PROVO — McKay Crockett stood in the middle of his nine-member a capella group.
Around him, the circle of young men bobbed and weaved in rhythm, harmonizing, blending their voices and listening to each other. Crockett’s knees bent as the voices lowered and straightened as they crescendoed.
“Good you guys. Better!” Crockett, the producer and artistic director of BYU's Vocal Point, enthusiastically encouraged the singers.
That brief practice at Brigham Young University proved one thing off the bat: As long as the singers have each other, they'll never need to sing to a CD or track. All of it — even the percussion and bass — come from Vocal Point's talented singers. And now, with a record deal two years in the making added to their resume, the group is hoping even more people will take notice.
In December 2018, Vocal Point announced their record deal with Universal Music Group's U.S. classical music label, Decca Gold, and released the music video “What Child Is This?” as their first project with the company. According to a news release, UMG will help Vocal Point with physical and digital music releases and distribution, touring, social media and more.
“My first thought was 'Wow!' and my second thought was 'How?'” joked baritone Nathan Cazmersen of Springville. “A lot of prayer on our end … and it has all worked out.”
“We are confident that it’s something that is supposed to happen to Vocal Point, and we’re supposed to do something with it,” Crockett added.
The excitement of landing a record deal has far from subsided, and the singers are eager to spread their music, talents and happiness to a wider audience. But in the meantime, Vocal Point is focusing on local performances at the Conference Center Theater this Saturday, Feb. 2, and Wednesday, Feb. 6, in celebration of BYU Winterfest.
Spreading the joy
With the new music deal, Vocal Point hopes to keep doing what they believe they do best: bringing joy to others.
The group's upbeat contemporary style has been clear since Vocal Point’s founding in 1991. As the group grew in popularity, so did their touring, albums and recognition. Vocal Point won three Pearl Awards from the Faith Centered Music Association and took first place at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in 2006.
But perhaps their most celebrated performance was on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in 2011 — Vocal Point made it to the Top 5 among 15 other a cappella groups.
Crockett was a member of the nine-man a cappella group at that time. The following year in 2012, he became the producer and artistic director. Under his leadership, Vocal Point has broadened their social media following to more than 417,000 subscribers on YouTube and garnered more than 21 million views with their most popular video “Nearer My God to Thee.”
“I think we’re ordinary people — ordinary college students that get to do extraordinary things,” said tenor Jason Bromley of California.
Some of those extraordinary things include singing at the Kennedy Center for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's retirement party, performing with Gladys Knight, Lee Greenwood, Colbie Caillat and Kristin Chenoweth, who recently headlined the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. These performances have given the group the opportunity to share their positive message with a larger audience.
“I think music is a tool and I think that Vocal Point has always been, and are still, trying to use that tool to reach out to people and uplift them,” said Cabe John, a bass from Idaho. “We just want to influence people for good.”
“We want this message to go all over the world,” added Yaphet Bustos, a baritone from Chile. “Just like we understand different cultures, we also understand that with this music we can also make people in those countries feel happiness and joy through this universal language.”
As much as the Vocal Point singers love sharing their talents and positive message with others, that end goal comes with a lot of hard work and sacrifice. But that volunteer work isn't new to the singers, as all of them served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These days, the singers can spend up to 50 hours a week practicing and performing.
Spending so much time together has turned the singers into more than just an ensemble. Although Jantzen and Josh Dalley are brothers, the rest of them have also come to feel like family.
"Sometimes when I do get nervous, it is good to remember that I don't stand alone, but I have my brothers on the stage with me," said James Thorup, a tenor from Taylorsville.
Although the singers appreciate how the long hours practicing have brought them closer together, it can still be overwhelming when combined with their regular jobs, school and family lives. But they all make it work because they love what they do.
“It has reminded me that in life there are more things that can fulfill your life than just work and school,” said David Steele, a baritone from Idaho. “Life is really fulfilling when you get outside of those two things.”
“I like to joke when people ask me what my major is (that) my major is Vocal Point,” added Matt Newman, a vocal percussionist from South Jordan. “I feel that things that I’ve participated in with Vocal Point … have helped me to become what I think is closer to a professional.”
From the stagehands to the lighting crew, the combined effort of many hands have gone in to creating a professional atmosphere for Vocal Point — something people nationwide are starting to notice.
“I think that’s part of the reason why Decca Gold would reach out to work with us,” Bromley said. “We’re not just another collegiate group. We’re very much a professional group.”
Members of Vocal Point are constantly looking to improve their performances, as well as working to keep up with technology and new music — their upcoming performance for BYU Winterfest will include LED screens and interactive portions involving audience participation.
“Vocal Point strives to innovate in the way that it produces music,” said Steele, noting that the ensemble was one of the first music collegiate a cappella groups to put videos on YouTube. “I think that is the same thing with the record deal, just a continual innovation.”
The group plans to release a new album this year, and they are also learning a song in Chinese — not a language any of them knew beforehand — for the BYU China Spectacular in May. But with all of their performances, including the upcoming ones at BYU Winterfest, they hope to leave their audiences a little happier than they were before.
“It will be a universally appealing, uplifting experience,” Cazmersen said. ”If you’ve never heard our music, come to the concert because it’s not going to be like anything you have heard or been to before. You’re going to like it. I can guarantee it.”Comment on this story
If you go …
What: Vocal Point at BYU Winterfest
When: Feb. 2, 2 and 7 p.m.; Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Where: Conference Center Theater, Temple Square
How much: $12 for Vocal Point performance
Phone: 801-570-0080 or lds.org/events
Note: The Conference Center Theater doors will open an hour before each performance start time. Ticket holders are requested to be in their seats no later than 15 minutes before the performance begins. The performance is approximately 90 minutes.