Local musician wins Grammy award

MD-Local musician wins grammy_Group 2x

Special to the Dorchester Banner
Members of the group Pentatonix—from right, Avi Kaplan, Kristie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kevin Olusola and producer Ben Bram—celebrate their Grammy award win in California. Kevin Olusola is a resident of Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE — Last week, two Cambridge parents flew to California, bursting with suspense and excitement. Their son Kevin Olusola, member of the a cappella vocal group Pentatonix, had been nominated for a Grammy. Curline Olusola found herself in an auditorium with Beyonce, Neil Patrick Harris, Paul McCartney and many other famous faces and she kept telling her husband, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real!”

Dr. Oluwole Olusola, or Dr. O as he is known in Cambridge says, “I was braced for disappointment. The opponents were formidable and we felt blessed that Kevin had been nominated. It was enough.” Dr. O , who is the Vice President of the medical staff for Eastern Shore Hospital Center, knows about awards. Just four days before he himself had been honored at the Banner’s Hometown Heroes Awards Dinner.

Disappointment went out the window. When the announcement was made that Pentatonix had won the Grammy in their category, the young singers and their parents all screamed with joy and pride. This was real! On stage at the microphone, Scott Hoying, the spokesman, laughingly confessed, “We recorded “Daft Punk” in a bedroom closet and filmed the performance in a kitchen.” A homey beginning for a glorious moment.

But this is Kevin’s story. It’s been a long trip for him. He was born in California into a family with musical talent 26 years ago. At the age of six months, Kevin could hum whatever tune was hummed to him and he did it repeatedly so his relatives could believe it. Imagine a six-month old doing parlor tricks! At age three, with babyish fingers but a well-developed musical ear, he was playing tunes on a keyboard.

I asked his parents if they had thought about exploiting this prodigy and getting very rich, and they laughed at the outrageous question. “Our role was to nurture his talent and find him excellent teachers and opportunities.” So as a young child, he only played in a trio; little sister Candace on the violin, younger brother Kellin on the viola, and Kevin on the cello or saxophone. Today Kellin is a senior at Cornell and has been accepted at Columbia Medical School, and Candace is working on her doctorate in Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky. Both the brothers speak fluent Mandarin Chinese…I’m stopping for a moment..I just can’t go on. This family is just too remarkable.

MD-Local musician wins grammy_Dr O

Dr. Oluwole Olusola and Curline Olusola attending the Grammy awards on behalf of their son’s musical group, Pentatonix.

By high school, Kevin played cello, piano, saxophone and percussion. At his Andover graduation, he performed a solo version of “O Danny Boy” that stunned the audience.
By then he was appearing at Carnegie Hall for NPR. Then on to Yale University to master Pre-Med, Mandarin, and Music. Trying out for the university orchestra auditions, Kevin was given a complicated classical piece to study and practice. He returned to audition with his cello, but no music. When asked where was the music, he replied “I learned it and don’t need the music.” He played it flawlessly and was immediately accepted into the orchestra to become first chair.

At the Yale graduation, a speaker said, “We have a student graduating who can play the cello and make it sound like Aretha Franklin.”

But that’s not all this classically trained innovative musician could do. He had developed the skill of beat boxing, a form of vocal percussion that’s difficult to do, catchy, a little bit crazy, and perfect for a cappella music. Quincy Jones, the musician who produced Michael Jackson’s songs, thought so too, and invited Kevin to perform at Jazz concerts in Europe with Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin. It might never have happened. Dr. O says, “Kevin was always making noises and I would tell him to stop. One time in the car, I pulled over and told him I would put him out if he didn’t stop.” Kevin gets the last laugh. He’s making money with his percussive repertoire. Kevin tells the Banner, “I’m seriously so blessed to be able to work in music everyday for a living. But the Platinum-selling Pentatonix album and the GRAMMY are definite pluses!”

Kevin is busy. He’s just released his first single, a cello and beat boxing version of “Stay With Me” plus his first solo album, “The Renegade EP.” Both are already number one on iTunes Classical charts. With Pentatonix, he will be touring coast -to-coast and Canada this year.

But in between concert dates, Kevin comes home to Dorchester County to his parents and his church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Cambridge. If you see him on the street in town, wave and say hello. I can attest to the fact that despite his brilliance, talent, and achievement, he is a very nice, normal guy.

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