John with his son Sean and daughter Emma onstage before sound check
John Neal is a veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area performing arts and music scene having produced shows throughout the region for many decades.
He began his career in the Bay Area when he was hired by the Mill Valley Film Festival to produce their annual special events including the “Big Bash” fundraising extravaganza. This was at the time one of Marin County’s premiere social events with guests such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
His first big U.S. show as executive producer was in 1987 with the premiere of “Dylan, Words and Music” the first, and still the only officially licensed Bob Dylan stage production. The show opened in San Francisco and received world wide attention
Neal’s next success was as creator and producer of another original autobiographical play “Arbuckle” about the colorful life and downfall of the legendary silent movie star Fatty Arbuckle. Written by the acclaimed Cintra Wilson this show also attracted major media attention and was combined with a film revival of his works at the Castro Theater.
Neal became a leading theatrical producer in the region and mounted productions at many Bay Area theater venues including the Magic Theater, Life on the Water, Marin Theater Company, Zephyr Theater, Union Square Theater, Cable Car Theater, Cowell Theater and others. For a period of time he held the lease of the former Larkin Theater where he presented a wide variety of eclectic acts from Timothy Leary, The Brass Band, The Dinos, to the always popular Queen For A Day spoofs.
For several years he became a leading supporter of the emerging “New Vaudeville” theatrical style and produced and worked with many of the leading artists including Frank Olivier, Avner The Eccentric, Michael Davis, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, The Pickle Family Circus, and the New Vaudeville Festival.
Neal also managed several local artists including guiding the career of Mike McShane (Prince of Thieves. Seinfeld, Whose Line Is It Anyway) who has enjoyed critically acclaim and international success.
Neal was a family friend of the famed concert promoter Bill Graham and spent time with, and learnt a lot from, this accomplished and talented promoter. This relationship lasted for many years and helped solidify Neal’s reputation as an established music / media insider and a major producer in the area.
The human voice has always held a special interest for Neal and so in 1990 he founded the Coconut Room, a cabaret supper club in Corte Madera, Marin County. He presented many top cabaret acts including Weslia Whitfield, Sharon McKnight, Maria Muldaur, Morrie Bobrow, Nicholas, Glover & Wray, Madeline Eastman, Maureen McVerry and many others. Neal also produced and helped develop Marin’s longest running stage production “For Whom the Bridge Tolls” .
Neal’s passion however has always been for a cappella music and over the past 25 years he has become a leader in the field.
Beginning as a local event the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, under Neal’s guidance, has grown to become the most significant live showcase for a cappella music in the nation and attracts hundreds of groups and thousands of audience members every year. The Harmony Sweepstakes was the original inspiration for the NBC prime time series The Sing-Off and Neal was hired as a consultant to the series.
Neal founded Primarily A Cappella Records, currently the leading record label dedicated to vocal harmony, which is distributed world wide thru major music outlets. Artists distributed by the label include The King’s Singers, Rockapella, Blenders, Swingle Singers, Alley Cats, Mighty Echoes, Tonic Sol-fa, The Bobs, Vox One, M-Pact and others.
For many years Neal produced the A Cappella Summit, a weekend event featuring classes, workshops, seminars and performers by the leading experts in the field. A sampling of the many groups who performed over the years are The Persuasions, Rockapella, Vocal Sampling, Nylons, Gas House Gang, Fred, Yesteryear, Four Voices, Acoustix, Gas House Gang, Toxic Audio, and Vocal Six.
Neal is president of United Singers International which is the nation’s leading vendor of a cappella music including recordings, arrangements, DVDs, songbooks and instructional material for singers. He is a featured exhibitor at the annual conventions of the Barbershop Harmony Society, American Choral Directors Association, California Music Educators and works with many non-profit singing organizations.
Neal writes the informative blog at www.acappellanews.com which has a large and loyal readership. This web site is a primary source of information on the latest in a cappella music and is also distributed via Facebook and Twitter.
In 2014 Neal founded a new event Sing! Marin where hundreds of harmony singers gather on the afternoon of the National Finals to sing, socialize and spread the joy of a cappella singing.
Neal is considered an expert on a cappella music and has been interviewed at length by major media outlets including CNN, BBC, New York Times, Newsweek, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Time Out, SF Chronicle and many, many others.
Neal is a member of The Barbershop Harmony Society, American Choral Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, California Music Educators, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Sweet Adelines International. He is a voting member of the GRAMMY’s (National Association of Recording Artists).