Names of quartet members are listed by voice part:
Tenor, lead, baritone and bass, regardless of how they stand on stage. This Friday morning I had been up early once again catching up on the reporting of the previous day's events, banging away on the computer in my hotel room while looking at the clock. I stopped just in time to get cleaned up and hurry over to the Renaissance Hotel to the large ballroom for the MBNA America Collegiate Quartet Contest. I arrived with about 10 minutes to spare, and the room was rapidly filling with people. It seems like every year they need to find bigger rooms for this contest, which continues to gain in popularity every convention. By the time they got into the contest it was standing room only, with repeated calls for folks to bunch together and free up more seating for those stil coming in. People lined the walls and sat on the floor wherever they could find room. Luckily, I managed to find a seat right on the front row, and had a great view of it all. Jim DeBusman welcomed us all and got the session started, and introduced our Director of Music Education and Services, Dr. Greg Lyne. Dr. Lyne noted how over 300 colleges and universities had been involved and represented in collegiate quartet contests over the years, indicating the extent to which this vital development program is providing young men an introduction to the Society and to barbershop harmony. He also introduced Mike O'Neill as the MC for the contest. Mike is the bass of the 1999 College Champions, Station 59. Mike did a great job as MC, and brought out the mic testers, a quartet from South Miami Senior High School (Sunshine District). They opened with "Sweet Adeline" and my ears immediately focused on their bass, Ronny Izquierdo. These guys are so young, and they already have such good voices! Amazing. They joined that with a quick tempo'ed "Red Red Robin" and we all thought, wow, if these guys are the mic testers, this is gonna be a good contest! 1) THE CLASSICS (MAD) Virginia Tech, James Madison University, Godwin High School, Radford University (Chris Day, Tyler Rackley, Andrew Kay, Wayne Adams) They sang "When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls" and I liked how they changed it slightly to make some of the references more contemporary, referring to today's movie stars like Tom Cruise instead of Douglas Fairbanks of "olden days," and lowering the age of the more "mature" ladies from 39 to 21, as they looked at each other with nodding smiles. They turned to the tenor on the tag, who handed it off to the bass for a big finish. Yeah! They sang "Broken Hearted," the story of losing their old girl, Mary, to their best friend, Jim. They had good faces full of anguish and pain. The transition to the key change was especially nice. 2) QUORUM (CAR) Indiana State University (Warren Weitkamp, Todd Hudson, Paul Ellison, Jeremy Conover) These guys had a nice setup for their first song, "Let's Get Away From It All," coming on stage as harried and burned out businessmen. One shuffled on with a loaded brief case, one was busy with an important cell phone call, one was intently studying a newspaper, while the fourth carried a stuffed manila folder bursting with papers. They met and commiserated at having to put up with the same old grind day after day, until they decided to take a break and get away from it all. They dropped the brief case, put away the phone, ditched the news and gleefully tossed the folder of papers over their shoulder as they sang their cares away. A nice setup, and they handled the transition well. Their second song, "When My Baby Smiles At Me" was well delivered, a happy toe tapper that brought out more of their voices and smiles. Good one! Ray Schwartzkoff was one of the many Society members who were helping backstage to run the contest, and Ray suddenly took on the role of on-stage clean-up man, taking over Bill Rashleigh's traditional and thankless job. Bill saw this and tossed his trademark straw hat to Ray, who donned it and immediately took on the foot shuffling, stoop shouldered, oh-so-tired persona of Bill as he reluctantly shuffled around cleaning up after the quartet. 3) FOUR SCORE (FWD) Grossmont College, Valhala High School (Matthew Fellows, Andrew Bearden, Matt Shoemaker, Jason James) This quartet looked nice in their white tux coats over black shirts and slacks, wit a red pocket square. They started with " For All We Know," which was a little stiff and mechanical, delivered in a very slow and deliberate fashion. I wanted to hear a lot more emotion on this number, but I think they were a little out of it on this one. The lead post popped out at the tag, and was a little jarring. Oh, but their second song was much better. I love the running gag in "I Never See Maggie Alone," in which the poor guy is trying to get his girl Maggie alone, but is constantly hounded by "her father, her mother, her sister and her brother." He tries everything to dodge them, finally getting Maggie alone for a ride in the country, but when the car breaks down he finds her family under the hood of the car! It's a cute and fun song, and they seemed to loosen up more on this and make it fun for everyone. 4) BLUE MONKEEZ (SWD) John Brown University (Tom Leadabrand, Seth Primm, Derek Dewey, Ryan Shields) Formal black tails were the outfit for this group, and their singing sounded almost as formal, having that "voice lesson" trained sound in some places, unlike the more natural, "free" sound we tend to hear in barbershop. I'm always arguing with my church choir director on how to pronounce certain words, so it's no surprise that there's an outside influence on some of these young singers. Still, they blended well and I thought sounded pretty good overall. They, too, loosened up on their second song, "Coney Island Baby/We All Fall," having fun with each other as they stepped on each other's parts, trying to outdo each other...the tenor had a purposely obnoxious long "so long for ever" bit, that just made the guys shake their heads in disgust and the bari shoot a "loser" "L" sign with his thumb and forefinger to his forehead in one spot...ha! I love this kind of banter among quartet members. Their final bit added "adios, au revoir, and some other unintelligible phrase I could only guess came from the secret language of Atlantis (and the recent animated movie)! Good stuff. 5) LOW DOWN SOUND (DIX) Appalachian State University (Josh Day, Rob Jordan, Jason Remley, Jonathan Maness) Our boys from Dixie sported nice white tuxes and had a good set, starting with "The Monet I Saw Your Eyes." Their hot rhythm was smooth and lively, and their voices really blended well together. I liked how their lead took over as he stepped out and took charge, and I thought their vowels and word sounds were well matched. "May I Never Love Again" had a nice smooth startpeaking nicely at "I surrender" and then, after a delicious pregnant pause, got softer and continued nicely. Good emotion and flow! 6) VOCAL TONIC (ILL) Harper College, Concordia University, Western Illinois University, University of Illinois (Matthew Schlesinger, Greg Lee, Matt MacFadyen, Paul Saeger) My feet were tapping from start to finish on "When My Baby Smiles At Me," and they kept it light, fun and bouncy. "Always" had a smooth measured flow, and when tenor Matthew hit that gentle post at the end, I just went mmmmmmm...oops, he wavered a little there, but held on to the end nicely. 7) SYNCOPATIONS (SLD) Buffalo State College (Michael Holmes, John Kromer, Iftach Pearlman, Vincent J. Girardi) These guys came out smiling and waving to the by-now standing room only crowd, and opened with "The Moment I Saw Your Eyes," another song popular with the college set. Their voices were light and airy, maybe a bit too breathy in places, but they warmed up later and sold with their smiles, though they were still a little stiff by the end of the song. "Coney Island Baby/We All Fall" was again, more comfortable, and a different arrangement than I'm used to hearing. Seems like a number of quartets are using the first song to get their feet wet, and then they feel more at home once this enthusiastic audience gives them a loud applause, allowing them to set their nerves aside and just sing. 8) 4 B WE (MAD) Five Towns College (Robert Roman, Wayne Grimmer, Joseph Cerutti, Jeffrey Glemboski) I really liked the look of this quartet, wearing white tie and suspenders, and black hats raked to the side, reminding me of Frank Sinatra and his classy aggressive style. Their opening number, "Fly Me To The Moon" had lively faces, good involvement, and a good stomp transition. Their second song, "Bright Was The Night," was a more serious, almost reverent treatment, as they removed their hats and held them in front. The tenor stepped forward for his tag post, and it was nice... 9) SEGWAY (JAD) Bowling Green State University, Michigan State University (Mike Nesler, Drew Feyrer, Dave Carducci, Jared Wolf) "Goody Goody" was delivered with just the right amount of in-your-face take-that attitude, with good facial and body involvement. Their next song, "What'll I Do" was a nice change from their uptune, setting the mood nicely with good faces showing sadness and loss. The lead wavered a bit, but I didn't let it bother me. Nice all around. 10) PRIVATELY FUNDED (PIO) Hillsdale College (Adrian J Siegmann, Jason Siegmann, David Talcott, Dan Simpson) Sitting on the front row, I naturally would expect the quartet to look out into the crowd beyond me, but these guys seemed to find something interesting on the ceiling, as their focal points were all over the place through most "Forgive Me." The forward motion was constantly interrupted by pauses and seemed kind of tentative throughout. I did like their move in the key change, though. "I'm In Love Again" was much better, as again they seemed to relax more on their second song. And eye contact! Yes, they looked at us and smiled and had a good time up there. A few hand gestures tossed in and it was a better presentation overall. Good! 11) VARSITY (JAD) Bowling Green State University (Ben Horen, Patrick Michel, Kurt Campbell, Jason Baboryk) (SCRATCHED) 12) JOULES PER SECOND (ONT) Sir Oliver Mowat CI (Glenn James, Rowan Henry, Darren Wong, Jason Beceuello) These boys struggled some with "Aura Lee," handling it note by note with little real flow. They lost the tonal center some, but stuck it out. "Hello Mary Lou" went a bit better, with a better tempo and a more alive sound. They had some nice moves that were executed together. Keep working guys! Hope to see you again next contest. 13) REPRISE (RMD) Brigham Young University (Timothy Workman, Joel Gillespie, Rex Kocherhans, Tad Harris) You know how when a chorus or quartet steps on stage and before they even utter a note, you know they are champs already? Well, that's how it was for me when Reprise took the stage. They got a really good pre-announce applause beforehand, so other people knew they were going to be exceptional. They came up and stood there, smiling and a bit taken by all the attention, but then they started singing, opening with "What'll I Do" and immediately confirming my suspicions with a full rich sound and a great match between lead and bass. The tenor and bari filled in nicely, creating a great blend. Someone in the audience let out a piercing shriek when they finished the tag, and the lead's hand was extended and slightly trembled, but their voices were solid. Wow! "Dinah" was their second number, and I liked how they kicked it up into the new key changes. Tad Harris is an awesome bass, with a lead-like quality that you find only in the top quartets. I sure hope he stays in barbershop, he's got a gold medal waiting for him someday for sure! They finished and the crowd was on their feet in a standing ovation...this contest is all but over if you ask me! 14) GRAND AVENUE (FWD) California Polytechnic State University (Joe Stablein, Will Lakow, Eric James, Terry Spaulding) Now this quartet really showed some style by adding nice red sneakers to their knee length red tux coats! They sang a straight-forward "Sweet Adeline," I liked the lead voice in this foursome. And the bass post at the tag was very nice! Their version of "Yes Sir That's My Baby" was a different medley with "Ain't She Sweet" thrown in for good measure. A nice combination! They even had a "Here Comes The Bride" line in the mix, for a rousing second song uptune. 15) SMASHIN' 3RDS (CSD) Lindenwood University (David Cassel, Ben Peters, Jonny Moroni, Chris Dickhertsen) I like this quartet name. Don't you? They were a colorful foursome in solid yellow, blue, green and red shirts with black ties. "Let The Rest Of The World Go By" was soft and careful, and I think the bass went sharp on his solo, but he figured that out quickly and brought it back in for a good recovery. A bit tentative, I would havel liked more support thoughout. "You Make Me Feel So Young" had an easy swing to it, and they exhibited nice smiles and good overall involve- ment. They really loosened up on this one and we had fun with them. 16) STARSTRUCK (DIX) Belmont University (Robert Rutherford, Mark McCormack, Daniel Becker, Joe Johnson) Kinda average throughout, these guys' tone was soft and supported throughout "When You Look In The Heart Of A Rose" and then followed that with a nice "Old Folks At Home." I put 'em somewhere in the middle of the pack. 17) FORMAL AFFAIR (SUN) University of South Florida, Tampa Technical Institute, University of Florida (Tommy Jomisko, Christopher Coffee, Derek Guyer, Myron Whittlesey) Black tuxes over marron shirts and ties matched the elegant name of this hot foursome, and they had a really solid start on "If We Can't Be The Same Old Sweethearts." I really enjoyed their solid resonance though they all seemed to have a little waver at the tag...whether it was nerves of being a bit tired, I'm not sure, but it needed a little more support to be really excellent. The bari got to show off some on "Ain't Misbehavin'" and I liked the energy they put into this one. Hot and bouncy, a good tag! I put a star next to these guys in the program! They'll be up there! 18) RICHTONES (SLD) Hamilton College (David T. Steadman, David Kolb, Mike O'Leary, Richard Landrigan) This was another quartet that sounded like the voices had been trained in a more classical style. At least that's how "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" started, but it did seem to diminish some as they gave way to the training and just focused on matching sounds and ringing chords. It sounded more natural and free in the back half of the song. They did a bored yawn at the intro to "Let's Get Away From It All" and the song had a nice light feel to it, with bright faces. Nice! 19) CATFISH BEND (JAD) Bowling Green State University (Noah Campbell, J. R. Muth, Jim Koenig, Armando Linares) Another crowd pleaser, Catfish got a big audience applause as they walked out on stage, and they looked really comfortable up there. The lead had a lovely solo on the intro to "Beautiful Dreamer" The quartet joined in smoothly and the lead/bass match was really nice. Soft, sweet, well supported, the tenor floated nicely, and the slight swell at the tag was a nice touch. They transitioned the mood into the "take-that" attitude of "Goody Goody" and built the mock venom to a hot tag at the end. Good reaction from the audience, I looked around and saw a well, a partial standing O from much of the room. They had 'em! I think they'll be up in the top three. 20) OUT OF CLASS (CSD) Washburn University (Nicolas Carr, Jeff Kready, Richard S. Brown, Michael Barton) These guys had bright smiles as they took the stage, a real "glad to be here" attitude that made us like them already. "When I Leave The World Behind" was their first number, and it went well overall, no major problems, but not enough "zing" to get them into the top ranks. They had a momentary visual gag directed at Music Judge Kirk Young in the judges' pit on their second song, "We'll Have To Pass The Apples Again," a cute uptune that had them pulling our fake apples (make of cloth) tossed into the crowd and causing more work for Ray in Bill Rashleigh's hat. 21) REFLECTION (LOL) Lawrence University (Dane Tice, James Estes, Nathan Heffel, Jonathan Silvia) "The Moment I Saw Your Eyes" started out ok, but I got the feeling they were trying a little too hard, and it got out of control toward the end. They calmed down and focused on "The Way You Look Tonight," a beautiful ballad that was perfect with their sweet gentle approach. I could have used a little more support at the tag, but otherwise it was a nice song. Very nice. 22) THE CUTTING EDGE (NED) Western Connecticut State University, Norwalk Community College (Gilbert Flores, Mike O'Mara, Salvador Flores, Joel R. Knecht) SCRATCHED We were all very satisfied at the conclusion of the contest, and the room was a buzz as people remarked on the big improvements made by all of the quartets and the level of singing they're bringing to the stage these days. Last year's Champions, MILLENNIUM, appeared to sing a few while they tallied the scores, and they wowed us with the Suntones' "Jezebel," followed by a nice ballad called "Lost In Your Eyes," written by their lead, Soren Wohlers (you plans to pursue a music career in Nashville as a singer/songwriter). They concluded with Joker's Wild's "Rhythm of Life" and brought the house down with a big finish, reminding us once again why they were crowned champions last year. Finally the results were announced, and we were not surprised at the outcome: 5th Place Medalists: THE CLASSICS 4th Place Medalists: FORMAL AFFAIR 3rd Place Medalists: LOW DOWN SOUND 2nd Place Medalists: CATFISH BEND 1st Place Medalists: REPRISE Everyone cheered loudly as each winner was called, and the room slowly emptied...I took off right away, with just minutes to spare to get up to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and catch the start of the World Harmony Jamboree. What a day for singing! Congrats to all the competitors.
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