BYU Today

A Cappella Fellas

Vocal Point shows that nice guys don’t always finish last.

As they sang to a second-place finish at the 2011 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, the nine men of BYU’s Vocal Point had no idea they were also competing for a TV gig. Producers from NBC’s The Sing-Off were at the competition, and they offered Vocal Point a chance to appear on the show, where 16 a cappella heavyweights would vie for a recording contract and $200,000.

Setting aside jobs and internships—and in the case of vocal percussionist Tanner G. Nilsson (’13), postponing a wedding day—the group packed their bags for Hollywood and were catapulted into what tenor C. McKay Crockett (’12) calls “two months of a cappella madness.”

“There’s so much that goes into a show,” says high tenor Jake Hunsaker (’13). On top of song arranging and rehearsals were choreography sessions, costume fittings, and more. “It was way more than a full-time job.”

The competition included other collegiate groups and some professional singers, and it showcased a variety of styles. One crew had a rocker front man; another had a rapper. Vocal Point wondered how their brand of performance would fit in, but bassist Robert B. Seely (’13) says they decided to do “the same things we’d been doing in Provo. Just the Vocal Point deal.” When the group’s first performance, “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail,” drew a minute-long standing ovation that had to be cut from the broadcast for time’s sake, they realized the Vocal Point “deal” would be accepted just fine. In his feedback, judge Ben Folds seized the opportunity to “teach the kids at home” about chord modulation—something Vocal Point did twice in the number.

The group’s vocal precision and dance moves stood out throughout the competition. Scott Hoying, a member of competing group Pentatonix, notes “how meticulous they were about every single detail in their songs.” But Vocal Point also stood out behind the scenes. They often heard “BYU’s in the room! Let’s clean up our act!” and Hunsaker recalls a baffled producer asking, “How do you guys do it without coffee? Do you all have a vitamin?”

Lasting nine episodes, singing everything from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, Vocal Point finished in the show’s top five, missing the opportunity to compete in the live finale by just two spots. Though it was difficult to sign off The Sing-Off, the group did what they’d come to do: “We wanted to stay on the show as long as we could to share the positive message that we have,” says Crockett. “We wanted to help people make the connection between BYU and fun, happy, energetic, normal guys.” You know, jokes Crockett, “someone you’d want your daughter to marry.”

The group’s vocal precision and dance moves stood out throughout the competition. Scott Hoying, a member of competing group Pentatonix, notes “how meticulous they were about every single detail in their songs.” But Vocal Point also stood out behind the scenes. They often heard “BYU’s in the room! Let’s clean up our act!” and Hunsaker recalls a baffled producer asking, “How do you guys do it without coffee? Do you all have a vitamin?”

Lasting nine episodes, singing everything from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, Vocal Point finished in the show’s top five, missing the opportunity to compete in the live finale by just two spots. Though it was difficult to sign off The Sing-Off, the group did what they’d come to do: “We wanted to stay on the show as long as we could to share the positive message that we have,” says Crockett. “We wanted to help people make the connection between BYU and fun, happy, energetic, normal guys.” You know, jokes Crockett, “someone you’d want your daughter to marry.”

Hey There, Delilah

Vocal Point wasn’t the only group with BYU ties on the 2011 season of The Sing-Off. The all-female group Delilah featured alumna Amy L. Whitcomb (BM ’11) and student Laina M. Walker (’13), who had both taken The Sing-Off stage before, in 2009, as members of Noteworthy, an all-female group of BYU singers. While Noteworthy was eliminated in the second episode that season, the exposure led producers to invite Walker and Whitcomb back to the show, where they united with veterans of other Sing-Off seasons to form the “all-girl supergroup” Delilah— and made it to a top-six finish.

Amy Whitcomb and Laina Walker

In the season premiere, Whitcomb led Delilah’s performance of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” which judges said exploded stereotypes of all-female groups struggling to achieve a full sound. “It cut through my darn heart,” said judge Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. The performance also tore through the iTunes charts, reaching no. 1 on the soundtrack chart and appearing in the top 100 singles.

Incredibly, the eight group members first met just days before filming began. “We had to find our sound . . . and our message and our purpose in a week,” says Whitcomb. “But it came together right away.”

With a Hong Kong tour and an album in the works for Delilah, Walker says the group hopes to inspire females everywhere to be “strong as women, strong as individuals, knowing who they are [and] not being afraid to do what they love.”