Pentatonix member visits campus: Kevin Olusola spends time with Murray State a cappella group

Rhiannon Branch/The News

Story by Emily Williams, Features Editor 

Story by Lindsey Coleman, Assistant News Editor

Kevin Olusola, cellist and one-fifth of the national a cappella sensation Pentatonix, spoke about creativity and resiliency and even beatboxed during a Student Government Association event last night.

The Owensboro, Kentucky, native said he never wanted to be a musician. He said he comes from a family that values financial stability, but he decided to go into music when he was 20 years old.

Growing up, his father told him great people don’t cry; they will be resilient, they will be tenacious, they will pick up the pieces and rise up. Olusola said that advice has held true in the music industry, as Pentatonix faced being knocked down even after they won NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in 2011. Immediately after they won the show, their label dropped the group, claiming that a cappella music would never break into mainstream music.

“There’s a hustle, there’s a grind, there’s a grit that you need,” Olusola said.

The group then turned to their YouTube channel, which Olusola said allowed viewers to comprehend the magic of a cappella music. Now, Pentatonix’s YouTube channel boasts over 13 million viewers, the group has sold over 6 million albums in the U.S. alone and they have won three Grammy awards. Along the way, Olusola said he has grown immensely as a musician.

When Scott Hoying, one of the lead vocalists of Pentatonix, first discovered Olusola on YouTube and invited him to join Pentatonix on “The Sing-Off,” Hoying admitted Olusola didn’t have the technical skills necessary, but he did have creativity.

“Technique can be learned,” Olusola said. “Don’t let your technique or abilities slow you down. If you have the creative juices to do something, just practice. If you think you’re not good enough, sure, you might not be good enough now, but if you’re creative, you will get better.”

Campus Activities Board, which is a branch of SGA, hosted the event in the Curris Center Theater. Students, many of them music majors or avid Pentatonix fans, gave positive feedback, especially when Olusola beatboxed, and during a question and answer session at the end of the event.

“We allot a certain amount of our budget to go toward concerts and lectures,” Tori Wood, SGA president and senior from Symsonia, Kentucky, said. “We look through a variety of options, and from that, we select an individual.”

Wood said Grant Knox, SGA performances chair and senior from Lexington, Kentucky, is responsible for bringing various lecturers, artists, comedians and musicians to campus for the student body to enjoy free of charge. Last semester, Campus Activities Board welcomed Steven A. Smith, ESPN personality, to campus.

“I was looking to change it up, bring a musician in, and go a different route than the typical country music artist that we usually bring here,” Knox said. “I thought Kevin, being from Owensboro, would be an interesting act to bring.”

Knox said the goal was to spread the word about SGA and get students more involved. He said student response has been great.

“As a music major, I hear the buzz going around the Fine Arts building,” Knox said. “It’s obviously a popular thing with vocal people, but many people know Pentatonix, even if you’re not really involved with music.”

Before the speaking event, Olusola attended a rehearsal with EQ Blu, an a cappella group on campus.

Abigail Paschall, member of EQ Blu, said they were excited about him being there, but one of the coolest things was he was so genuine.

“We were really nervous to sing for him, but he just wanted to hear more stuff that we had,” Paschall said. “He said he enjoyed it so much.”

EQ Blu was able to spend an hour rehearsing with Olusola. After that time, Paschall said the group rehearsed on their own and incorporated the suggestions Olusola gave.

“What I really appreciated was that when we sang, he didn’t just throw compliments at us,” Paschall said. “He gave us good, solid feedback.”

Both Pentatonix and EQ Blu are unveiling new work soon. Tomorrow, Pentatonix releases a deluxe version of “A Pentatonix Christmas.” The album includes five new songs, of which Olusola said “How Great Thou Art” is his favorite. EQ Blu will perform their Fall Showcase on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Hall.