Listen up Winter Park, because these 12 Wildcats are ready to sing your socks off.
Naughty Scotty and the Octapella, a tenor-bass a cappella ensemble comprising Winter Park High School students, is singing its heart out and currently working toward its fourth recording project.
The 12-piece group, under the direction of Winter Park High School Director of Choral Activities Matthew Swope, continues to garner attention with its hypnotizing harmonies — showcased on two albums and an EP. The a cappella outfit’s work has brought them to numerous major stages over the years, including the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
But when Naughty Scotty isn’t out on the road playing in a historic venue, Winter Parkers usually can hear them sing together at local Track Shack races and Winter Park High School events. Other Winter Park Wildcats may have heard them around the hallways on Valentine’s Day, because the group is frequently commissioned to perform for unsuspecting valentines in a surprise singing telegram.
“It’s kind of become a pretty significant public face of our program, in addition to many of our traditional ensembles who also do a lot in the community,” Swope said. “It’s definitely a brotherhood. It’s definitely a family for sure.”
The singing squad was first started in the fall of 2008, when some male students approached Swope about starting a group. Auditions were held shortly after, the first group was formed, and it’s evolved into a formal group over time. Naughty Scotty and the Octapella, an extracurricular activity outside of the classroom, originally started with nine singers but has since grown to 12.
Their repertoire has grown as well, ranging from barbershop and doo-wop to contemporary a cappella music performed by groups such as the Pentatonix and on shows such as “The Sing-Off.”
“A cappella has given me a smaller community within the chorus program,” senior Jake Rotz said. “When I originally joined, I was kind of hesitant if I wanted to do it or not, but then afterwards — this is my second year in it — (I realized) that every opportunity we get is so special. It’s a really awesome experience being a part of the group.”
Junior Jeremy Roldan agreed.
“We’re all really close — I feel like every rehearsal we go to we get a little bit closer,” he said. “We’ve been able to create some pretty incredible music throughout the years.”
In 2016, Naughty Scotty decided to venture down the road of recording and has since released three major projects: “Eight Arms,” an album that dropped later that year; “Rise — Songs of Hope and Villainy,” a collaboration with the school’s all-female group Take 7 released in 2017; and “Three Hearts,” an EP of three songs released last year.
The titles “Eight Arms” and “Three Hearts” play into the group’s mascot: an octopus, Swope said.
“That’s their logo — an octopus has eight arms, it has three hearts and technically has nine brains, but we’re not going that direction right now,” Swope said, with a laugh.
The recording process gives the members of the group a special and unique experience. A producer from The Vocal Company — an a cappella recording company based in the Northeast — travels all the way down to Winter Park High School to record.
“That’s really kind of helped push the group forward and been a really great challenge for the boys and a really great opportunity,” Swope said.
The boys track the vocals and the content is then edited and mixed. It’s then mastered by another company called Vocal Mastering before it is made available to the public on CD, iTunes and Spotify.
Naughty Scotty and the Octapella has received plenty of recognition and acclaim for the finished products. In 2017 and 2018, a track from each of their albums was chosen for Best of High School A Capella — a special compilation album put forth each year by Varsity Vocals based in Chicago.
That 2018 song — “Giants,” featuring Naughty Scotty and Take 7 — also was featured on a compilation called Voices Only 2018, and the boys group has been nominated for a total of three Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards — the equivalent of Grammys for a cappella music, Swope said.
“Giants” was named runner-up for Best High School Song of the Year in 2018, placing both of Winter Park’s singing groups in the spotlight.
“They’re individual groups and they have their very distinct goals and their very distinct identities,” Swope said. “I would say as a teacher they bring out different aspects in my own personality and my own passions in terms of music, but they consider themselves to be one big a cappella family, as well.”
Now, the group is in the midst of fundraising its next major recording project: a Disney album.
“We’re going to have some kind of untraditional, unexpected songs in there and represented on the album, as well as some classic favorites,” Swope said. “We’re pretty excited about that project, because we’re trying some new things that we haven’t done before. We have a tie-in with the alumni of NSO — we have about 18 alumni coming back from the period of 2009 to 2018, representing the very first class of the group through the most current. There will be a collaborative track with current members and alumni.”
Another collaborative track will include all the men in the Winter Park High School choral department, totaling about 60 singers.
“Between the alumni, the second collaborative effort, plus the current group, we’ll kind of show hopefully the past, the present and the future of the group and bring even more awareness to male singing at Winter Park High School,” Swope said.
The group hopes to record the upcoming Disney-themed album in early March, he said.