In May 2012, YouTube star and ACR artist Peter Hollens held a contest. The goal was to record the best cover video of Hollens’ “Not Over You” (opb Gavin DeGraw), and the prize was a professionally recorded and produced track and accompanying music video of the winner’s choosing, as well as distribution through ACR.
A talented group of high school students from Oakland School of the Arts (OSA) jumped on the opportunity.
Led by Lisa Forkish, OSA’s Vocal Rush recently won acclaim when they captivated audiences at the 2012 ICHSA (International Championship of High School A Cappella) Finals in New York City, where they claimed an undisputed first place victory.
Of the attention the group has received from that victory, Forkish says, “The support we’ve received from the a cappella community has been so tremendous… I don’t think [the students] knew what this was going to be like. Unlike some other music sectors, a cappella people really rally behind groups and individuals that they believe in.”
When announcing Vocal Rush as the winner of the YouTube contest, Hollens applauded the group for their “musicality, solo delivery, subtleties [they] added to the arrangement, and just the overall quality of [their] performance.”
He wasn’t the last celebrity to commend the group on their accomplishments.
Last week when the group used their ICHSA prize money to travel and perform at Disneyland, they also stopped in for a workshop with singer-songwriter Kenton Chen of The Backbeats as well as 2012 ICCA Champions, The SoCal VoCals.
Little did they know they were in for a surprise from one of their favorite groups. “They were about to perform for the VoCals,” says Forkish, “when they heard the door open behind them.” 2011 Sing-Off Champions, Pentatonix, spent time with the group, singing, listening, and giving feedback. “It was really cool to see Pentatonix’s reaction to them singing.”
Vocal Rush tracked “Let Us Be Loving,” arranged by Forkish, with Alfredo Austin over Memorial Day weekend. Only a few of the members had recording experience walking into the studio. “What was really awesome was the coaching they got from Alfredo,” says Forkish. “Many of them did things they had never done before… It felt to me like the weekend was them reaching their fullest potential.”
Mixed by Ed Boyer and mastered by diovoce, the track is smooth and soulful, and sets the bar high for scholastic groups across the board – high school, collegiate, or otherwise. With a phenomenal solo by Sarah Vela, winner of the judges’ Outstanding Soloist award at ICHSA Finals, impressive vocal percussion by Kyana Fanene, winner of the judges’ Outstanding VP award at Northwest Semifinals, flawless harmonies, and an inspired groove, “Let Us Be Loving” puts Vocal Rush in a category all their own.
The music video, filmed by Leo and Carmen Da Silva, features the group members singing against a black backdrop. “The kids are that charismatic that just their faces in the camera… I didn’t coach them, the videographer didn’t coach them – they just did that! It was really exciting to watch,” recalls Forkish.
The video garnered attention from the song’s original artist, Alice Russell, who retweeted the video to her followers and stated in an email to the Da Silvas, “It is ace! Wow! Would love to come and meet the lovely voices on the a cappella version of Let Us Be Loving.”
So what’s next for Vocal Rush?
Seven of the group’s ten members graduated this month. Luckily for us, they’re not about to put down the mics.
“The professional a cappella world should keep a look-out for this alum Vocal Rush group that’s going to be the bomb,” says Forkish.
The group’s 4-track EP, “The Beginning,” which includes “Let Us Be Loving” and “Tightrope,” will be released on July 3rd. From there, Forkish says that “this is the beginning of a really long journey for Vocal Rush.”
While losing so many members can be scary for a scholastic group, Forkish, a founding member of UO’s successful all-female group Divisi, “also feel[s] the value of institutionalizing a group,” and can empathize with the concerns that the departing graduating members have. She’s confident the legacy of this year will carry on; “I know that Vocal Rush is going to be awesome next year.”