How A Capella Efforts of Nxivm – With Mack, Bronfman, Salzman and Raniere – Broke Into Controversy with A Cappella Leader Deke Sharon

Simply Human
By Leo Helmar
Recently on r/theNXIVMcase, the subreddit dedicated to chronicling and discussing the disintegrating cult of NXIVM and related media, an old thread was unearthed from, of all things, an a cappella music enthusiast message board.
In around 2007, the cult leader, Keith Raniere, and his NXIVM lieutenants began cultivating an interest in a cappella, the vocal performance art that eschews musical instruments other than the human voice.  Raniere formed an a cappella group called Simply Human, a perfectly on-brand name in league with the image that NXIVM wanted to portray as paragons of “ethics” and as a utopian collective.
A sketch made to promote Simply Human – with Keith directing the group.

This interest in a cappella was almost certainly, in retrospect, an attempt to recruit and groom folks from the a cappella community. The types of people who were interested and actively participating in a cappella singing competitions and workshops were based around elite universities and full of young, slightly nerdy musical theater types who would be a fertile hunting ground for a cult like NXIVM that specialized in charming wealthy philanthropists, scions of blue blood families, and seekers from groups like the acting and yoga communities.

NXIVM hastily undertook an effort in 2007 to organize an a cappella festival or workshop called A Cappella Innovations, a once again perfectly on-the-nose marketing name for a group that saw itself as the only hope for mankind, like a more woo version of Scientology.

This first festival was entirely funded by the coffers of NXIVM, which paid for accommodations, travel expenses and the venue. With its seemingly unlimited resources and connections to the entertainment and business worlds through actor devotees like Smallville’s Allison Mack and Kristin Kreuk and Battlestar Gallactica’s Nicki Clyne, and, on the business side, the heiress sisters Sara and Clare Bronfman, the group was able to gather together many prominent a cappella groups and coaches for their summit.

Kristin Kreuk, Nicki Clyne, and Allison Mack 

The first iteration of A Cappella Innovations seemed to be a fairly innocuous affair, and there was just a little burbling of gossip that was shared on the largest message board for a cappella enthusiasts, RARB/CASA. RARB is the Recorded A Cappella Review Board which is a group that reviews a cappella music and gives feedback to singers, and CASA is the Contemporary A Cappella Society which is an organization founded by Deke Sharon, an influential member of the community, that gives out awards and hosts education events related to a cappella singing.

These two organizations are the main infrastructure of the a cappella community and the message board associated with them is one of the main hubs for conversation and communication about organized a cappella events. The first A Cappella Innovations gathering was unremarkable in that it was like many other a cappella events with judging panels and breakout groups that gave singing groups feedback on their singing and performances and then hosted a concert at the end of the event to showcase the talent on hand.

In 2008, a second iteration of A Cappella Innovations was once again hastily assembled, but this time NXIVM would go much harder in the paint with their charm offensive and recruiting effort. The first post in the thread on the RARB/CASA forums detailing the experiences of people at the A Cappella Innovations festival was made on Saturday April 5th, 2008 while the festival was still underway.

The thread, simply titled “A Cappella Innovations” was made by an anonymous poster with the screen name “Innovations Participants” who described themselves in their opening post as “a member of a collegiate a cappella group”.

Groups were customarily formed at colleges with names like The Georgetown Chimes from Georgetown University or The Crosbys from Binghamton University and these groups, some with histories dating back to the early 20th century like The Whiffenpoofs of Yale who were founded in 1909, feature the best a cappella singers typically from the upperclassmen at the university and like college football programs or debate societies carry reputations, tradition and social hierarchies like any other prominent, school-sponsored extracurricular activity.

The first post by Innovations Participants had links to articles on, Forbes, and cult deprogramming expert Rick Alan Ross’ website that were critical of the group NXIVM. The anonymous poster pointed out issues with the 2008 version of A Cappella Innovations including that the festival workshops and activities made frequent reference to Keith Raniere’s Rational Inquiry, which was described as a “patent-pending technology”, that attendees were asked for intrusive amounts of personal information like social security numbers, home addresses and other contact information, the “constant surveillance” of attendees, and that the feedback and tone of the conference, instead of focusing on notes from judges and other singers on vocal performance, focused on “existential topics”.

This first salvo from the a cappella community was vague in areas and not as cutting as some of the commentary to come, but it raised a red flag right in the middle of the festival and based on the chatty and tight-knit aspects of the community it was sure to kick up a conversation.

The thread, which runs to 14 pages and 204 posts, many of them thousands of words long, is a geyser of material and insight into the inner-workings of the NXIVM cult, which has spectacularly exploded over the last couple of years with leader Keith Raniere and many of his inner circle now sitting in prison or home confinement for long sentences for a range of crimes including sex trafficking and racketeering.

Almost all of Keith’s most dedicated supporters along with Keith himself posted on the thread.

Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, and Nicki Clyne

Keith was defended by Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman on page 5 of the thread as “one of the top 3 problem solvers in the world” and “in the Guinness Book under highest IQ, 1989”.

The RARB/CASA thread was recently unearthed and came to my attention on Reddit in the r/NXIVMcase subreddit and was initially remarked upon by posters because of filmmaker Mark Vicente’s batshit crazy defense of Keith in the thread.

Vicente is a topic of much conversation on Reddit and elsewhere because he is one of the main players in the HBO documentary series “The Vow” which depicts Vicente and his wife Bonnie Piesse’s exit from the NXIVM group.

NXIVM case obsessives follow the case on social media and through documentary series like “The Vow” and the recent Starz documentary series “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult”, and on websites dedicated to covering NXIVM like the Frank Report.

Among them (and I would include myself in this cohort) Vicente is especially interesting because his version of events, which is reflected in “The Vow”, features much of his insider footage of the cult in action, and seems to portray him as someone who was both a victim and enabler of Keith. This characterization is heavily contrasted with Mark’s depiction in “Seduced”, the project featuring India Oxenberg, another child of celebrity and literal member of the royal family as the granddaughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who was also in the Raniere inner-circle but left after Mark but was at one point talked out of leaving by Vicente.

Vicente’s defense is notable for referencing his childhood in apartheid South Africa and from his experience there creating an analogy to the control and censorship of information in an apartheid regime and the control and censorship of information about NXIVM.

Vicente then goes on a lengthy tangent about what exactly a cult is followed by a very familiar defense of the world’s most “ethical” man Keith Raniere. This entry is also notable in that it was so beyond the pale that no one else in the thread appeared to address it. In a conversation where opposing parties would often quote and reply line-by-line to each other, the fact that Mark Vicente’s post, which was over 1600 words, was just left alone like a fishy bag at the airport was remarkable to me and others in discussing the thread when it was dug up and posted on Reddit.

Information sources like this thread from 2008 are rare and this one in particular came off to me almost like the bug sealed in a chunk of amber from Jurassic Park. An unlikely confluence of events had to come off for this piece of the cult’s DNA to be frozen in time and preserved for future generations.

The thread itself can only be viewed through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and so embedded images are often missing, links are ancient and outdated, and the formatting of the text is at times wonky. If this series of events, the rise and fall of the A Cappella Innovations festival, were to happen today in some alternate universe, the gossip and debate about it would be dispersed across half-a-dozen social media threads in individual participant’s feeds and slanted to fit each one of a hundred different narratives. And if someone were to try and suss out what happened a dozen years later, it would be almost impossible to reconstruct it.

Sure, there are still many users of forums, but these kinds of community engagement tools are much less vital than they were at the end of the pre-smartphone era in 2008.

If this story has a hero, it would be community leader Deke Sharon. Sharon is referred to by some as “the father of contemporary a cappella” and is a renowned producer and coach who works with the elite of the a cappella world and has been integral in setting up and participating in reputable a cappella events like SoJam and the Harmony Sweepstakes festival.

While Deke wasn’t at the 2008 A Cappella Innovations festival and in fact was instead on vacation in Hawaii, he joined the thread starting on page 3 and made a reasonable and well balanced call for members of NXIVM to engage with the community to answer questions.

Deke had participated in the first version of A Cappella Innovations in 2007 where the cult recruitment tactics were not present or weren’t remarked upon in nearly the depth as the 2008 version. Deke and others on the board knew that NXIVM members had previously engaged and had accounts on the RARB/CASA forum and so would be likely to respond especially given how much time, effort and financial resources they had pumped into the festival.

In fact, the “free lunch” aspect of the festival lingered in the minds of many in the a cappella community who attended A Cappella Innovations because Keith and NXIVM were paying for everything and other a cappella festivals and events were most certainly not free and all-inclusive. While some members of the message board and supporters of NXIVM tried to make an analogy to NXIVM sponsoring the event and another corporate entity like Pepsi sponsoring a concert series, this fig leaf did not hold for long as people pointed out that Pepsi got free advertising and good PR out of its investment while NXIVM was not even officially linked to the event and there was much more of a bait-and-switch aspect to A Cappella Innovations which started with a light touch and no pitch at the first event and then started love bombing and being overly solicitous and invasive at the second as is the pattern of many high control groups like Scientology or a multi-level marketing scheme.

A few posts later on page 3 Allison Mack responded, being the first of the prominent NXIVM members to enter the fray. Mack’s post is a master class in DARVO, or “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender”, the typical “offensive is the best defense” strategy of cults like NXIVM. This frame of viewing Mack’s screed was spelled out to other subreddit frequenters by Reddit user HehTheUrr “Jesus, I’m only 5 pages in and this is a rollercoaster ride. Allison Mack coming in with the DARVO on page 3 and Clare on page 5 with the word-for-word propaganda that they all spouted about Keith is amazing to see.”

Mack’s post was classic NXIVM in its self-importance and new age doublespeak. Mack introduces herself and, as per the Raniere playbook, establishes her credentials and how amazing she is before launching into her counter attack.

“I am somewhat of a celebrity having over 6 million viewers per week” Mack boasted, no doubt referencing her having a role on Smallville. Notice the not-so-subtle framing of “her” having six million viewers per week despite the show not being about her with Mack merely part of an ensemble and not even the lead.

Mack says that the attacks on NXIVM and her group 10C have all been coming from a specific place, i.e.  detractors who have targeted the group for their own evil motives. This a cappella festival had at least one important function for the NXIVM cult that can be confirmed based on the group’s own statements and that is it was a sort of unveiling party for Mack’s new company 10C, a corporate-ese abbreviation for “The Emperor wears No Clothes” which was ostensibly a women’s empowerment group and a precursor to DOS, the much more intense version of an internal NXIVM women’s group that was involved in branding women’s flesh and out of which the seeds of the cult’s demise were sowed.

Allison Mack on stage with Simply Human.

Mack then goes on to describe in her post how she and Nicki Clyne were cornered by a group of six hostile men who were festival participants at an after-party that Mack was hosting on behalf of her new 10C group. Mack describes these men firing a volley of questions at her about the NXIVM cult and their intentions and characterizes these men as invading her physical space and conducting a “witch hunt”. Mack then ends by saying that she is sad that the event was marred with this confrontation but that she is leaving the experience “cautiously optimistic”. Mack closes ominously “That being said, I look forward to witnessing the way all of this is handled because I can promise that you are not making any fans with this behavior.”

On page 9 of the thread, the Vanguard himself, Keith Raniere, checks in and begins to pour out his peculiar brand of weirdo circular logic and long-winded nothingness. Keith writes like I did in college when I needed to fill pages and I hadn’t researched the topic. The only difference is he had more tricks up his sleeve as if he had sat in a room and written reams of material in this vein and had a captive audience of devotees under his spell to react to the material, and through a simple form of something like A and B testing he held onto the flourishes and motte and bailey tactics that were the most effective at winnowing his target’s ability to reason against his mind virus.

Keith Alan Raniere

On and on Keith went talking about “data”, the group’s buzz word for information. When confronted about adverse court rulings that other members of the cult and Keith couldn’t lie their way out of because of legal documents available online, for example, Keith responded thusly: “With respect to legal cases: There is a substantial difference between settling a case with the judge’s subsequent order and a case that goes to trial. Lauren is correct with her representations but to understand them fully one needs more distinctions and data.”

And then to respond to one of the main underlying questions, which was somewhere along the lines of “why would NXIVM invest ungodly resources into this festival with nothing to show for it in return, especially given that the sponsorship was not disclosed or advertised in advance”, Keith responded with a classic of Vanguardian bullshit replete with goofy asides and dodging, overheated self-importance and redirection. “With respect to a product such as Red Bull, I believe in free enterprise and shameless plugs (I just typed pugs!) Nxivm is different. Nxivm is a method to inspire humanity and its primary objective is not to earn money for the owners. In this way, Nxivm and a cappella are sisters—both derive from the same thing. Products like Red Bull provide a value for the purpose of earning money for the owners, this is different.”

Although Keith’s post reached nearly 900 words, in essence the rest of his reply dealt with the classifications of cults and the bias of the media towards NXIVM. This next quote is unadulterated cult-ese with its false equivalencies and logical fallacies garnished to look like a substantial argument. “I’ve always found it suspicious when nobody says anything good about something except for the something itself (say that 5 times fast)—except I view it the opposite way from most: even Charles Manson has others claiming he is good. If there is no good, I start to think of censorship and bias.”

Keith also loves using the clickbait sort of adjectives like “surprising” and making assertions that something will indeed be surprising and somehow revelatory with no follow-up or “data” to support his statements. Keith ended his first post with “But it is so much more important if you come to your own conclusions than if I argue with you about them. You may find the smoke comes from a surprising source.” What surprising source the adverse information was coming from was never revealed.

On page 11 of the thread after posting a few more times, Keith hid the ball again with his use of the “surprising” adjective with, of course, zero follow-up. Another one of the main questions of the a cappella community was why NXIVM hadn’t been more up front about their sponsorship and involvement in the event especially considering that it appeared by attempting to collect very sensitive personal information like social security numbers and home addresses that NXIVM was grooming or recruiting members of the a cappella community.

Keith responded: “It is a very important ethical question: under what conditions should people who share in a given activity disclose this to others. If you examine this generalized situation and apply such a study to the current situation (as we have) you may get some surprising results.”

Lauren Salzman added her thoughts in defense of Nxivm.

Towards the end of the exchange, Lauren Salzman, another high ranking member of NXIVM, exhibited more classic hallmarks of the group’s rhetoric.

Many of the NXIVM members would post long lists or bullet points that attempted to summarize or restate other’s arguments or sentiments and these lists subtly altered the most damaging points or omitted the unanswerable ones. Lauren listed out the issues as she saw them and then suggested that Deke or someone else from the community should come out to NXIVM’s headquarters and observe and interact with Keith to get more “data” on the situation.

Deke, wisely, demurred. Lauren and others also attempted to get Deke or other leaders of the community to reply in kind with lists of the “data” they would need to be able to trust Keith and NXIVM. Finally, Lauren ended her post with yet another characteristic list combined with an ultimatum.

Previously in the thread, Clare Bronfman had issued an ultimatum for the a cappella community to apologize via email to her within three days for some alleged damage and desecration of a hotel room. I haven’t broached this topic in this essay because it is already so involved, but there were allegations of a group of a cappella students trashing and throwing feces and urine all over a hotel room. It seems like, based on other references in the thread, that there may have been some truth to these allegations and you can believe that NXIVM and its members attempted to use this incident to derail and undermine the complaints in the thread.

Lauren’s ultimatum listed three bullet points:

“I see only three ways for you to address Keith’s offer:

1. Accepting his offer and, after evaluation, being satisfied with the process and findings, which would change everything

2. Accepting his offer and, after evaluation, being dissatisfied—but at least your dissatisfaction would be informed and definitive

3. You decline his offer and choose to not put forth the effort to evaluate, which will cast these proceedings in a very different “

Deke Sharon closed out the thread by once again reinforcing his points about his intuitive and factual basis for having suspicions about NXIVM’s entrance into the a cappella community and said in essence that he would no longer attend future versions of A Cappella Innovations although he allowed that others may want to take advantage of the free festivals in the future.

Deke emphasized that he couldn’t in good conscience lend his imprimatur to such an event because of the unknown motives of NXIVM and the litigiousness and negative press surrounding the group. Earlier in the thread, Keith had said that NXIVM’s Executive Success Program, it’s flagship seminars or, in cult speak “intensives”, brought in somewhere around $3-4 million dollars per year. Keith also revealed that the group spent a roughly equivalent amount each year on legal fees alone.

This was remarked on with great surprise and incredulity by Deke and others. Any group that spends its entire income on legal fees is a very sick enterprise and this and many other nuggets of creepiness dot the thread like hunks of gold in a virgin creekbed. This thread is the motherload based on Keith and his inner circle candidly defending themselves in a forum that they knew wouldn’t be widely read.

I think that NXIVM learned a hard lesson in their attempt to woo the a cappella community and refined their methods afterward. Even with their money, their minor celebrities, and their charm offensive, they still couldn’t get past the bad press and the aura of their high control group.

Deke’s final words which ended the thread summed up the problems with NXIVM and their approach. “Add to it the history of the leader (Ponzi scheme, problems with DA in several states) and the organization’s ongoing legal troubles (seemingly incessant – $3 million a year in legal bills?!?), this org does not pass the smell test. Sorry.”

For more see

Here are some of the threads:

Clare Bronfman 1
Raniere 1
Allison Mack
Lauren Salzman 1

Raniere 2
Bronfman 3

Sharon 2
Raniere 4
Sharon 1

Raniere 3Bronfman 2

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  • Frank, I gave you a tip about a wellness grifter, ivy league, opera tenor that propositioned me to join his theater production/sex cult many months ago. I’m not using his name publicly. I have a strong suspicion this event is tied to his knowledge of much of the same ideology and methods. With each new revelation, I’m shocked none of his former disciples have come forward. This sounds like his community, or rather I just KNOW some of these people know him. He could not have used the same ideas and run in the same circles coincidentally.

    Is there an ivy league (Princeton) a capella former member of NXIVM that his name could be passed to? Could you pass his name to Catherine Oxenberg, as he’s operating in the wellness community through theater production?

  • 10CC was a band in the 1970s, the name was supposedly in reference to the amount of a single ejaculate. It doesn’t matter what Mack says 10C name is derived from, I’m going to continue to associate it with the original because it fits so well with the glowing blue substance.

    Did she ever sing “I’m Not In Love”?

    The “big boys don’t cry” part would go over well in that crowd.

  • “I will say as emphatically as I can online: None of this was to recruit people for Nxivm. In fact, we used our contacts through Nxivm to extensively recruit for the a cappella community. Our next step was to bring a cappella into corporations (these are corporations in which we have contacts through Nxivm.) Our goal was to have 6 major corporations with groups at the next festival. Are we trying to “get-into” these corporations for Nxivm? No, we already are! We are using the “Nxivm friendly” corporations for a cappella. For many reasons Nxivm is not good for many people it: is too intellectual; requires too much time and effort; is too expensive; has bad PR; has an objectionable delivery system; is too hard or too restrictive to get into (yes, we reject entry to various categories of people.) A cappella is something everyone can do and, I believe, builds humanity. What is the goal of Nxivm? Answer: To build humanity in the world by ethically, philosophically and educationally inspiring the leaders of the world. A cappella also builds humanity more from simplicity upward. Nxivm and a cappella both share the same goal (I think) but from opposite ends of the complexity spectrum.”

    Here is an example of Keith outright lying. He tries to present the notion (and unconvincingly at that) that NXIVM was sponsoring Acapella Innovations to bring it into corporations as opposed to attempt to recruit people from the Acapella community into NXIVM because it is about building a better humanity and somehow Acapella will help provide for this. Really? Has anyone in the history of the planet (besides Keith here) thought that Acapella could be used as a tool for humanitarianism?

    I don’t think anyone bought this BS, including Deke or Ben at the time. The participants in the second Acapella Innovations remarked on how it was quite different from the first. Whereas the first was more about the music and having a good time, the second was more about emotional connections, where NXIVM techniques were seemingly being used by members who also attempted to collect SSNs, phone numbers, and other private information of participants.

  • “George Lucas had Joseph Campbell as a mentor and I am fortunate enough to have Keith as an adviser in my filmmaking endeavors. When I first met Keith I was very careful and skeptical of him. One of the problems for me (which turned out to be an asset) was that he was not authoritative and yet people were saying a number of great things about him. But he just acted like a normal guy.”

    • In hindsight, Mark actually was UN”fortunate enough to have Keith as an adviser in my filmmaking endeavors” because Mark had more that 20 various show biz credits when he wrote the A Capella post in
      2008, and only one in the next dozen years Keith was advising him.

      Viva Executive Success!

      Encender el Corazón (Documentary) (producer) 2016

    • thank you. I found Mark vincent’s response interesting because he uses the notion of conspiracy theories to get people to back off

      “Which brings me to this supposedly evil, bad intentioned, dangerous guy…. Keith Raniere. I’ve noticed that a few people have been searching under every rock to find the TRUE intent behind A Cappella Innovations. It reminds me of reading the National Enquirer in which it is often stated that the federal government is actually run by aliens who arrived in space ships in the 50’s. I’m somewhat skeptical of this. I’ve always been a fan of getting first hand data.”

      haha I mean keith was indeed an evil bad dangerous guy. I am really glad we live in the future where the truth of Keith is known.
      2008 must have been a scary time to live

      • @ Anonymous December 12, 2020 at 5:01
        Most def. That is exactly what Mark is doing in The Vow with that fake nice guy act. I could not believe that scene where he acts gutted bc the sadistic KR gives him straight feedback on a script they’re working on together. I guess Keith should have delivered it to Mark with a bouquet of roses and a kiss on the cheek.

    • I read that thread through Reddit before I delved into FR, when The Vow first aired. It lent to my already overwhelming feeling that Mark was a “Nice Guy” (not our local limericist) and a douche bag extraordinaire. It was my entre into the idea that yes, Mark Vicente grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, and will tell you so whether it’s relevant to the subject or not. It’s also part of his self-identification into oppressed groups that he doesn’t belong to, doesn’t represent, nor was asked to. His White Savior complex, and all the arrogance that accompanies it. Again he references the extra special secret to NXIVM, it’s actually The Wickerman cult, in it’s obvious devotion to creating strawmen arguments at every possible opportunity. Yep, that a cappella thread is just like apartheid South Africa. What a poor oppressed colonial white man he was, not being martyred for governmental non compliance, and being labeled a.. a…. a…COMMUNIST!
      It’s a good thing he left, otherwise actual victims of apartheid might get in the way of his “party story”.

      As if a career in the film industry and having met notable people denotes authority or honor…. that’s a shallow puddle of self-esteem.

      • I have to say this puzzles me greatly about Mark Vicente. I grew up in Apartheid-era SA – ’60s to ’70s. My mother is a white Irish woman, very conservative, with small ‘c’ and a long-standing ANC member, a supporter of Zuma, most especially for his xenophobic immigration policies. (I know she’s reading and that will wind her up!) She’s just a regular public servant. In SA, white people who supported the struggle against Apartheid, don’t march to the front and assume the position of ‘Saviour’- it’s unheard of, the sheer dishonesty of it!!

        Yet in the UK so much is made of individuals like Ruth First and others who are held up as white saviours and considered pivotal to the ending of Apartheid. [One doesn’t hear as much about Sisulu, for e.g.] In the UK, Europe and the US, these ‘radical’ white voices can get away with false claims of ‘leadership’ of a struggle that was never theirs, because, curiously White people in the UK, EU and the US consider themselves to be a world apart [A cut above?] from White South Africans, and enjoy claiming ‘martyrs’, those [whites] who they like to believe are as good and liberal as they?
        Again, historically, that’s not really a very honest position to take.

        Vicente has film-making skills, production skills, many skills that he could be making good constructive use of in his home country, someone as ‘Woke’ as him should know that always, and especially atm, SA needs all hands on the pump – true, he wouldn’t be lionized, only his efforts would be noticed, only his actions weighed in the balance, not his skin colour, not unless he really wants to make something of that? Communist, my erse, you can be that, in SA, or even a White Supremacist if you want- there’s Orania for you, marvelous little [actually, vast] community of like-minded Aryan souls – all mod cons – and your rights assured by a very impressive constitution. Nkosi Sikelel i’Afrika! Because, Mr. Vicente, she certainly blessed you!

  • I will suggest that whoever made these screenshots replace the ones that are blurry with ones that are clear and distinct. If the latter can be done for one (and it has been), then it can be done for all. Otherwise, it looks like the screenshots are a selective representation. Although I can read the last response by Deke, I don’t intend to strain nor damage my eyes in an attempt to because it’s so blurry.

  • Great story and analysis. Have you tried the Saratoga In Decline blog on Way Back? JT covered some of this and if memory serves, some of these disgruntled Acapella organizers may have appeared live on the blog in 2009/2010 expressing their angst with Simply Human. They were discussing the overtly sexual way Simple Human girls behaved, that they were passing out psyche questionaires like GBD did, probing singers from other Acapella orgs, etc. Sounded very much like seduction recruitment to me at the time. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Also, it’s all comparable to L’s and my stories about how Keith found his way into musical theatre, and honed his charms with young performers on from the locals to the CW set with a few reaches into Hollywood’s A-list. Mostly failed. In any case, targeted.

  • Hi Leo, Deke Sharon here. Thanks for telling the story of our little moment rebuffing this disgusting cult. Indeed, there was plenty of trepidation and many in my community were afraid of speaking up as $3,000,000 in legal fees can easily be turned toward anyone they’d like, a la Scientology. However, I felt I had no choice, and now learning how nefarious their motives were, I’m not only glad we drew them out for our community to clearly see, they didn’t attempt any other recruitment forays into other collegiate communities. Many bullets dodged.

    • I read the link provided on Reddit and it is unfortunate that lots of the comments are not accessible. I find it great that the A capella community stuck together and, before things got too sinister, shut them down. Bravo to Mr. Shelton for standing up for himself and his community, knowing their malicious ways of destroying people. It’s interesting to see them lose a battle at a time they were at their peak of trying to destroy people through lawsuits. I can only imagine their frustrations at this failure. This was a really interesting find.

    • You played a blinder, Mr. Sharon! Really stepped up for your community – you were so impressive and good-humoured in your refusal to be taken in. Thank you.

    • Mr. Sharon, I’m impressed with the clarity and incisiveness in your comms with Nxivm. I’ve been fascinated with the group’s story as it has unfolded on this site and in the TV shows. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’ve worked as a linguist/analyst for a long time. I delight in carefully listening to, and reading the statements of the key members of that group – especially KR (quarantine hobby…). I really go for it, and for the life of me, I can’t make sense of their arguments. All of them – it’s always a surreal Verbal Diarrhea Assault – and I’m flabbergasted that anybody would persist with Nxivm after one introductory encounter.

    • Deke, as you may know, Bronfman -Raniere hired Canaprobe to spy on you —- and ironically the spies cheated Bronfman – and gave them phony reports. They were supposed to be probing your off shore bank accounts — and your secret connections to Edgar Bronfman and others supposedly trying to destroy Keith Raniere.

      These records about you and others they were spying on were found when the FBI raided Nancy Salzman’s house. Of course the whole file was made up by Canaprobe to bilk the Bronfmans, who were too stupid to realize it was all just made up financial reports.

        • At the trial of Keith Raniere, an FBI agent testified about a box of files found when they raided Nancy Salzman’s house.

          Your name was mentioned by the FBI agent among some others also being spied on. As I recall Clare Bronfman, Raniere, and Emiliano Salinas were coordinating. The mistake they made was to hire Canaprobe. Two of their operatives created fictitious reports. Later Bronfman sued Canaprobe for creating dummy reports.

          Later still, the two Canaprobe agents went to prison for doing the same thing with other clients who paid for their spying.

          As far as I know, they did not take any further action against you, Deke. You were on their list of bad guys. Their incompetence prevented them from getting any actual information.

          The list of those they spied on was:

          Times Union newspaper: George Hearst, the Publisher; Rex Smith, the Editor; and Jim Odato, a reporter who had written stories about Nxivm.

          Chet Hardin, a reporter for the Albany Metroland.

          Michael Freedman, who wrote a story for Forbes magazine entitled “Cult of Personality”.

          Joseph Bruno, former New York State senator.

          Eliot Spitzer, at the time the New York State Attorney General.

          P. David Soares, the District Attorney in Albany County.

          Charles Schumer, U.S. senator from New York.

          Steve Pigeon, a political consultant.

          Roger Stone, a political consultant.

          U.S. District Chief Judge Gary L Sharpe

          U.S. Magistrate Randolph F. Treece

          U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh

          U.S. Senior Judge Thomas J. McAvoy

          U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Littlefield, Jr,

          U.S. Magistrate Mark Falk

          U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Littlefield, Jr,

          Rick Ross, of the Rick Ross Institute.

          Morris Sutton, a defendant in a lawsuit. Nxivm was plaintiff.

          Juval Aviv, who owned a private investigation firm called Interfor.

          Edgar Bronfman Sr., Clare Bronfman’s father.

          Stephen Herbits, one of Bronfman Sr.’s closest associates.

          The World Jewish Congress, which Bronfman led.

          Israel Singer, associated with the World Jewish Congress.

          Yuri Plyam, Natalia Plyam – and their company, Castle Trading, involved in a California real estate project that Clare and Sara funded, Raniere guided.

          David Touretzky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who was critical of Raniere.

          Carlos Rueda a psychologist cited in newspaper articles providing opinions as to NXIVM and their curriculum and teachings.

          Former consultant Joe O’Hara.


          And you, Deke Sharon, for being critical of Raniere.

          • Yes, you are in good company, Deke. By the way, the couple of PIs that got paid to spy on you, a husband and wife, went to federal prison. The husband died there. The wife I believe got out earlier this year. [They went to prison because they swindled other clients.] Their fraud was to claim they could access offshore bank accounts and, of course, it was just a scam. So they may have reported you had millions stashed in the Caymans or some place.

            Raniere said he thought you were paid by Edgar Bronfman Sr. to destroy their good efforts in the world of a capella – which, of course, was nonsense. Raniere might have thought it was nonsense but it was good drama for the gullible Bronfman sisters, who perpetually felt guilty about what Keith claimed their father was doing to hurt him.

            His story about Edgar Bronfman paying you to go after them is just one more example of the cultic craziness. But it worked to keep the Bronfman sisters funding Keith’s endeavors. They paid about a million to Canaprobe for the list of some 30 enemies above. So that means about $30,000 for your report.

    • Were they using the three whore actresses Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk and Nicki Clyne to directly/indirectly promote/recruit Nxivm? Did you confront the actresses and tell them to fuck off? We’re there any other Nxivm people there?

  • I believe Frank has reported here that he was working for NX at the time of The first A Cappella Innovations gathering and asked Kristin Kreuk to use her “fame” to not only host, but to promote the concert, which she did like an obedient little Nx-er. I don’t know why she wasn’t involved in the more nefarious second concert.

  • I remember reading this thread, one of the funnier pratfalls of the Nxivm enterprise for sure.

    Nice article Mr. Helmar, really engrossing.

  • —”a group of a cappella students trashing and throwing feces and urine all over a hotel room”

    I had no idea a cappella groups were so punk rock! *mind blown*

    I’m looking forward to reading the original thread later.

  • A curious Instagram post was uploaded yesterday by nxivm 101.
    This page is dedicated to the dubious proposition that Allison Mack is not a sex trafficker.
    It features a blurred off-kilter face of a wide-eyed child.
    The caption by nxivm101 manager Kim W is equally curious.

    NLP be like this face…

    Allison Mack has posted pictures of her nephews on the internet in the past but because of the blurred nature of the Instagram post, I am unable to identify if the photo is one of her nephews.

    NLP is Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a technique used by Raniere, Nancy Salzman and other NXIVM gangsters to manipulate people.

    After a dozen or more years in NXIVM, Allison Mack would be familiar with NLP and how to use it.

    If Kim W is Ms. Mack, then she is still part of NXIVM in spirit.

  • Leo Helmar-

    Great read. You have a broad vocabulary and keen metaphors. Please write more.

    I had no idea a vast and tight knit a cappella community existed.

    • “I had no idea a vast and tight knit a cappella community existed.” Nice Guy

      You had no idea that a capella was a big deal???
      Especially in elite universities in the Northeast?

      Yale is famous for the whiffenpoof song which has been recorded by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee.
      The Whiffenpoof Song – The Yale Whiffenpoofs of 2016

    • I recommend Pentatonix – turning the world of a capella on its ear with only 5 voices (sadly my favorite bass has left the group, but the new fella has slotted in beautifully); Home Free – a capella with a little country flair and sweet enough harmonies to make you cry; and New York Voices – jazzing it up for 30 years. Try a little a capella music for the holidays – plenty of stunning pieces by these groups out on youtube. Enjoy!

      • I grew up with something called AmaGwijo in SouthAfrica, I’m still hooked, my mother sent this link to me this lockdown summer of SA Defence Force recruits singing a song surely every body knows: I’m sorry, Mama, I’m so sorry.. who has never at least, thought those words. A-capella, I see is really real, all over the world!

  • What an interesting article — thank you for posting it!

    The lengthy writings from Clare, Lauren, Allison, Mark, and KR are unreal. All carrying the NXIVM flag and all trying to convince the reader they are not a “cult.” All I kept thinking of was the line from Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

    Funny how each one sounded their accolades of KR in their posts as well — these reminded me of the published letters of support for KR prior to his sentencing — each similar, yet telling their own little personal story within.

    The response from Deke Sharon was spectacular — he had his eyes wide open and was not foolish enough to go against his instincts to support this group.

    Lastly, it seems these were all very serious people — not a single ‘LOL’ in any of their writings! How boring their lives must have been — even back in 2008.

  • Interesting. These people go on and on and on when they write. It all seems a waste of effort even going on executive success programmes. Just get on with life and achieve things.

    This singing group (which in the UK we tend to call a chamber choir rather than a capella) thing seems to have been just like Scientology and others do – hide who is behind it to get people involved; whereas a normal religion will say – free to enter, we are Catholics, Jews, etc., here is the whole of our materials which are not secret and open to all.

    I liked this line “Information sources like this thread from 2008 are rare and this one, in particular, came off to me almost like the bug sealed in a chunk of amber from Jurassic Park. “

  • These are also greatly put together thoughts. I wasn’t in the story, so I’m not going to go into details. I find it terribly dangerous to target any college grouping or initiative that targets young people who are still inexperienced but who want to improve and prove themselves. Job taxes and secret services hunt talented and dedicated students, including those who hide and appear as a “company” looking for subjects, who, of course, do not reveal the purpose of their ides, but set in place a machine in which they can use unsuspecting people for their own purposes. It is a pity that the mental ruin of souls and fates does not fall into the category of crime.

    • My sister’s college counselor/therapist persuaded her into the Rajneeshi cult in the 1980s. These people seem to know when usually young people are most vulnerable.

      • Actually, this “being more vulnerable” applies to all people at any age, as you think cults thrive, we can all have moments of vulnerability and it just takes a bad move of fate and end up being a worker bee.

      • The methods described by those who took the first one or two intensives of NXIVM can really winnow out the most vulnerable ones. Then Venn diagram that with students who had cash to spare and students who were young pretty skinny women – and you have an effective selection process for the Vanguard’s “favorite things”. No raindrops on rose or whiskers on kittens for him.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato,_Jr.

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