Who We Are
We have diverse backgrounds but a common goal of increasing student motivation and achievement. Our team includes current and former educators, musicians, video artists, sound engineers and school administrators. Browse our bios below or read more about our story.
Alex Rappaport, Founder, CEO
A musician and an entrepreneur, Alex Rappaport has been responsible for developing Flocabulary into a learning program that impacts millions of students around the world. With a focus on business development and strategic partnerships, Alex is committed to realizing Flocabulary's mission of making education more engaging and effective. Alex graduated from Tufts University and is a regular speaker on education and social enterprise.
Blake Harrison, Founder, Creative Director
Blake Harrison co-founded Flocabulary in 2004 after dreaming up the idea in high school. Having worked with students in many contexts, he now manages a roster of artists and educators to create award-winning educational content. Blake has been the keynote speaker at teacher conferences and high school graduations. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English.
Vlad Gutkovich, Director of K-12 Partnerships
Unifying his passions for education, music and business, Vlad Gutkovich joined Flocabulary as Director of Sales in 2008. Since then, he's enjoyed wearing many a hat (and taking many a flight) with a singular goal in mind: to start and support successful Flocabulary implementations in districts across the country. Vlad graduated from Wesleyan University with degrees in music and international relations, and currently splits his time between NYC and San Francisco.
Aliza Aufrichtig, Product Director
As a kid, Aliza Aufrichtig noticed that supermarket doors always open outwards so you can exit easily with bags in your hand. She wanted to be the person who thought of "that" when she grew up. After studying literature at Harvard University, writing the Let's Go guide to France, teaching high school English in San Francisco, and joining Flocabulary in 2010 as the Editorial Director, Aliza now does "that" as Product Director, obsessed with creating a delightful and seamless digital experience for the Flocabulary community.
Careyanne Deyo, School Support Specialist
Careyanne Deyo joined Flocabulary from Kindermusik International, where she managed a customer loyalty team. A lifelong musician, Careyanne plays clarinet in community groups, and played in ensembles at James Madison University, where she studied International Business. She has a great respect for the impact that music brings to education, and enjoys supporting teachers as they implement Flocabulary.
Nathaniel Soria, Art Director
Nathaniel Soria is a goofy dude. Why? Ask his mother, and she'll tell you that “his brain is in a cartoon world.” His journey from illustrating online comics to directing viral music videos has been filled with projects that have pushed and expanded the boundaries of his imaginary universe. Now as Flocabulary's Art Director, he’s excited to draw upon his “cartoon world” to help kids get excited about education and learning. With much goofiness, of course.
Michael Blankenburg, Curriculum Developer
Michael Blankenburg used to make his students clap rhythmically in a weekly word chant... while standing on their desks. So it only makes sense that he landed at Flocabulary. A high school English teacher for eighteen years and a service-learning consultant for three, Michael brings his passion for creative lesson design and student engagement to his role as Curriculum Developer. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from Columbia Teachers College.
Teddy Sherrill, Technology Lead
Like TMNT's Donatello, Teddy Sherrill "does machines." Before joining Flocabulary to head up site development and infrastructure, Teddy worked as Director of Product Development at Big Think and previously as a Product Technology Analyst at OpenView Venture Partners. He is also an Olympic hopeful and current national team member in the sport of fencing, and won an NCAA Championship in 2006 as part of the Harvard Men's Fencing Team.
Kat Lee, Wildcard
This Kat wears many hats. Before joining the Flocabulary team, Kat worked as a web designer, photographer, editor and babysitter extraordinaire. Now she gets to combine her creativity, penchant for detail and love of children in her sales and marketing work at Flocab. Her roles range from Processor of POs to Flocabulary Twitteress. Wildcard by day, Kat is an actress by night, and she participates in theater, film and web projects throughout the year. She earned a BA in English from Oberlin College.
Marina Bergner, Renaissance Woman
As Flocabulary's intern in 2012, Marina Bergner editorialized with aplomb, mastered video editing in one week, and generally wore myriad hats in style. So Flocabulary couldn't let Marina simply say farewell. She might say of Flocabulary what the Eagles said of the Hotel California: "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Back in Boston at Northeastern University, Marina is studying linguistics by day, and contributing to the Flocabulary creative team by night.
Kawachi Clemons, Ph.D.
Now an assistant professor of music at Florida A&M University, Kawachi founded the Hip-Hop Initiative at North Carolina Central University. His research focuses on the interrelationship of artistic agency (problem-posing and problem-solving in the arts) and culturally responsive teaching.
Patrick "9th Wonder" Douthit
A Grammy-winning producer with a soulful sound, 9th Wonder has produced for Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, Mary J. Blige, Ludacris and as part of the group Little Brother. 9th Wonder is now an artist in residence with North Carolina Central University's Hip-Hop Initiative.
William "Donwill" Freeman
A founding member of the innovative hip-hop group Tanya Morgan, Donwill has been making music for over a decade. Originally from Cincinnati and now residing in Brooklyn, he has toured the world making music, sharing the stage and collaborating with Drake, 88 Keys, Ghostface and others. A regular contributor to The Week in Rap, Donwill has also visited schools throughout the country as part of the Flocab crew.
Devon "Terrordome" Glover
Devon is both an artist and an educator. Having studied mathematics at Ithaca College, he now divides his time between working at an after-school program in Brooklyn and lighting up stages around New York City.
The protege of Marlon Saunders and a Howard University graduate, this talented jazz and R&B singer has performed at the Blue Note, the Cutting Room, Warm Daddy's and numerous clubs in New York and Philly.
Mervin "Spectac" Jenkins
Mervin is both an emcee and a former middle school principal. As an artist, he's recorded albums with Big Daddy Kane and 9th Wonder. As an educator, he has been a principal and an assistant principal in North and South Carolina. He now lives in Atlanta and works with AVID.
Daniel Lynas, Producer & Engineer
Lynas began making amateur recordings and beats while at Stuyvesant High School. He soon realized that he had little choice but to make music for a living. After receiving a BFA in Music from the Sonic Arts Center at CCNY, he founded Wonderful Recording Studio in SoHo. Two years later, he moved his operation to ishlab, where his power continues to grow. He has worked with a wide variety of hip-hop artists, including A$AP Rocky, Das Racist, Fat Tony, Group Home, members of Wu-Tang, and many more.
Christopher "Play" Martin
Christopher "Play" Martin is a rapper and actor who achieved fame as half of the late 1980s/early 1990s duo Kid 'n Play. Martin, whose songs have reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles charts, has also starred in numerous feature films including House Party and Class Act. Recently Martin has worked as a teacher at North Carolina Central University and started Brand Newz, a web-based news show with an urban focus.
David "D-Stroy" Melendez
D-Stroy, born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, has been making music since 1996. A member of The Arsonists, D-Stroy has since toured with a variety of artists, from Kanye West, Eminem and Ludacris to The Roots, L.L. Cool J and Busta Rhymes. He's performed on B.E.T.'s 106 & Park and at Shaquille O'Neal's birthday party. D has been working with Flocabulary since 2008.
Emilio "Reason" Montilla
Emilio "Reason" Montilla was born and raised in the borough of the Bronx. Having released his first LP, In-Tune, in 2009, he's gone on to perform on stages throughout New York including the Apollo Theatre. He attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and has worked with special education students as an assistant teacher in the Bronx.
A workshop leader for Flocabulary, Zach approaches hip-hop with a personal passion as well as an academic focus. Zach has written about hip-hop for Foundation magazine and BallerStatus.com, has led history projects for students for PBS and is now earning his Ph.D. in African American Studies at the University of California, Berkley.
Alan "Grey" Ramos
This Chicago-born, Brooklyn-raised Puerto Rican and Chinese emcee has made a name for himself as a performance artist and battle rapper. He's appeared in Fight Club, RIX Magazine, and in videos with 50 Cent and Mobb Deep. Grey has also opened for an array of artists including Camron, Obie Trice, and Clipse. He's been contributing to Flocabulary since 2005.
Shanette "Miss Netty" Santos
Miss Netty, born and raised in Harlem, is a versatile female emcee with a unique east coast style. Having worked with Flocabulary since 2007, Miss Netty has appeared on numerous albums and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Anthony "Trajik" Smith
Trajik was born in Queens, New York. A mixtape artist who has gone beyond the confines of that label, Trajik infuses the music he works on with hope, pain, anger and joy. Trajik has released numerous albums and now resides in St. Louis, Missouri.
Douglas Vaughan is an Atlanta-based emcee and producer who tutors students in all subjects when he isn't making Dilla-inspired beats and writing rhymes. As a performer, he has toured all over the U.S. and Europe and shared the stage with KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, The Pharcyde, and many more. He has also cooked dinner for Chuck D of Public Enemy.
The idea for Flocabulary first came to founder/lyricist Blake Harrison in high school. A good student who still struggled to memorize facts for tests, he wondered why it was so easy to remember lines to his favorite rap songs but so difficult to memorize the definitions of new vocabulary words. Blake realized that if a rapper released an album that defined SAT vocab words, students would have a fun and effective way to prepare for the SAT.
After studying English at the University of Pennsylvania and working on his rapping at gatherings around Philadelphia, Blake moved out West. In San Francisco, he met Alex Rappaport, a musician and producer. Alex had studied music at Tufts University and was writing tracks for indie films and producing ring tones for cell phones. Both he and Blake found jobs at a local Italian restaurant to help pay the bills.
During a game of basketball before work one day, Blake mentioned his idea of vocabulary rap to Alex. Alex gave the typical response: "That's a great idea." But he also added something new: "Let's do it."
A month later the duo had a demo recorded. Nearly ten years later, Flocabulary's programs are being used in more than 15,000 schools and reach a weekly audience of nearly 5 million students. Wondering what happened in between? See our timeline below.
Flocabulary has grown to include songs and curricular programs for language arts, math, social studies and science. Defined as much by its success as by its committed social mission, Flocabulary is poised to reach more students than ever, putting smiles on their faces and A's on their report cards.
The Inspiration: In high school, Blake Harrison wonders why it is so easy to remember lines to his favorite rap songs but so difficult to memorize the definitions of new vocabulary words. Blake realizes that if a rapper released an album that defined SAT vocab words, students would have a fun and effective way to prepare for the SAT.
2003: Blake Harrison and Alex Rappaport meet in San Francisco and create a demo song.
July 2004: This leads to a contract to produce two SAT vocabulary raps for Sparknotes.com.
November 2004: Flocabulary.com launches with four SAT vocabulary songs.
April 2005: Blake and Alex, with the help of talented artists on both coasts, complete their first full-length album, featuring 12 songs that define 500 SAT vocabulary words.
Fall 2005: Flocabulary appears in the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, New York Times and on MTV News. Soon after, Alex and Blake relocate to New York City and begin a school tour, performing shows up and down the East Coast.
April 2006: Flocabulary: The Hip-Hop Approach to SAT-Level Vocabulary Building hits bookshelves worldwide thanks to a deal with Cider Mill Press and Sterling Publishing.
May 2006: Flocabulary is awarded first prize in Columbia Business School's Outrageous Business Plan competition in the social value category. This leads to several rounds of financing with angel investors.
September 2006: ABC News reports that Flocabulary helped to raise average SAT scores at one Virginia high school by nearly 60 points. Soon after, Flocabulary is featured on CNN, Fox News, NBC Today in New York and Geraldo at Large. Geraldo himself exclaims, "I don't care if it's hip-hop or opera, as long as it works!"
December 2006: Flocabulary releases Hip-Hop U.S. History. The project, which teaches students American history through fact-filled narrative raps, is praised by Cornel West and Howard Zinn as "extraordinary" and "necessary."
March 2007: Flocabulary works with Grammy-winning artist 9th Wonder on Shakespeare is Hip-Hop. The album features an array of new artists, many of whom came together for a CD-release party and performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
September 2007: Flocabulary publishes The Word Up Project, a groundbreaking, multileveled vocabulary program. Word Up uses best practices in vocabulary instruction and features story-based rap songs to teach essential vocabulary to students in grades 2 to 8.
September 2008: Flocabulary creates new programs for math, science and world history.
November 2008: Flocabulary launches the Week in Rap, an online current events resource for teachers and students.
February 2009: Flocabulary partners with Channel One News to distribute the Week in Rap to over 5 million students each week.
January 2009: Dr. Roger Farr, former president of the International Reading Association, conducts an independent study to test the efficacy of The Word Up Project and finds that the program significantly increases vocabulary proficiency among students of diverse backgrounds and that students using the program had higher scores on state reading tests than their academic peers.
August 2009: Flocabulary signs a distribution agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Spring 2010: Flocabulary is featured on The Today Show and in a Fox News documentary on the state of education in America.
Summer 2011: Flocabulary launches its new Digital Subscription and begins producing video content and interactive features to support songs and lessons.
Summer 2012: Flocabulary releases new content for middle school math, grammar and civics and begins Common Core alignment.
Fall 2012: Flocabulary partners with Learning.com and Pearson OLE for marketing and digital distribution.
Summer 2013 and beyond: Our team is hard at work on new content for Common Core ELA and early literacy, as well as new features for students and teachers.