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BYU Vocal Point singers require faith, talent and money

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

Vocal Point performs on Vocal Point performs on "The Sing-Off" on Oct. 3, 2011. (Lewis Jacobs, NBC)

PROVO — The singing, dancing, entertaining members of BYU’s Vocal Point a cappella group sacrifice for their moments in the sun.

Like the other members of BYU’s 18 performing groups, they must pay their own way.

And it gets harder when an opportunity like performing on a national television show comes along.

McKay Crockett works part-time running a recording studio in Sandy.

“Since the ‘Sing-Off,’ I’ve had to turn down most clients because between school and Vocal Point there is no time to work. While the show did provide our lodging and a small stipend, most of us have been unable to do a lot of work outside of school and Vocal Point for the last little while,” Crockett said.

Vocal Point performs on Vocal Point performs on "The Sing-Off on Nov. 7, 2011. (Lewis Jacobs, NBC)

“The time with Vocal Point is invigorating, thrilling and exhausting,” Keith Evans said. “It’s hard to find time to do normal, real-life things in the midst of all the sound checks, performance, meeting with fans, traveling, arranging, rehearsing. ... Boy, I get tired just making the list.”

The nine vocalists employ a variety of scenarios to keep it together.

Robert Seely washes windows.

Jake Hunsaker and Ben Murphy work part-time at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

Percussionist (you ought to see the interesting sounds he can make with just his hands and mouth) Tanner Nilsson works at Equinox IT Services as a consultant using his wages to pay for tuition, books, mortgage, insurance, food and utility bills.

Host Nick Lachey, left, sings with Vocal Point on the Dec. 5, 2011, Christmas episode of Host Nick Lachey, left, sings with Vocal Point on the Dec. 5, 2011, Christmas episode of "The Sing-Off. (Trae Patton, NBC)

He worries about finding enough time for just him and his wife.

Tyler Sterling is lucky enough to have family financial support so he can focus on school.

Evans is a Brigham Young University graduate and still devotes major time to Vocal Point.

One thing that gets the members of the group through, according to Evans, is to make sure they are 100 percent invested and excited about Vocal Point.

“Yes, it’s tough investing a great deal of time in something that doesn’t put money in my pocket, but life is full of enriching, rewarding activities that matter more than a paycheck: family and church responsibilities, community service, etc.,” Evans said. “There’s no such thing as ‘done.’”

Vocal Point performs during Vocal Point performs during "The Sing-Off" on Nov. 7, 2011. (Lewis Jacobs, NBC)

“Developing talents and sharing them with people, supporting friends and making people smile are all worthwhile and if I keep those things in mind, it never feels like a burden of time or resources,” Crockett added.

This is Crockett’s fourth year in the group and despite the stress it puts on his schedule, he’s enthusiastic about what the group has accomplished.

“Every minute of every hour has been worth it to me,” he said. “Being in Vocal Point has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I get to blend my favorite things — music, friends and the gospel (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) — and anxiously work toward the goal of helping others feel joy and happiness through uplifting songs.

“Before ‘The Sing-Off,’ we would spend 20-plus hours a week rehearsing, performing and doing all that we need to do to help Vocal Point reach its potential. That all happens while we work, go to school full-time and pursue relationships, careers and church callings. ‘The Sing-Off,’ on the other hand, was a 24-6 (we took Sundays off) project over the course of the past three months.”

Usually, Vocal Point rehearses just once a week, but in January the time demand jumps back up as the group prepares for concerts, firesides and — this year — more national TV appearances.

“Vocal Point is completely volunteer. We don’t receive any financial compensation or academic scholarship for participating,” Crockett added.

For most, tuition and books cost around $3,000 per semester. Housing and food and transportation is additional. Add a family and the costs go up.

Alumni of the group know better than most the demands made on the group that has brought all kinds of positive attention to BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the past 20 years.

Recently, a CNN religion blog writer featured Vocal Point, saying the connection between the group and the LDS Church was “regularly made” on the prime time show. “Fans left comments about the team’s Mormon faith on message boards and Mormon newspapers and blogs began following Vocal Point’s weekly progress.”

Roy Brinkerhoff, a BYU Alumnus office representative, said Vocal Point alumni are trying to create a scholarship endowment fund for the current members of the group.

They are still short of the initial goal needed to create the fund. Once the startup fund is created, the alumni group should be able to provide partial scholarships to a couple of the members. The long-term goal is to build the fund to the point that all group members can receive scholarships.

Donations to the Vocal Point grant fund can be made at http://give.byu.edu/affinity.

One of the group’s founders, Bob Ahlander, said few people realize the group operates independently of the university.

He and his wife, Julie, recently sponsored a watch party for Vocal Point that brought in nearly $900 in donations for the fund.

The guys in Vocal Point and those in the other 17 BYU performing groups have to figure out how to make the money stretch “just like every other college student,” said Shane Wright with the office of Performing Arts Management.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@desnews.comp

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