Kevin Olusola ’06 has entered the national spotlight. Beat-boxing his way into the homes of millions this Monday, Olusola and his a cappella group, Pentatonix, won the third season of NBC’s competition “The Sing Off.” Olusola’s group won $200,000 cash and a Sony Music recording contract.
The competition started on September 19 with 16 a cappella groups of differing ages and sizes. Each week, one group was eliminated until only three groups remained. Familiar musical icons Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Sara Bareilles served as judges for the competition.
In the final episode, viewers voted for the winner of the series. Viewers had until 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday before the finale to vote for their favorite group. The winner was then announced on live television Monday evening.
Olusola consistently received good feedback from the judges throughout the competition. For example, in one episode, Stockman said that Olusola and Avi Kaplan, the other singer in the bass section, were the “meat and potatoes” of the group.
Lindsay Parker, a writer on Yahoo Music Blogs, wrote, “Throughout the season, they have shown innovation, spunk, creativity and even the potential to compete in the pop marketplace.”
During his time at Andover, Olusola was lead alto saxophonist in the Jazz Band, the beat-boxer for the Yorkies and the principal cellist in the Academy Orchestra.
Though he has had many accomplishments both as a saxophonist and a cellist, Olusola began his beat-boxing career as a member of the Yorkies, the all-male a cappella group at Andover.
Peter Cirelli, Instructor and Chair in Music and Director of the Jazz Band, said said “As someone who already knew Kevin in those other ways, it’s nice to see him have so much success in yet another musical skill because he was clearly very successful here on saxophone and cello. It’s fun to see him just use his beat-boxing skills and have great success doing that as well.”
Olusola joined the band after members saw his viral YouTube video “Julie-O,” in which he beat-boxed and played cello at the same time. Olusola dubbed this innovative playing style “cello-boxing.”
Cirelli said, “[His cello-boxing is] really some outstanding stuff. It’s not just unique, he’s really a very advanced cellist so his cello playing is really strong in those videos: really in tune, really rhythmic, really creative. And he’s doing the beat-box on top of it so it’s a really unique thing.”
The four other members of Pentatonix are Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstie Maldonado and Avi Kaplan, who are all from Arlington, Texas.
Hoying, Grassi and Maldonado started Pentatonix while at their local high school in Arlington. As they gained more popularity, they decided to add two more members to their group and audition for a spot on “The Sing-Off.”
The group’s website states that “although only together for a short time, an instant chemistry, appreciation and friendship arose out of the five. Pentatonix loves putting their own dance/upbeat spin on music and derives its influences from pop, dubstep, electro and hip-hop.”
“They look forward to their journey with each other and the opportunity to grow closer with one another while honing their craft.”
Parker chose Pentatonix as the favorite to win the competition.
In her November 22 entry, she wrote, “If Pentatonix [doesn’t] win, in fact, I believe “The Sing-Off” will be doomed and will never get a fourth season, since the show will lose all credibility.”
“The Sing- Off” contest is not the first national music competition Olusola has won. According to his Facebook page, by the time he was 12 years old, Olusola was the principal saxophonist in the United States Wind Band, the youngest musician to ever attain that position.
The United States Wind Band is a professionally touring band including some of the best high school students in the country.
By 15, he was the principal cellist in Kentucky’s All-State Orchestra and was the only student in the history of Kentucky Governor’s School of the Arts (GSA), an intensive summer program that accepts about 200 applicants each year, to be selected for two instruments.