LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 9, 2013) — Tonight the vocal talents of some of the state’s best singers are in the spotlight on a national stage as the acoUstiKats, a popular University of Kentucky a cappella group, begin competing on the fourth season of NBC’s ”The Sing Off.”
The acoUstiKats are among 10 groups who have been selected to compete on the reality show contest featuring the country’s top a cappella groups. They are one of only two collegiate groups chosen for this season, which features high schoolers to a group who has returned to singing after raising families. “The Sing-Off” begins tonight at 9.
Described as having, “Southern charm with a whole lot of swag,” the acoUstiKats were founded in 1993 during Director of UK Choral Activities Jefferson Johnson‘s first semester at UK School of Music in the UK College of Fine Arts. As a subsection of the nationally renowned UK Men’s Chorus, this group serves to promote and encourage male singing of all ages.
“These 12 guys are selected by audition from the UK Men’s Chorus. And they have worked and rehearsed, and worked so hard that they have now been selected to be on this great show by NBC,” said Johnson, conductor of the UK Men’s Chorus.
The acoUstiKats have traveled the world performing in all venue sizes, but “The Sing-Off” will be their biggest challenge to date. They were invited to audition for the show last spring after taking the Best Overall Ensemble Award and Best Choreography Award at Voices in Harmony.
A bit surprised by the invitation to audition for the show, the group decided after some conversation they would go for it.
“Some of us were just like, ‘Oh, well, that will never happen, but you know what let’s try it anyway, what do we have to lose.’ You have to put your entire life, body, soul and spirit in to making something like this happen and all 12 of us were fully dedicated,” said acoUstiKats business manager and a marketing and arts administration senior Evan Jennings Pulliam.
And dedicated they were. In preparation for their audition they rehearsed about 10 to 12 hours a week on top of classes around finals time last spring. But that was just the beginning of the long hours they would put in once they were selected to compete. They even spent time together not rehearsing to help build stronger relationships within the group, so they were at their most cohesive during the competition.
“We had to make sure that we scheduled in time for group bonding, so that whenever we were living with each other all the time, we wouldn’t kill each other. We really put a big focus on becoming a brotherhood, becoming a family, and becoming one cohesive unit,” said acoUstiKats coach and music education senior Jordan Lindsey.
On “The Sing-Off,” each a cappella group will perform show-stopping numbers with no lip-synching, backup bands or safety net. They’ll sing music from today’s top pop chart, to R&B, rock, country and more.
Performers on “The Sing-Off” will be critiqued by judges and celebrated vocalists Ben Folds, of Ben Folds Five; Jewel; and Shawn Stockman, of Boyz II Men. The amount of talent at the judges’ table was not lost on the members of the acoUstiKats.
“You are actually standing on the stage, you put your mike down the very first time you perform for them, and you realize that there are four Grammy Award winners in the house that are actually watching you sing, not the other way around,” said acoUstiKats marketing coordinator and marketing senior Jeremy Michael Lewis.
And of course the major talent didn’t end with the judges; the acoUstiKats learned quite a bit from their fellow competitors as well and hope to even incorporate it in their own repertoire.
“I can’t describe to you how good it feels to sing alongside some of the groups that we performed with. Not some, but all of them are phenomenal musicians, phenomenal groups,” said acoUstiKats arranger/coach and music education junior Nick Johnson.
The other a cappella groups joining the acoUstiKats on the “The Sing-Off” are: Calle Sol, from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Element, from New York City; The Filharmonic, from Los Angeles; Home Free, from Minneapolis; The Princeton Footnotes, from Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.; Street Corner Renaissance, from Los Angeles; Ten, from Dallas; Vocal Rush, from Oakland, Calif.; and Voiceplay, from Orlando, Fla.
One group will be eliminated each episode of “The Sing-Off,” which is hosted by Nick Lachey, TV host of “The Winner Is,” solo artist and member of 98 Degrees. The last group standing on the Dec. 23 program will be awarded a $100,000 prize and an Epic Records/Sony Music recording contract.
In addition to being excited to have the opportunity to compete for such a valuable prize package, the acoUstiKats are just as thrilled to put a spotlight on the university’s talents.
“We wanted to promote the University of Kentucky as having the best male collegiate a cappella group in the country, and I’m proud to say we have reached that level,” Pulliam said.
UK students competing as the acoUstiKats on “The Sing-Off” are:
- coach and tenor Jordan Lindsey, from Paducah, Ky.;
- coach, arranger and tenor Nick Johnson, from Frankfort, Ky.;
- business manager and tenor Evan Jennings Pulliam, from Lexington;
- marketing coordinator and baritone Jeremy Michael Lewis, from Rockford, Ill.;
- tenor Ross Hill, from Lexington;
- tenor Peter Gibbons, from Lexington;
- tenor Ron Wilbur, from Austell, Ga.;
- tenor Charlie McManus, from Fairfax, Va.;
- baritone Patrick Banks, from Frankfort;
- baritone Mason Stewart from Paducah;
- bass Mike Owens. from Louisville, Ky.; and
- vocal percussionist and baritone Banks Mattingly, from Maysville, Ky.