SANDY — Jake Despain isn't a stranger to the spotlight. The 24-year-old Sandy resident and newest member of Eclipse, Utah's celebrated six-man vocal band, has been wowing audiences for the past 20 years.
"Jake's always had a good voice ever since he was a little kid," said Jake's father, Lynn Despain. "Anytime we had a family event, we'd drag him out to sing a song for everyone. One Christmas when he was little, he got so sick of it, he hid."
Between having parents who sang in their high school's elite choir and a grandmother who performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, music was destined to play a strong part in Jake Despain's life. For the most part, however, his motivation to sing is driven by the enjoyment it brings himself and others.
Jake doesn't just sing in the shower, said Mary Jane Despain, his mother. He walks around with earplugs in singing constantly — around the house, outside and in his car.
He said the lyrics, "I try to make you smile," from "Live It On Up," one of Eclipse's trademark songs, typify why he focuses so much energy into his music.
Singing with Eclipse is a dream come true for Jake, who has been a fan of the a cappella group since first hearing them sing during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The group performed alongside Bon Jovi, Sting and LeAnn Rimes as one of the featured local bands.
"I remember them really standing out," he said. "For me to be singing with some guys who sang during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics is awesome."
As a second tenor, Jake replaced Dan Kartchner of Salt Lake City as an official member of Eclipse at the beginning of August when Kartchner left to attend law school. He had initially stepped in for Kartchner, performing at a 200th birthday celebration for the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith at Rice-Eccles Stadium in July.
"I was thrilled to fill in for him," Jake said. "At the time I didn't realize that it was more or less a tryout."
Since joining Eclipse, he's proved his dedication, spending several hours each day studying the group's music and learning his parts. The band sings a variety of be-bop, rap and ballads.
Band members have toured several states and regularly entertain local community groups and corporations. Eclipse performed on Jake's home turf at the Sandy Ampitheatre Sept. 9.
And though he's the rookie member of the band, singing in Sandy and performing in general is old hat to Jake.
As a 4-year-old, he began singing and acting with a local performing group, Chalk Circle. Four years later, he joined another group, OnStage Studios, with which he routinely performed for Sandy and Draper Days as well as traveled to Japan to perform at a racetrack race track and at various schools there four years in a row.
"I remember everyone thinking we were hot stuff," Jake said. "They thought we were like Michael Jackson."
Touring Japan helped Jake realize how important it is to be an entertainer, not just a singer, Lynn said. He learned how to sing comfortably in front of large crowds and how to take things seriously.
Jake participated in Alta High School's Madgrigals as well as sang at various sporting events. Later, while attending the University of Utah, he and three friends formed an a cappella group known as Upper Deck and performed for fraternities, sororities, LDS Institute groups and corporate events. He's become well-known for the spontanteous back-flips and other stunts he adds to his performances.
Jake's enthusiasm for his music continues to propel him forward even though it means balancing singing with work and an MBA program, among other things. Juggling a full schedule has always been part of his life, he said. Growing up he participated in competition football, baseball, soccer and gymnastics.
"One of the funnest things about Eclipse and Upper Deck is that it has allowed me to feed off the excitement," he said. "It never gets old."
Jake said he doesn't know exactly what the future will hold, but for now, he plans to sing with Eclipse for the rest of his life.
"I'm living the dream," Jake said. "From my standoint, singing with Eclipse is the best.