CWU News

Former CWU Music Major Now Firmly Established as a Disney Performer

Sometimes in life, the hardest decisions end up being the best ones. As former CWU music major Antonio Fernandez can attest, you can’t go wrong when you follow your heart.

The Kent, Wash., native attended CWU from 2012-15 and was less than two months away from earning his degree when he decided to pursue a full-time music career. Five years into his professional contract with the Disney Corp., Fernandez is still in awe about his good fortune.

“Leaving school a month and a half before graduation was easily the most difficult decision of my life,” said Fernandez, a vocal jazz specialist and world-class beat-boxer who is currently working with Disney’s a cappella group, DCappella. “But I know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the instruction and mentoring I received at CWU.”

Since moving to Orlando, Florida, in 2015, Fernandez has taken what he learned in Ellensburg and showcased those skills to fans around the world with ensembles such as American Music Machine, Voices of Liberty, and DCappella. 

While his natural talent no doubt paved the way for his burgeoning career, Fernandez is quick to credit CWU professors Gary Widenaar, Vijay Singh, Maria Roditeleva-Wibe, and Todd Shiver for helping him develop the foundation he needed to become a professional.

“My professors spoke to me on a deep level about the benefit of having a strong work ethic and personal accountability — and how that can pay off,” he said. “They taught me countless lessons about the value of pushing yourself every day. I have found that this isn’t the norm in the industry, but at CWU, you learn that work ethic is everything.”

Fernandez said three years of music theory courses, voice lessons, and piano lessons helped train his ears so he could recreate the sounds he was hearing. Weekly one-on-one sessions with his advisor, Mia Spencer, also gave him an edge when he joined the professional ranks.

“They helped me realize that you have to show up prepared,” he said, “because when you get to this level, 80 percent of a good job isn’t a very good job at all. It’s very obvious when you mess up, so there is a lot of pressure to be absolutely perfect.” 

Fernandez discovered how far he had come as a musician in 2017, when he auditioned for DCappella. The two-day tryout in New York City attracted 1,500 elite singers from around the country, and Fernandez ended up being one of only seven who were selected for the Disney Music Group ensemble. 

Since January 2018, DCappella has been performing at Disneyworld events like the Eat to the Beat festival and Epcot Center Concert Series. They also appeared on ABC’s Disney Christmas Special in December and traveled to Japan last summer for a concert tour.

“It’s been an incredible ride so far,” he said, adding that this summer’s scheduled Japanese tour is still in the works due to concerns about the worldwide pandemic. 

Like most Americans, Fernandez and the other members of DCappella are working from home until further notice. The performers hope to resume in-person rehearsals soon, but in the meantime, they are collaborating virtually and preparing for the second half of 2020.

Fernandez said he has had plenty of time over the past two months to work on his other passion: music production. 

“I want to become a song writer, so I’ve turned my bedroom into a recording studio,” he said. “I write music for other artists, and I also get hired by corporations to record jingles. Even before I thought about being a performer, I wanted to be a composer.”

All of those hours of beat-boxing and listening to Bobby McFerrin when he was a boy eventually led him down the musical performance path. But Fernandez is hoping that someday, he might be able to wear two hats. At just 29 years old, he still has a long musical journey ahead of him. 

“You should always do what you love, even if those skills don’t fit into a specific career or degree,” he said. “Who knew you could get paid to make sounds with your mouth? But I have found that there’s definitely a niche. And fortunately, my years of preparation were met with an opportunity.”

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,