A 2017 Century High School graduate was one of 12 singers selected to perform in Walmart’s first a cappella group — and she didn’t even have to audition.
Talia Hall, 20, has worked part-time at the Westminster Walmart for about a year-and-a-half. She’s been singing practically since birth and was always a member of chorus throughout school, she said. When Walmart announced its annual talent competition, Walmart Associate Talent Search, Hall’s support manager encouraged her to submit a video of her singing.
Hall quickly threw together a short video of her singing a snippet of “Tennessee Whiskey," then a month went by. She made it into the Top 30 finalists and her video was posted online, along with the rest of the competition, for the public to judge. The Top seven were invited to perform at a meeting of Walmart shareholders, but Hall didn’t make the cut, so she went back to work, thinking that was the end.
While on vacation in Florida, Hall got multiple phone calls from her manager at Walmart — an unusual occurrence, Hall said. Hall learned she was selected to be part of Walmart’s first a cappella group, SparkAppella.
Walmart flew her out to the headquarters in Arkansas in June, where she met 11 other singers who were also Walmart employees, Hall said.
The members of SparkAppella came from Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Two came from Arkansas. Hall was the only employee from Maryland in the group.
“I never would have imagined in a million years that Walmart would do this,” Hall said. "It’s so cool how Walmart does these little things for their associates that people don’t seem to realize.”
They spent a few hours rehearsing and learning from Deke Sharon, who Hall said is the “king of a cappella." Sharon is known for working with the cast of “Pitch Perfect.”
The team sang and performed in a music video with hip-hop artist New Cupid, famous for the song “Cupid Shuffle," and created “The Walmart Shuffle.” SparkAppella singers also recorded a version of “America the Beautiful” that was released on the Fourth of July.
“Both of the songs were completely a capella. So no music, it was all our voices. It was all just our sound," Hall said.
Recording “The Walmart Shuffle” was especially fun, Hall said, because they did so in a Walmart Supercenter in Arkansas — while the store was open.
“We just recorded everything while customers were there," Hall said.
Hall said Walmart paid for everything, from food to travel to the hotel. She had to laugh when the music videos dropped and some people alleged in the comments that the singers were professionals hired for the publicity.
Hall said the SparkAppella team is simply a bunch of talented people who happen to work at Walmart.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this before and they gave this opportunity to all of us and we’re just Walmart associates," Hall said. "We’re normal people and we work and we just have a bunch of talent and then they saw us and then they took us and gave us one of the best experiences of our lives.”
SparkAppella was the brain child of Russell Bloodworth, associate director of Walmart World and associate activations.
Bloodworth, who also starred in the video, sang a cappella in college, and part of his job is to facilitate employee calls to action, he said. Bloodworth got the idea to ask employees to submit videos for a singing challenge, not knowing what would come of it the first time around.
In reviewing the videos, he happened to come across Hall’s Walmart Associate Talent Search submission.
“Oh my gosh, this girl’s voice is amazing,” Bloodworth said in an interview. “She stuck out from the crowd.”
Although Hall didn’t audition for the a cappella group, he contacted the Walmart Associate Talent Search team and asked if he could add her to SparkAppella.
“She is an awesome associate," Bloodworth said. “There is a reason we went through some extra hoops” to get her on the team.
Bloodworth is hopeful SparkAppella will be revived again, though he could not say exactly how or when.
While Hall said music will always be in her life, she doesn’t have plans to pursue it professionally.
She’s just beginning her junior at Salisbury University, studying communications-media production and minoring in theater. Hall plans to transfer to a new Walmart closer to school so she can continue working part-time.
“I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else," Hall said.