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Checking in with Arlington group Pentatonix on its Grammy nod and trip to the White House

Hunter Hauk

Published: December 12, 2014 9:37 am

The members of the Arlington-rooted a capella group Pentatonix are enjoying a whopper of a holiday season. Their full-length release That’s Christmas to Me is near the top of the Billboard album charts and just went Gold this week. They’ve received their first Grammy nomination for the vocal arrangement on the “Daft Punk” medley. They’re currently embarking on their second Japanese tour of the year.

Aside from all that, there’s one recent experience that really blew the singers’ minds, according to group member (and Martin High School grad) Scott Hoying: They met both Lady Gaga and President Barack Obama at the White House.

Pentatonix (@ptxofficial) tweeted this photo after the Kennedy Center Honors experience.
That’s right: Pentatonix was recently invited to help fete Kennedy Center Honors inductee Tom Hanks (by singing “That Thing You Do,” naturally) at the arts prize ceremony. The whole shebang will air on CBS Dec. 30.

“It was unbelievable – such a crazy experience,” the 23-year old baritone told me during a call from the airport on Wednesday while waiting with his groupmates to take off for Japan. “We had the dress rehearsal and then a reception at the White House – went through, like, 50 security layers, got in, and then right when we walked in, there’s Jennifer Hudson talking to Lady Gaga, John Kerry catching up with Obama.”

Hoying and company (who will play Grand Prairie’s Verizon Theatre March 29) were afforded the chance to shake the hands of the President and first lady, but meeting Gaga, a musical hero for the singers, was entirely up to them.

“We finally got the courage to go up to her,” Hoying said. “She was sweet. She introduced us to her mom.”

Thing is, Pentatonix is quickly becoming as well known as many of the entertainers’ names Hoying dropped when recounting the Washington trip. And their Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella, rewards the most time-consuming and impressive part of their job.

“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we arrange things ourselves,” Hoying said. “Receiving that nomination was the most I’ve been texted, emailed, Facebooked in my life. More than a birthday. Everyone I know.”

How did he and the others find out about the nod? They got a text when they were in a dressing room getting ready to perform.

“We were freaking out,” Hoying said. “I called my mom and she started screaming.”

The latest album’s success and growing status as the year’s breakthrough Christmas collection (there’s always one, you know) came along in the same fashion as past Pentatonix sales triumphs: It was all about YouTube videos.

“After our first Christmas EP was received well last year, we worked on the full-length for two months and decided to do five or six videos to promote it,” Hoying said. “All of them ended up with millions of views, but ‘Mary Did You Know’ is the one that took off.

“It gave us almost 15 million views in less than a month, and we just recently hit 7 million subscribers.”

The reality of it is that YouTube was probably more of a catalyst for the whole Pentatonix explosion than the third-season Sing-Off victory.

“The first video we ever did was on an iPad, edited ourselves,” Hoying said. Now that they’re on RCA Records and enjoying blockbuster sales, “there are so many people involved – really expensive cinematic cameras and such.

“I’d say we’ve evolved a bit.”