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Sean Altman

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Sean Altman (born May 9, 1961) is a Jewish American musician and songwriter. He is a founder and former lead singer of the singing group Rockapella and a pioneer of the modern a cappella movement. He was a member of Rockapella from its inception in 1986 until he left the group in 1997 to launch a solo career.

As a founding member of Rockapella, Altman is best known for his role on the long-running PBS children's geography game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1995), on which the group served as the house vocal band and comedy troupe. He and his childhood friend David Yazbek co-wrote the show's classic theme song, which is recognized as one of the best known TV themes in history (TVT Records - Television's Greatest Hits). Rockapella released eleven albums in the USA and Japan during Altman's eleven year tenure.

As a solo artist, Altman has released three solo albums on the independent Chow Fun Records: seandemonium (1997), alt.mania (2002) and Losing Streak (2005). In 2008, Altman's solo comedy song act JEWMONGOUS released the debut album Taller Than Jesus (Chow Fun Records), about which The Washington Post wrote "Witty and outrageously lampooning...full of catchy melodies, clever arrangements and lyrics that yield satiric gems." His a cappella group The GrooveBarbers has released two albums: "Guts" and "Glory", and his defunct comedy song duo What I Like About Jew released "Unorthodox" before its breakup in 2006. In 2009, Altman wrote and recorded two songs for the popular Schoolhouse Rock! series, composed and performed on two TV commercials for Wendy's and composed and recorded the theme song for the PBS show "Science Mission 101" (WQED Pittsburgh).

Early life

Altman grew up in the Bronx, New York, in Riverdale.[1] His musical talent was recognized early on, as he starred in many school musicals and claims to have charmed female classmates with "hallway serenades." At age seventeen, Altman turned pro, performing on the New York nightclub circuit with David Yazbek as Moon Pudding, a Simon and Garfunkel-styled teen duo. At Brown University, Altman majored in political science, but focused primarily on singing college a cappella in The High Jinks and fronting Blind Dates, his rock group that released two national college radio hits. Altman continued with Blind Dates after graduating from Brown in 1984, moving from Providence to New York City in search of a record deal. The group dissolved in 1987, just as Rockapella's career began.

Musical Career



After graduating from Brown together, Altman and fellow High Jinks member Elliott Kerman joined classmates Steve Keyes and David Stix to form a new a cappella group called Rockapella. Rockapella began its career humbly, performing on street corners in New York City while Altman still focused primarily on his Blind Dates work. The group's repertoire consisted of a mix of barbershop arrangements and a cappella renditions of classic doo wop pieces. As the group grew in experience and Altman honed his vocal arranging skills, they began to focus less on oldies and barbershop, and more on contemporary rock music.

A dinner party performance for TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford led to the group's 1988 appearance on the ABC-TV show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Rockapella's performance of Altman's signature arrangement of the calypso novelty standard Zombie Jamboree caught the eye of producer Gerard Brown, who invited Rockapella to perform on the PBS "Great Performances" TV special Spike Lee & Company - Do it A Capella, which featured established a cappella acts Take 6, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Rockapella's idols The Persuasions. Elektra Records released Rockapella's live recording of "Zombie Jamboree" as a single, and the group's recording career was launched.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Producers of a fledgling PBS-TV series called Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? took note of Rockapella's charms and signed the group to appear as the house vocal band. The half-hour geography game show aired daily for five years (295 episodes), 1991-1995, catapulting Rockapella into mid-level TV celebrity and making the Rockapella-performed theme song (penned by Sean and childhood pal David Yazbek) into one of the best known TV themes in history (TVT Records - Television's Greatest Hits). Altman is particularly remembered for his trademark blond braids, which were ceremoniously sheared in the last episode of the fifth and final season by the show's host Greg Lee. The soundtrack to the show features five of Altman's original songs, including the aforementioned theme song and a duet with The Persuasions on "My Home". A sequel album co-produced by Altman was entitled "Carmen Sandiego: Out Of This World" and contained four Altman compositions as well as contributions from the rock bands XTC and They Might Be Giants.

While Carmen Sandiego ran in the United States, Rockapella released five albums in Japan, a total of fourteen original songs written by Altman written both solo and in collaboration with others. The group also toured Japan briefly during this time.


After Carmen Sandiego finished and Rockapella had put out two independent albums in the United States, Altman left the group in April 1997 to better focus on his solo career. He promptly released his debut CD "seanDEMOnium", about which the Philadelphia Daily News wrote: "Imagine Dion meeting Marshall Crenshaw at the Beatles' house, with the Kinks, Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Persuasions all dropping by for a song swap. The words have a cynical edge, but what really grabs you is the old-fashioned sweetness and punch of his neo-doowop vocals playing off incredibly hook-happy tunes."

Solo career

After releasing seanDEMOnium, Altman assembled a backup band, played NYC rock clubs for two years, garnering accolades for his live shows. The Village Voice called him "an absurdly talented performer... a power-pop mensch and an aspiring teen cult leader." He released alt.mania, his second CD of original music in 2003, about which Hits Magazine wrote: "This record rocks....Rockapella mastermind, internet entrepreneur and divorcé Altman tells barbed, musically diverse tales of romantic misadventures....A dark, funny, resilient, postmodern concept album about love and loss."

He is the only three-time winner of the Contemporary A cappella Society’s “Original Song of the Year” award, and has also been a "Best Male Vocalist" award recipient. He currently records and performs a cappella with some other ex-Rockapella members in The GrooveBarbers (featured as The Astelins in TV commercials for Astelin nasal spray), bittersweet pop songs as a solo artist, and comedy songs in Jewmongous. He has vocal-arranged and produced a cappella albums for the groups Minimum Wage and Kol Zimra. Altman was named “Best Male Artist” in the 2005 International Acoustic Music Awards and was a 2005 Kerrville New Folk finalist. He is a member of The Loser's Lounge tribute series in New York and serenades hospital patients as a volunteer with Musicians On Call.

Personal life

In 2003, Altman married operatic soprano Inna Dukach. They live in Harlem, New York City. In late November 2008, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Ruby Dukach-Altman.


  • seanDEMOnium (1997)
  • alt.mania (2002)
  • Losing Streak (2005)
  • Glory (GrooveBarbers) (2005)
  • Unorthodox (What I Like About Jew) (2006)
  • Taller Than Jesus (JEWMONGOUS) (2008)


  1. Goodman, Lawrence. 'Too Jew For Who?", Brown Alumni Magazine, March / April 2008. Accessed May 4, 2008.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sean Altman. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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