HomeBen McClain and his a cappella group Sonos will compete for $100,000 and a recording deal.

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It’s a little hard to believe, but Ben McLain says that when he arrived at the University of California, Irvine, to major in vocal performance he really didn’t get that for all practical purposes he’d actually be majoring in opera.

“I just assumed that I’d be a singer,” says McLain of his goal since he was in high school in Northern California. “And so I decided I’d be a vocal major and didn’t really realize that it was going to be strictly opera.”

“I’m very, very glad it was, though,” he says. “I wouldn’t be the singer that I am today without that classical degree.”

The singer that McLain has become is singing a cappella more than opera these days. And starting at 8 p.m. Monday, when “The Sing-Off” returns for its third season on NBC, McLain and his four partners in Sonos will be among 16 vocal groups singing for millions of viewers as they compete for a top prize of $100,000 and a record deal.

For McLain, the series represents the biggest stage in a career that stretches back more than 20 years, when he joined the Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus, and then a few years later, formed a high school barbershop quartet.

“From that point on I was obsessed with a cappella – ‘Oh, this is the life for me!’” he says.

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