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Arts & Music

Tampa singer with Rockapella for the long haul


Published:   |   Updated: December 19, 2013 at 01:42 PM

When Scott Leonard left Indiana for the University of Tampa a generation ago, he dreamed of being a major league baseball player.

“I was all about baseball when I started to play for the University of Tampa, but I got burned out,” Leonard said.

Leonard moved on to his second love, music. “I fell into the music program and ended up with a music scholarship. I never envisioned making a living in music since no one in my family ever did.”

But it happened, Leonard moved to New York in 1987 and answered an advertisement for a fledgling band dubbed Rockapella.

“It was a perfect marriage,” Leonard recalled. “They were looking for a certain kind of singer, and I love a capella. Before we knew it, we were off to ‘Carmen Sandiego.’ ”

Leonard joined the band just as it made its debut on the PBS Kids game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

“It was a great start for me,” Leonard said.

Well, there has been an end to Rockapella for a number of Leonard’s mates, including the incredibly talented Sean Altman. “A number of the guys left the group, but I love being part of this,” Leonard said. “There is no act like Rockapella.”

Rockapella melds rock, pop, R&B and doo wop courtesy of five distinct, rich voices. The band has crafted a dozen albums, including a pair of stellar holiday albums, 2002’s “Comfort and Joy” and 2000’s “The Christmas Album.”

“I’ve always loved Christmas albums,” Leonard said. “I love recording Christmas songs, and they’re so much fun to sing at shows since everybody knows the words.”

Expect a heavy dose of Christmas tunes when Rockapella performs Friday at the Capitol Theatre.

It’s a hometown show for Leonard who, after living in New York for a decade, moved back to Tampa in 2001.

“I absolutely love living here,” Leonard said during a phone call from his Hyde Park home. “We’re restoring a Mediterranean home right now and really enjoying it. I’m so glad we came back here. We moved back when my (20-year old) son was just a child. I didn’t want his entire frame of reference to just be living in New York City. I think the quality of life is tremendous here, and I’ve always had great ties to Tampa Bay. When I was going to school, I would jog by this neighborhood, and I would think, ‘Man, I would love to live here’ and now I am.”

Leonard, who is on the board of the University of Tampa, is amazed at how his school has burgeoned. “It’s more than doubled in size since I’ve gone there,” Leonard said. “There are about 5,000 students there. I received a terrific education, and I parlayed that into a career I enjoy immensely.”

The soft-spoken Leonard is the longest-tenured member of Rockapella. The benefit is that he has helped the band morph. “We’ve become a funkier act over recent years, which is something I wanted,” Leonard said. “When guys left the band, that gave us the opportunity to hire singers who would help us achieve the sound we’re going for.”

Leonard believes Rockapella will be around for many years. “I don’t see why we should end it,” Leonard said. “The funny thing is that when I joined the band, I thought that it would be a vehicle for a short period, but 22 years later I’m still here. I understand why. I just wouldn’t want to leave this behind.”

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