By Chloe Wintersteen
Tyler Capa hopped on the TikTok trend while quarantining with his family in Michigan. But he wasn’t invested in the silly dance trends, one-off comedy skits, or memes, memes, memes. Instead, he was impressed by the 15-second videos of talented vocalists.
Given his background as a professional accompanist and theater coach in New York City, Capa viewed the app as a way to connect with performers who aren’t well known outside of social media, offer them an exciting performance opportunity, and divert their attention from pandemic-related stressors.
He quickly devised a plan to produce a post-COVID 19 concert featuring Tik Tok performers at 54 Below, a famous New York cabaret venue where Capa has hosted sold-out performances.
“I think it’s important for people to have things to look forward to, so this is my idea!” he announced on TikTok, inviting singers to submit a one-minute vocal audition video using the hashtag #capacasting.
He didn’t anticipate the response: more than 1,600 video submissions and 3.5 million views, so far. “It ended up blowing up a lot,” he said. “I didn’t even realize a lot of them already knew who I was, so that was kind of humbling.”
Capa is no stranger to astronomical view counts. After his day job — teaching choral music and theater to 5th-12th grade students — Capa coaches and creates social media content for Broadway and film actors like Rachel Zegler of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “West Side Story” film, Antonio Cipriano of Broadway’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and Renee Rapp of Broadway’s “Mean Girls.” He routinely posts videos with other musicians on his YouTube channel, and he has accumulated over 2 million channel views in the past two years.
“I always want to showcase people on what they do,” he said.
For the TikTok casting process, Capa enlisted the help of eight collaborators whom he trusts, including Zegler, to methodically comb through the videos. They narrowed the audition pool to 360 submissions, ranking each in eight categories. Capa then asked the top 67 to submit a call-back video using the hashtag #capacallback.
Ultimately, 17 performers were invited to participate in the concert (date uncertain, of course).
Capa posted videos of the winners on his YouTube channel, including his favorite — Brody Grant. “[Brody] deserves all of the best things in this world,” Capa said. “[He’s] incredibly talented, and there’s no reason why I should not have known him before this.”
The chosen performers agreed to provide their own transportation to New York and understood that hotel accommodations were not offered.
Capa doesn’t want to schedule the show until it’s safe for an audience to attend. “I want to make sure we’re back to normal… so we can fill the house and give [the performers] the opportunity they actually deserve,” Capa said. “For people who have never performed [at 54 Below], it’s like a stepping stone.”
Capa has also used TikTok to remotely collaborate with vocalists around the globe and foster an online musical theater community. He posts a clip of himself playing the climax of a well-known musical theater or pop song on the piano. His followers then post a video of themselves singing with his accompaniment, which he sometimes reposts on his YouTube channel.
“I can scroll through and hear all these different people from all around the world singing with me.” Capa said. “TikTok has changed the game.”
Still, he is itching to return to in-person collaboration once it is safe to do so.
“I just want to be in the room with someone, I miss it. I just freaking miss that more than anything in this world,” Capa said. “I don’t even care if someone is just looking at me and I’m playing the piano by myself, as long as there’s someone else in the room, I don’t care.”
He recognizes that most of his followers feel similarly. In a recent TikTok post aimed at the high school Class of 2020, he encouraged students to keep their heads up and continue making art.
“We will get through this. You are all going to do amazing things,” Capa said. “From a music teacher’s standpoint, keep making your music, keep singing, and keep being you.”