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Pentatonix beatboxer keeps God and family close while succeeding in entertainment


By Sarah Petersen, Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 7 2015 8:10 a.m. MDT

When Kevin Olusola decides to do something, he does it with passion.

The 26-year-old graduated from Yale University. He learned Chinese in 18 months and performed the cello for President Barack Obama. He is a viral beatboxing sensation on YouTube.

When three a capella singers from Texas approached him in 2011 about participating in a national TV singing competition, Olusola embraced the opportunity.

Four years later, Olusola has found fame and success with beatboxing, a form of vocal percussion. But he hasn't forgotten the two things that brought him where he is today: faith and family.

In 2011, Olusola joined Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado and Avi Kaplan to form pop a capella group Pentatonix, which competed in and won NBC competition "The Sing-Off." Since then, the group has released one album and three EPs, sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S. and gained more than 1 billion views and 8.5 million subscribers on its YouTube channel. Pentatonix is touring with Kelly Clarkson and will make a stop in Salt Lake City on Aug. 8.

"I’m just grateful that I feel like this was something that I was supposed to do," Olusola told the Deseret News. "I feel like every step of the way I’ve just been shown that this is where I’m supposed to be."

Olusola was raised in Owensboro, Kentucky, in a Christian home by his father, a Nigerian psychiatrist, and his mother, a Grenadian nurse. Along with his brother and sister, Olusola was taught to put his faith in God. That's why, when Olusola had the chance to join Pentatonix, he saw it as a God-given opportunity.

"Because I followed what I think was given to me, I think God just kind of opened doors left and right, and I try to stay faithful to that," Olusola said. "I think as long as you stay faithful to what you believe, doors will open."

As he finds success, Olusola is determined to stick to the values of his Christian upbringing. When organizing Pentatonix, Olusola agreed with group members that their music would always be positive and uplifting and, in their covers and original songs, avoid language they found offensive.

"We always try to pay attention to what the lyrics are saying," Olusola said. "We want to make sure that everyone can listen to it and not be squirming in their seats because the lyrics are so raunchy."

Because Olusola sees being in Pentatonix as a tool to influence others, he uses his presence online to spread positive messages. On his personal blog, Olusola has a section, "K.O Corner Blog," in which he answers questions from fans addressing topics ranging from how to treat a women to advice about not giving up.

"That’s what life is all about, sharing such joy to people because you know the world we live in is kind of crazy, so to figure out a way to bring people joy in their time of need amidst all the craziness that’s going on in the world, it’s truly a blessing to be able to do that," Olusola said.

Olusola posts videos online with his family to share his life. He said his close relationship with family and friends has kept him grounded.

"I’ll do a lot of blogs, a lot of video blogs with my family because if I have an opportunity to be with them, I want to share that with people," Olusola said. "I think that’s just something I don’t think you see a lot of in the music industry. It’s very much about people seeing the lifestyle and the party, all that stuff. And I just want to show people yes, what you’re seeing from me and the band is, it’s good music and talent, but I just want to show people something more real and more honest, and that’s coming from being with my family, and that’s really important to me."

Pentatonix will open for Clarkson at USANA Amphitheatre on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. MST.