphere is overwhelming with exceeding great joy. 😉 Candlelight was my first step into VoL and I chose to audition for the regular Voices of Liberty gig back in February. After anxiously waiting for a couple of months, I was honored a sub position with Voices of Liberty. My original dream came true. I am only a few months in with subbing for VoL and it is everything I hoped for. With all of that being said, I am still full time with the Dapper Dans and this gig has become extremely rewarding. I’ve been singing barbershop music for 10 years and I can vouch for many of the people in our society that singing with the Dapper Dans is a something we all would dream to do. No day is the same with the Dappers. As atmosphere entertainers, we are constantly improvising our show based on the audience we have in front of us and the other entertainment happening near us. That’s the rewarding part of the gig. We get to make each day feel new and refreshed for our audience and ourselves.
DMB: What does a typical week look like for you as far as rehearsals and schedules?
Drew: Each full time quartet (there are two) works 4 days a week and we do 9 sets a day out on Main Street. Our schedule is tough to follow because we have different locations for various sets. You can find us in the early morning riding either the trolley or a street car where we sing for guests entering the park. Through the afternoon, we perform chime sets. They are at 11:45 & 1:05 in front of the firehouse near Town Hall and 1:45 & 3:35 in front of Hall of Champions. We encourage guests to attend these sets because it shows off everything we do from singing to chiming to tap dancing. Our rehearsals happen every Wednesday for half of the day and the other half is spent out doing sets for the guests. A few times during the year, we will have full day rehearsals to either brush up on our general material or work on seasonal material for Halloween and Christmas. If you attend any of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties, you may stumble upon the Cadaver Dans singing in Frontier Land!
DMB: Who are some mentors from whom you’ve learned a lot during this past year at Disney?
Drew: First and foremost are the guys in the quartet. We are a team and the veterans of the group never hesitate to help you out with any part of our show. Another mentor to my Disney experience is my music director, Tony DeRosa. He is an excellent example of an all around talented musician who understands the barbershop craft better than anyone I know. He has also given me a lot of personal and professional advice to enhance my career here at Disney.
DMB: When you’re at the park and not making music, on what attraction are we most likely to find you?
Drew: That’s a tough call, but I’d have to say “Space Mountain.” For some reason all the random twists and turns and dives make me break out into laughter.
DMB: Drew, thanks so much for sharing a little bit of your story with the Dapper Dans!
Make sure you stop and give a listen to the Dapper Dans next time you’re “walkin’ right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.” and tell Drew you read about him here at Disney Music Blog!
*Photos courtesy Jennifer Rubin and Arthur Lyons
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