HomeSONOS: The Super-Heroes Of A Cappella

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If there were any justice in the world, if I had any artistic talent at all, this article wouldn’t be an article. It would be a comic book. It might be called “The Adventures of SONOS,” or “SONOS: The Fantastic Five.”

You see, SONOS is more than something as mundane as a mind-blowing a cappella group. They are far greater than world-class singers. Their carefully-planned indie-chic concert outfits create a public alter-ego: the Clark Kent guise that 95% of the aca-world sees. I am here to shatter that image. Your faithful friend and cub reporter is going to take the glasses off of Clark Kent, rip open his shirt and show you the gleaming “S” beneath. I’m going to tell you who SONOS really is. They are super-heroes.

There are two parts to this story: a concert review and “the other stuff.” If you just want to know how SONOS is in concert, we’ll get that part out of the way, then you can stop reading. Here’s my best attempt: imagine a day off work when you get to sleep in. Now make the weather perfect and your calendar clear. Reach into your pants pocket and find money you didn't expect. Now eat everything you want, hang out with friends, have an amazing date, get a massage, ride roller coasters and accidentally meet your favorite movie star in a random elevator. Smoosh all that down into an hour of music, and there’s your SONOS concert. Smart arrangements sung perfectly in tune with style, heart and crazy musicality. Who could ask for anything more?

For those of you who know SONOS used to be a sextet, you might be thinking, “what about Paul?” Well… I love Paul. I do. However, the current quintet of Jessica, Kathy, Rachel, Christopher and Ben are just that good. They are so smart and so musical that, quite honestly, it’s a non-issue. That isn’t to say that Paul had no value. He did. It’s more like saying that there were only 29 lobsters on the buffet instead of 30. You couldn’t eat them all anyway if you tried. The new SONOS quintet is still like putting 10 pounds of musical gravel in the five-pound bag that is your head. Artistry just runs out of your ears and makes you overwhelmed. I felt like I had been sitting in a musical bath and came out “pruny.”

Now for the second part, but it takes a quick back-filler story. I teach at Kettering Fairmont High School. A lot of people think that Kettering is immune to normal school problems because they see Eleventh Hour on “The Sing-Off”, or hear our annual CD and assume we have unlimited resources. The truth is that there is a lot of behind-the-scenes fund-raising that takes place to keep us “in business.” We have an AMAZINGLY supportive district, but there are always limits to budgets. Recently we passed a levy that, had it failed, would’ve ended all extra-curriculars. Also, this year we had a more-than-slight disruption of our budget process.

Fairmont has three after-school groups: Eleventh Hour, Fusion (16-voice mixed acappella) and Illusion (a competition show choir). All these groups are funded through student fees combined with parent fundraising and a few bits of support from the school music budget. The biggest fundraiser of our year is the show choir competition we host, and this year (for the first time in 25 years) it fell through. We didn’t get enough groups to make it happen. We are staring at a $10,000 hole in our budget.

SONOS had performed at Kettering twice before, and we were looking everywhere for solutions to our dilemma. Let me state now that the rest of this article would be written about m-pact had Mother Nature not blanketed the midwest with ice for 3 days (remember that?). We had a benefit concert lined up with m-pact and ice killed it, but they tried.

My booster president emailed me and told me that he saw a hole in SONOS’ schedule and that they were likely driving through Dayton on I-70 to get from Macomb, IL to Easton, PA. I facebooked the group and BOOM! Benefit concert! These guys heard the plight we were in and agreed to a gate-split to help us out. Their only concern was (get ready to laugh) that we might get burnt out on seeing SONOS. Please cue Wayne and Garth for a rousing “shuh… as if!”

They got up in the morning in Macomb, IL and drove 7+ hours to Kettering. They forgot there was an hour time change, so they got about 30 minutes to soundcheck, then had to wolf food down and get ready for the show. Did I mention yet that the show was on a Sunday? Or that they gave up their day off? Yep and yep. You heard it right… SONOS was traveling 17 total hours by car, and interrupted their night off to stop and sing at a high school on a Sunday night for ZERO guaranteed money in order to help us. I’m sure all they wanted to do was crawl into bed, but they were champs and slayed the stage in Kettering for 200 people instead.

The most amazing part came at the end of the show. While SONOS was packing their gear, I walked up to Ben Mclain to apologize about a less-than-full house. His first question was, “How much did we make for you guys?” and his second was “Was this alright?” SONOS signed every autograph and talked with my kids until I had to send them home (it was a school night). As my kids regretfully trailed away I head SONOS saying “facebook me, we’ll keep talking!” I handed SONOS a too-small bit of cash with my apologies, but they heard none of that. They were thanking us for creating opportunities for kids to sing. They were hugging and joking and then eventually squishing into their mini-van rental to hit the hotel, catch a snooze, then wake up for a 10-hour drive… all in a day’s work for these musical heroes. We still have a hole in our budget, but it is smaller thanks to SONOS and their good will.

At the core of any community there are people who do “it” for love over money. SONOS is that group. I know we are all thankful for what they give us each year. Take some time to ponder “love over money.” While love is wonderful, it will not pay the rent. Are you supporting SONOS and others like them with your concert attendance? Your CD purchases? When you do, you are not just supporting singers trying to earn a living. You are opening the musical minds of every audience member who sees them. You are supporting your aca-community and its future. In Kettering, Ohio there are now kids who have become life-long singers and aca-junkies thanks to SONOS.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Editor’s note: SONOS is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for their next recording. For more info: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sonos/sonos-the-grassroots-project

About the author:
Brody McDonald is the Director of Choirs at Kettering Fairmont High School, home of the award-winning a cappella group Eleventh Hour (www.fairmontchoirs.org).Fairmont’s ensembles have appeared at OMEA conference (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008) and consistently receive the highest ratings at state-level adjudicated events. Fairmont’s concert choirs have been featured performers on university and church artist’s series, have performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and have shared the stage with artists ranging from The Texas Boys’ Choir to Kenny Rogers. Fairmont's pop/a cappella group Eleventh Hour has sung backup for Kenny Loggins, opened for LeAnn Rimes and The Beach Boys, and has been selected to perform at the American Choral Director's Association Central Division Conference in 2010. Eleventh Hour has numerous studio CDs, have appeared on BOHSA 2008, 2009 and SING V, and won CARA awards for Best High School Album and Best High School Song. Eleventh Hour recordings are available for download at www.acatunes.com

Comments

Super Heroes

Wow, I guess we learn something new every day. Your extremely comprehensive article goes above and beyond. I hope that you will keep writing and providing us with more information.

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