Last updated: 04/02/2013 09:37:31 AM
Vocal sensations and winners of season 3 of NBC’s The Sing-Off, Pentatonix are taking instrument-free music far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Named after the world’s most widely recognized five-note musical scale, this vocal quintet has transformed one of pop music’s purest and most soulful expressions into an exciting future, filled with limitless sonic possibility. Pairing their intricate arrangements with cleverly re-imagined pop songs, Pentatonix have quickly cultivated a sound and style that is entirely unique and undeniably infectious.
Pentatonix is comprised of lead vocalists Scott Hoying (21), Kirstie Maldonado (20) and Mitch Grassi (20), vocal bass Avi Kaplan (23) and beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola (24) and, while the individuals would maintain that each of their fellow band members is irreplaceable, the fact remains that 24-hours before their audition for The Sing-Off they still hadn’t all officially met.
A freshman at The University of Southern California, Scott decided to audition for the show and enlisted childhood friends and fellow Arlington, Texas-natives Kirstie and Mitch. As a high school vocal trio, they had found success both locally and online thanks to their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Determined to add depth and a distinctive dynamic to the group, Scott set out to add more vocalists, first adding Avi, who’d built himself a reputation as one of the most talented vocal basses in Southern California, and eventually took to YouTube where he found the video for “Julie-O,” featuring Kevin’s cello-boxing (simultaneously beatboxing and performing the song on his cello).
Finally a fully formed group, Pentatonix perfected their sound (and their chemistry) throughout the season, naturally developing a signature style and a knack for arranging songs that pulled equally from the five individuals’ strengths. Despite drawing from a dizzyingly eclectic set of musical genres – the group cites pop, jazz, r&b, indie, folk, dubstep and electronica as just a few of their inspirations – the quintet seemed to mesh magically, evident in their modern interpretation of The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” or their epic adaptation of Florence and the Machines’ “The Dog Days Are Over.” Before long, Pentatonix had become a legitimate musical force, armed with a collective confidence and swagger that would eventually propel them to win the competition.
Now a year removed from The Sing-Off, Pentatonix – who have all relocated to Los Angeles – have continued to build upon their already fiercely loyal fanbase, introducing a slew of new material via their YouTube channel, including covers of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Fun’s “We Are Young,” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” The three videos – featured by Perez Hilton, The Huffington Post, RyanSeacrest.com and Nightline – have eclipsed 17 million views, collectively, while the channel has quickly reached 30 million views, buoyed by its roughly 250,000 subscribers.
On June 26, Pentatonix released their debut EP – PTX Volume 1 – courtesy of Madison Gate Records and debuted at #14 on the Billboard Top 200 selling nearly 20,000 copies in its first week. The EP includes 4 covers, highlighted with the group’s Gotye track, as well as Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” Imogen Heap’s “Aha!” and Jasmine Sullivan’s “Love You Long Time.” Additionally, the EP also includes two original songs, “The Baddest Girl,” written by Scott and Pentatonix producer Ben Bram and “Show You How To Love,” written by Avi and Kevin.
On November 13, Pentatonix will release a Christmas EP – PTXmas – in addition to continuing their North American headline tour, which included more than 2 dozen sell-outs and has prompted a second headline tour set to kick off in January, 2013. They will continue to create new music, consistently testing any and every preconception of what vocal music is and just how big it can be.
Scott Hoying is a songwriter and pianist who has been performing since the age of 8. Following his graduation from Martin High School in Arlington, TX, Scott enrolled at USC where he joined the SoCal VoCals, a popular and accomplished campus a cappella group. Involved with a variety of musical projects, Scott has been a finalist on CBS’ Star Search and has performed the National Anthem and “God Bless America” at numerous professional and collegiate sporting events, including home games for the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks.
Mitch Grassi is the youngest member of Pentatonix and a recent high school graduate (he was a high school senior when taping of The Sing-Offcommenced). In addition to immersing himself in music theater in Arlington, TX, Mitch’s music tastes skew heavily toward underground club and electronic music. A veteran of many vocal and talent competitions, Mitch took first place at the Teen Talent Follies for his rendition of Scott Alan’s “Kiss the Air.” Mitch is honing his skills in production and DJ-ing while excelling as a lead vocalist for Pentatonix.
Kirstie Maldonado is a National Hispanic Scholar and was a sophomore Music Theater major at The University of Oklahoma before joining Pentatonix. She developed her vocal and performance skills during her eight years as a touring member at Theatre Arlington where she’d learned to sing eight-part harmonies. She began her classical training during high school and was a member of the Texas All State Choir for three years. A four-year show choir member and dance captain, Kirstie held numerous roles in local stage productions, performing at shows around the Metroplex, including Casa Manana and Bass Hall.
Avi Kaplan is a serious student of classical music who also plays guitar, composes and arranges music for both choral and a cappella. A Visalia, CA native, Avi moved to Walnut, CA in 2007 to attend Mt. San Antonio College, known worldwide for their strong choral and a cappella tradition. In 2008 he joined Fermata Nowhere, a high-energy male a cappella group that became the first community college a cappella entrants to win the prestigious ICCA. Avi won the competition’s award for “Best Rhythm Section,” the first year that this award had ever included a vocal bass (the award was called “Best Vocal Percussionist” before Avi’s victory prompted the language change). In his third year at Mt. San Antonio, Avi joined Sincopation, an award-winning jazz ensemble that won the Monterey Jazz Festival Competition in his first year. He has performed at venues worldwide, including New York City’s Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.
Kevin “K.O.” Olusola grew up in the small town of Owensboro, Kentucky, the son of a Nigerian psychiatrist and a Grenadian nurse. At an early age, Kevin began learning piano, cello and saxophone. He performed at Carnegie Hall twice as soloist on the cello and saxophone and has appeared on NPR’s “From The Top." After finishing high school at Phillips Academy Andover, Kevin enrolled in Yale University where he was pre-med and majored in East Asian Studies. He spent 18 months in Beijing becoming fluent in Chinese as a part of his Yale fellowship. While in college, Kevin began developing his “celloboxing” skills and in 2009, he won second place in the “Celebrate and Collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma” international competition. Ma would call Kevin's celloboxing version of "Dona Nobis Pacem" both “inventive and unexpected.” In 2011, Kevin’s “Julie-O” celloboxing YouTube video was featured by CBS, AOL, Huffington Post and Washington Post, among others. Kevin was also named one of 100 “History Makers in the Making” by NBC’s TheGrio and was hand-chosen by Quincy Jones to represent him in concert at the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival alongside Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea.